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How to reach the finish line stronger at your next race (and win free sneakers!)

Photo: New Balance

When running a marathon, it’s important to set goals that motivate you to run your best. Sure, running as if Ryan Gosling is at the finish line could get you there faster. But chances are—unless you’re Eva Mendes—that particular hunk won’t be there as you impressively sprint (or jog) your last mile. (Cue sad face when you should be high-fiving a million angels.)

But Strava, a workout-based social network, and New Balance have partnered up to give you a motivation that comes in as a close second to a Gosling sighting.

Beginning on October 9, through December 6, Strava is giving everyone who registers on their site as a runner in a qualifying race a free pair of New Balance sneakers.

The catch? You have to run the second half of the race faster than the first half. (Sounded too good to be true, right?)

This technique, called negative splitting, is a widely recommended race strategy—and is generally how people win races, FYI—but only 13 percent of marathoners actually complete the race this way. (Many runners go all out in the beginning and then burn themselves out by the end.)

Enter the Strava Back Half Challenge—which hopes to inspire runners to run strong and steady in the beginning and crush the second half of the race. To enter, you must complete a submission form on the Strava blog after completing a qualifying race. 

It’s no Ryan Gosling, but hey, free sneakers and goal-crushing—we’ll take it.

Here’s some intel to help you step up your race game: the ultimate guide to breathing properly during your workout and the intervals you should add to your race training plan.