Although this is true, I wouldn't say it's because few runners can run negative splits. I would say that it's because few runners have trained to run negative splits and are properly prepared to do so. Ideal preparation for negative splits involves finishing a lot of long runs with segments at MP or faster, weekly mileage that gives a runner enough endurance that the marathon distance is not horribly taxing in and of itself, having confidence in the process, and having a realistic assessment of fitness and likely finish time. I would hazard a guess that many people have overly optimistic ideas of their goal times, and as a result they go out at a pace that, although slower than their goal, exhausts them anyway.<br><br>
My best marathons have all been negative splits, and they've been a joy to run. For example, my last marathon I went out for the first 2-3 miles a good 20 seconds slow per mile. I then worked my way towards MP over the next 2-3 miles, still maybe 5-10 seconds slow. I ran as close to MP as I could from miles 10-19, allowing myself to dip under a little bit, but not to really let go until mile 20. I was almost exactly at an even split for my target time at the half, so as you can see, I did dip under MP in miles 6-13, just not by more than 5 seconds/mile. Then I raced that last 10k. I finished around a minute faster than my goal even though I was running into a strong headwind the last 3 miles.<br><br>
Leading up to that race I ran a few long races/long runs in which I practiced this strategy - going out at an easy pace (up to one minute slower than MP) for 3-5 miles and then running anywhere from 9-15 miles at MP. In both of those races I finished a good 20 seconds faster than goal pace, so it gave me confidence that I could pick it up at the end of the marathon and that I would run much faster if I did so. Of course, the fact that I was running 90-100 mpw helped as well, as my endurance and strength were there for me.<br><br>
Runbill, if you have time, I'd recommend working in some 4-6 mile MP segments at the end of 2/3 of your long runs, and see if you can pick it up even further for that final mile. This will at least help prepare you to run hard on tired legs.<br><br>
I would not recommend that - it is my experience that pace groups nearly always try to bank time. At my last half marathon, I was behind the pace bunny for the 3:20 group for the first half mile, and I was shooting for a 1:20 half. Even though they got it in check, in a marathon, early mistakes of that great a magnitude can bite hard at the end...