The 3-Mile Struggle

Monday, July 22, 2013 | By Hal Higdon
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Got a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I am I'm a relatively new runner, less than 3 years. In that time I've run eight half marathons and one full. I'm currently using your Intermediate 2 program to train for Long Beach in October. My concern is, how do I get through the hard first three miles? Seriously, I have the hardest time with those early miles. I pant, get the occasional side stitch, and all around hate that first 30 minutes of running. Then I feel my body completely change at mile 3, and I love it. I've only had to walk one time during a half marathon, but I still must fight the desire to walk in the early miles. Is there something I can do about this, or should I just live with it? I love my long runs, but just wish I could jump to mile 3 right away.


Why can’t you jump to mile 3 right away? It's easy: Warm up! I can guarantee you that almost no track athlete would start a race at any distance between 100 and 10,000 meters without a thorough warm-up. At least an hour’s worth of structured muscle-warming and probably about 3 miles of jogging, if you add up all the stop-and-go. Because they do not have backgrounds in the sport of track & field, because they never ran cross-country in high school, this lesson never gets learned by many road runners. You don't need to warm up by running 3 miles, but jog a mile, stretch, do some easy strides, some more jogging, then go to the line with a 3-mile attitude. Naturally, you will want to practice warming up before several of your workouts, before trying it in a race.

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