The Secret of A Three Mile Run

There is a secret about training to finish a marathon that no one really tells you.

Even though it’s hiding in plain sight behind a simple Google search, for the most part no one comes right out and says it.

I’m going to do you a solid and spell it out for you:

If you can run three miles, you can train to finish a marathon. 

If you Google ‘marathon training for beginners’ or ‘first time marathoner’, you’ll find a ton of really good training programs to sift through. As you click-through all the first-time marathon plans, you’ll probably notice two things. The first thing is that all of them offer up a disclaimer of sorts telling you to spend at least a few weeks working up to the first week’s training distances. The second thing you’ll likely notice is that most of the first couple of weeks in these plans include several three mile runs.

Essentially what they’re telling you is that before you graduate to training to finish a marathon, you should be able to run three miles with ease.

photo courtesy of flikr - by Malakhi Helel

photo courtesy of flikr – by Malakhi Helel

Getting to three miles

For some people, running three miles is a tall order. Believe me, I’m not taking a three mile run for granted. When I first got back into running about six or seven years ago, three miles wasn’t easy for me. In fact, right around the time I got back into running I went for a run with my now brother-in-law who was a was an offensive lineman on his college football team and left me in his dust. You read that right – an offensive lineman could run longer and further than me.

That didn’t deter me. I kept at it. I mapped out a few three mile runs from my house and kept at it. There were days when I’d walk A LOT of the route. There were days when I didn’t feel like running, but I kept at it. It took several weeks of me convincing myself I could do it, but after a good chunk of consistent running, I was pushing three miles aside like it was nothing.

I can’t tell you how long it will take you to get to that point – only you will be able to do that – but if you stick with it, there’s no doubt you’ll get there.

Becoming a three mile runner will put you on the path to be the runner you want to be

The funny thing about running is that for most people, once they reach one goal, they want to hit another.

Once I hit three miles, I couldn’t wait to see if I could do four. Then I wanted to do five. How about seven? Can I get to double digits?

If you’re just starting to run and you’re serious about one day finishing a marathon, finishing your first three mile run is the first step to getting there.



  1. I totally agree! For me it took getting past the 5-mile marker before I knew I could eventually train for a marathon. 3 miles is a great goal. Nice post P.J.!

    • Thanks Jeff! For me, things just seemed to click when I was able to consistently do three miles. It was an affirmation of sorts that most the marathon training programs for beginners start with three mile runs.

  2. Here! Here! I am working on getting myself up in mileage for a “near marathon” this October. I am signed up for a 21 mile trail run. I know I can get to it. I ran my 1st 1/2 (as a virtual) back in December and I have Tough Mudder which is basically a 1/2 with obstacles in September. So, I know I can do it.

    • Good luck on your races – you have a busy fall! My guess is that you’ll look back on these races with a mix of pride and accomplishment – and surprise at how well you did!

  3. I really love this advice. I just became a runner last summer and the 3 mile run felt like a milestone. It was a 30-35 minute workout back then, which was long enough to really bring some adaptation in my body.

    My default warm-up and easy jog loop is still about 3 miles.

    3 mile is still a great goal when I’m pushing through a longer run. I just think, “3 more miles” and the whole project is more manageable. When I get past those, I usually feel like doing more.

    • Great point about looking at “just three more miles” toward the end of your run. It sounds like we’re very similar runners Tony.

  4. Great post– saw it on running bloggers. What I find interesting is that 3 miles can get you to begin a marathon (as you so eloquently stated), but it can also get you to the end. At mile 23 of every marathon I have run, I inevitably say to myself… “Only 3 more miles, this is shorter than your shortest training run.”

  5. So true…I look back at where I was when I started running and the 5K was the first big hurdle. Now on my long runs I will be 15+ miles in and I’ll say to myself “Only 5K to go”. ONLY! That number that used to seem like such an obstacle. And you couldn’t have said it any better…once a runner reaches their goal, all they want to do is “more”…we’re a sick breed us runners.

  6. I was barely able to finish the mile run when I was in high school. I wish I could be a cool runner girl. I grew up on a road called Three Mile Run Road.

  7. What a cool post. A lot of people think I’m mad for what I now do, the ‘rollercoaster run’ this year being the pinacle. How do I do it? I tell them it was small steps at a time.
    It went from 10 minutes on a tready to around our 2 mile block. Then I did the next block, then I cut a corner and found an extra mile. Soon I was running 7 miles or about 10 Aussie kms.
    My wife was the same. She hated running but did 2 miles. Then slowly built it to three. Now she has done a half and is training for her next one.
    You can never dismiss those first steps – they open the world to us.
    Awesome post. If your interested, here is my ‘rollerocaster’ run – 22 brutal kms up and down hills 🙂
    Cheers, Lachie

    • Thanks Lachie – glad you liked the post! It really is amazing how fast you can build on the small steps when it comes to running. That rollercoaster run sounds brutal – now I want to try it!

  8. excellent publish, very informative. I ponder why the opposite experts of this sector don’t realize
    this. You must proceed your writing. I am confident,
    you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

    • Thanks for you note – and words of encouragement. I’m gearing up from some new blog posts soon. I hope enjoy what I have in store!

  9. Thank you! This blog was really encouraging. I am an avid Insanity, Focus T25, and P90X3 workout girl but I wanted to switch it up and run during our beautiful summer months. I can run 3 miles without too many problems. I do find myself every so often stopping and walking but otherwise 3 miles isn’t that bad. I really want to build on it and it seems I hit a roadblock once I get a little further than I did on the run before. My hope is by September I can do a half marathon we have here in my town with ease! You definitely gave me hope! I used to hate running but now I just want to see how far can I actually run 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments Heidi!

      I think you hit the nail on the head, when you said you get to a point where you see how far you can go. To some degree, I think all runners get to that point where they made it to one goal, why not shoot for another?

      Good luck with the half marathon in September – come back and let us know how it goes!


  1. […] has to start somewhere. It’s a law. You must complete two miles on your way to three. Even to run in 100 mile races, you always start with the first […]

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