I haven’t run less than 4 miles in many, many weeks now; really, most of my excursions have consisted of 5 miles or more. And while there was a point in my running career about 2 years ago or longer when 3 miles was the norm, the snob in me has convinced myself that 3 miles, at times, simply seems pointless.
But here’s the thing: I really need to ditch this mentality.
There is nothing wrong with 3 miles, other than that I often feel as though I haven’t fully reached my potential by the end of it (a concept that was reinforced in a recent Runner’s World article titled “The 18th Minute,” in which the runner seemed to find his magic — his stride — consistently at the 18th minute of every run.) I tend to relate to this concept — as do many other runners, hitting my stride at the 2nd mile of the morning. In short, a 3-mile run really leaves me with just 1 measly mile of bliss.
I had planned on my usual 5-mile run around the bottom loop of Central Park on Wednesday morning, but by the time I woke up, checked my email and posted my blog for work, the skies opened up. This wasn’t ooh fun, a rainy run type of weather. This was more of a screw that kind of downpour.
Just as I rolled out my yoga mat, turned on The Today Show and got comfy on my living room floor, the rain began to slow. I barely got through a full 8-minute abs video with weights before I got the urge to run in what had turned into a drizzle.
Herein is where the dilemma lies.
- I had already mentally committed to working out in front of the TV in nothing but a sports bra and booty shorts. To go change into a more supportive top and rummage through the laundry pile for a pair of (relatively) clean shorts seemed like a daunting task.
- I had already wasted 15 minutes setting up my computer and getting living-room-workout-ready, and was running out of time. By the time I could rummage, change, stuff my feet into sneakers and take the elevator downstairs, I was looking at a 30-minute run at best. Worth it?
The crazy part of me said absolutely not. 30 minutes? 3 miles? It would hardly make a dent in my craving for fresh air.
Then again, maybe even a small dent was better than no dent at all. (Insightful, I know. Bear with me. It’s been a really long week.)
To make a long story short, I decided to go for it, if only to get my endorphin fix. It was muggy, and humid, and gross from the moment I stepped outside. I chose to avoid the temptation to run through the park (and risk being really late for work) by sticking to the East Side and jogging up to the Queensboro Bridge and home. 1.5 miles there, 1.5 miles home. Easy, breezy, and sweaty.
At the end of the day – or at least the morning – I was really glad I did it, not only because I ran, and not only because I tacked on 3 miles to my low 20-mile goal for the week, but because I discovered that it’s kind of fun to combine strength training and cardio. When you don’t belong to a gym, you kind of forget that the two go hand-in-hand.
To me, 3 miles can be truly satisfying when pursued for these 4 basic reasons:
- As a shakeout run the day before a race.
- When you only have 30 minutes to spare and could really use a nice sweat.
- When you combine it with strength training, yoga, a massage or some other complementary exercise.
- As a recovery run the day after a race.
I usually reserve an hour each morning for some “me time” in which to sweat, whether that means in front of the TV or in Central Park. But could a fusion of the 2 be a killer combination? The only way to find out will be to add more 3-milers into my morning routine.
Proof came in the form of bliss this morning, Thursday. At the risk of tackling my long run in extreme humidity tomorrow (again, I’m going away this weekend, and while I”ll be bringing my sneakers along, I don’t plan on any longer runs), I went all out today, logging somewhere between 7.5 and 8 miles before heading off to work.
The path took me from the bottom of Central Park around the path adjacent to the reservoir (not the reservoir or the bridle path, but the paved road that runs east of these). I took it just a smidge further than the top of the reservoir, cutting across the park on foot paths and again veering off onto uncharted territory — at least, uncharted for me.
Once on the west side of Central Park, I headed back south on the dirt paths and found my way back to the reservoir, which I took for just about a half-mile or so.
At the bottom of the reservoir, I made my way back to the west side path. I was still feeling pretty strong at this point, and was enjoying the weather, the people watching, and the buckets of sweat streaming off my face. Really, I think it’s time to invest in an 80s style wrist band. If anyone knows of a way to keep my perspiration from pouring into my eyes, now would be the appropriate time to chime in.
With just a couple of miles to go, I slowed my pace as I exited the park. I took 5th Avenue back to my apartment, which seemed for whatever reason to be less obnoxiously crowded than usual. Maybe, I was just in a calmer place after just having run 7 peaceful, mostly music-less miles (I repeat: music-less miles) through Central Park. I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore.
Something I did notice was that this week’s 8-miler was so much stronger than last week’s, during which I was somewhat doubting myself by the 6th or 7th one. Instead, despite a shooting pain that came and went in a mysterious flash, I felt generally confident throughout, and I can really only attribute it to running 3 — as opposed to my usual 5 — the day before.
Confident is not how I would describe last week’s run, and with this sudden boost of physical and mental prowess, I’m hoping that by next week, I’ll find myself feeling even stronger.
There’s obviously something to be said for this whole thing called “moderation,” which goes somewhat seamlessly with my goal of this week; if you caught up with me yesterday you’d know that I wanted to spend this week trying to run with animal instinct, not type A consciousness. I think I’ve managed to achieve this so far, and now that I have, I plan on going off for a girl’s weekend in Fire Island, where I will most likely practice absolutely no moderation at all. At least I’ll have my running sneakers with me.
- Do you have overactive sweat glands in your scalp? What do you use to keep your eyes from burning mid-run?
- Do you always, sometimes or never incorporate a shorter run into your week. If you do, how many shorter runs?