The Power Of Three

For runners of all levels the number three can be an important tool.  Whether you are just beginning or have been running for years, three can be very helpful.
When you first set out on the running journey three miles is a huge milestone.  Being able to manage three miles marks a big point in your running.  That is your first 5k.  It is also the point in your running where your body starts to somewhat work on autopilot.  Once you begin doing three miles more regularly you start to handle running in a more natural way.  For many, being able to consistently do three miles is the point where they truly feel like a “runner.”
 MIrunningBut as you continue and your mileage increases, that number can still be very helpful for you.  Three can be a great base.  When you are not on a training plan, this is a great number to aim for during daily runs.  I often recommend that in the off season, before training starts, runners should aim for several three mile runs per week.
These runs serve several purposes.  Most importantly they establish that base which will keep up your endurance where you want it.  This will also strengthen your body enough to hopefully help you avoid injury once you begin.  Three miles is just enough to get your body going and allow you to handle mileage once your plan begins, but not so much that you push your body too hard before you even get started.  It is the perfect balance and can hopefully help you avoid overuse injuries.
Even if you are not training, a three mile run is a great goal to strive for.  For most runners that will put you at about 30 minutes, give or take, of cardiovascular activity.  This is a helpful amount to aim for each day to boost your metabolism and keep your heart healthy.
But if you are an experienced runner and prefer longer mileage you might be wondering how three can help you.  Personally, I think this is where many get the biggest benefit.
Sure three might seem like too few for what you would like to run and that is okay.  But there is something incredibly helpful for you still, whether you choose to run the three or add a few more on.
First, as an experienced runner you body is capable of handling this mileage rather easily.  So go ahead and use three miles as a speed or tempo workout.  Do a short warm up and then aim to run at your goal pace or do intervals on a three mile loop.  This will help you to increase your pace and become a more efficient runner.
The other benefit comes on the mental side of training.  By doing a regular easy three mile run you are training your body to remember how well you can handle this distance.  Come race day it is often in that last 3-5 miles where we physically and mentally struggle.  However, if you have trained your mind and body to remember how “easy” these runs are now, you can use it to your benefit.
I had a friend who was training for a marathon and she mentioned that at her last race she struggled from mile 23-26 and she feared that might happen again.  I pointed out to her that she was a much stronger and more accomplished runner this time around.  But I also told her that at this point in her running she needed to remind herself during the race that she can push through three miles now on any given day.
I use this a lot when my mind wanders and I question runs.  I take a second to assess the situation and then remember that I can push through those three now.  They might not be pretty but on most days I always have another three I can eek out.  Most of us will struggle at the end of a race, regardless of training and experience.  But having that mental boost can really help you to push past the inevitable wall.
How do you like to use your three?

21 thoughts on “The Power Of Three

  1. Since I run in kilometers…5’s my number. Sometimes I think we take 3 miles (5k) for granted. I know in the fall after my half, I would run 5k and that’s it. No stretching, nothing – that was my mistake. For me the first 3km of any run are always the hardest and sometimes the last 3k are the worst 😉

    • That is so true. Those first three are always the hardest and I try to remind new runners that once they get past that they would find it bit easer. It is hard to believe though at first!

  2. I love this post. Being able to run a 3.3 mile loop without stopping was a big deal to me. Now breaking runs down into multiples of 3 makes longer distances more manageable. The last three miles -when the 2nd or 3rd wind kicks in – is almost always the highlight of a run.

    • That first three is such a great feeling when you first start running isn’t it? And as we get stronger it is nice to break it up like you do. And great point about the 2nd or 3rd wind. Funny how that works and how awesome you feel when it does kick in.

  3. I have never heard of this before and I’m going to carry it into my off season after this marathon is over and keeping it in mind as I pull through the last few miles of that race. It’s totally true for me right now though. The first three miles of my runs are kind of a struggle bus right now. (Definitely during the run I just did on my lunch break!)

    • Good work pushing through! Those first three are always the hardest for me and so are the last. Keeping it mind on race day is a huge help. And it definitely can help in the off season!

  4. Love this thought process – and it is so true! Some days three miles can seem like the toughest thing and other days it is like a walk in the part. It is said when you get to mile 20 and think oh only 6 miles left – thats nothing. As you go up in distance your perception of miles is crazyyyy

    • It is crazy how your perception of long runs changes. But learning to understand three miles can definitely help on those longer runs. Funny how at one time three seems to hard and soon it becomes your short one!

  5. Ice cream, cereal, and pb.
    Oh wait, you mean with regards to training?
    Well, then same thing 😀
    I have 3 runs a week, I break my runs up mentally into 3 (for the long runs), I do 3 fuelings during my races, and warm up-workout-cool down.
    Oh and Me Myself and I

  6. I try for 3 days per week. I’ve been doing this for a long time so I usually go for 4-6 miles.
    I always tell my self that I can do anything for 10 minutes, so just keep running. It always seems that I’ve run the first 3 miles of a race while training, but never the last three. 😉

  7. BRILLIANT (as usual)! I use the power of 3 during half marathons. Usually around mile 10 I start to feel defeated and then I remind myself that a 5K is nothing to me. I’ve done tonssss of 5K’s so I can do this.

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