Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

3 Miler Tips to Run Faster over 5K

Are you seeking to run a faster 3 miler? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I am glad you have made it here. The 3 mile distance is especially unique to the US and Royal Marines. These athletes focus on this distance for their military combat physical fitness test. The 3 miler involves a great deal of anaerobic work to get right. Of course, you still need to focus on easy, aerobic style running as well.

Remember, you will still need to build your endurance to run a fast 3-mile time. That being said, you will most definitely need strength and stamina to perform well. Pace sustainment is essential to compete well over this distance. Also, to be able to handle higher levels of lactic acid build up during you all-out effort.

I recommend focusing on a minimum of 12 to 16 weeks preparing for your 3 miler. The body takes anywhere from 21 days to 4 weeks to adapt to physiological stress. So. you can't be in a rush in getting in great, anaerobic shape. It isn't easy nor is it a quick process. There are far too many runners selling themselves short trying to rush fitness. The result is they doubt themselves when they don't see results quickly enough. Remember, be patient and you will succeed at this.

Why is a 3 Mile Run Called a 5K?

5 kilometers equates to 3.1 miles. So, although it is slightly further than a 3 miler it is the closest race distance most focus on. The 5k, much like a 3-miler, involves a great deal of anaerobic strength to master. The main focus is to improve your body's lactate tolerance. So, how well you handle lactic acid at sub maximal and maximum efforts will dictate your success.

3 hour marathon pace
Coach Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35 (5:19 mile pace for 26.2 miles)

It took me several years of training to eventually run 14:18 for 5K (5,000 meters). I ran 16:16 for cross-country as a high schooler and 15:48 on the roads as a high school senior. No, it was not easy. That being said, the strategies I will cover briefly in this post will set you up for success. You do need to start running more of your weekly mileage at a higher intensity.

The world's top middle to long distance runners run around 40 percent of their weekly volume at tempo run effort. Tempo runs are conducted running at your anaerobic threshold. You are running around 85 to 88 percent of your maximum heart rate running at these intensities.

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Why Strides are Important

Strides are brief, 50 to 100 meter acceleration drills. They are there to help work on your leg turnover and form. The good news is that they are too short to build up any large amounts of lactic acid. So, they will not tire you out. In addition, you can do these short drill on top of your other weekly training. The entire stride should not be done all out.

You should gradually increase the pace until only about the last 20 meters of it is at all-out effort. I suggest doing these once or twice per week during your aerobic, base training phase. Of course, continue to keep doing them the fitter you get as well.

I sprinkle these workouts into all of the training plans and running courses that I teach here at RunDreamAchieve. Again, to run a faster 3 miler you have to get yourself in peak, anaerobic shape. Strides are one of many ways to help you stay consistent, feeling fast and confident.

Is 5K a 3 Mile?

No, 5K is 5,000 meters which is equivalent to 3.1 miles. That being said, no need to feel intimidated by this. Consistent, focused and determined runners such as yourself are going to get the results they are going after. You are her because you are chasing excellence, not mere mediocrity. Normal surrounds us all and average really doesn't take a lot of work.

So, to be a good or great runner you have to train at paces that are significantly faster than your goal 3 miler race pace. I believe the longer you prepare for your races the better prepared you are going to be. Of course, you can run a 3 mile race decently in a matter of 8 to 12 weeks. That being said, 16 weeks is optimal. Do you have running a 10 miler, half marathon or marathon as your goal? I highly suggest considering one of our 20 week training plans.

16 weeks and preferably 20 weeks is optimal time to prepare from the 3 mile to 50k distances. Again, you never want to try to rush fitness. It will take time and you have to be strategic in your build up. The very best runners are so why not follow their work habits right? The goal here is to get similar results as they get.

How Do I Improve my 3 Mile Run Time?

Practice running below your goal 3 miler race pace. In addition, it is important to gradually extend the amount of time you are running at your anaerobic threshold. The reason being is this is the point lactic acid starts to build up in your body. The more fast twitch muscle fibers you can recruit the more efficient (economical) you are going to run.

More importantly, you'll slow down less and maintain race pace longer than your competition. You also need to focus on slowing down during your easy days. There are many runners who are still running too fast during their recovery runs. My recommendation is to consider investing in a heart rate monitor. Heart rate monitor training will help to ensure you are running at the proper intensities.

Also, you focus on staying in the correct heart rate zone rather than worrying about splits. I use the Garmin 245 and highly recommend it. Your splits will improve the fitter you get. In addition, they will quicken even after running at the same heart rate you had early in your training build up.

Run Longer Runs

What has been the longest run you have done in the past? 5 miles? 7? Do you want to be great at this sport? I would recommend working toward extending your long runs out to around 10 to 12 miles in length training to improve your 3 mile run time. Think of how easy a 3-mile run is going to feel due to training like this.

Remember, it isn't about the volume. It is the quality of training you are putting in that truly counts. The reason being is you want to sustain a fast pace over 3 miles. How well you handle higher amounts of lactic acid build up will dictate your success. Running easy won't teach you do this well. Yes, you need to run longer but you also need to do…

Faster, Varied Paced Long Runs

I used this tactic to lower my 5K time from 15:19 to 14:18. In addition, marathon down from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. Varied paced long runs are a combination of both aerobic as well as anaerobic efforts sprinkled in. You don't want to run long and slow every single weekend. Sure, you will be building your endurance but not speed.

Again, the way you lower your 3 mile run time is training at higher heart rates. In addition, longer time spent training at your anaerobic threshold i.e. tempo run effort. I would recommend working toward tempo runs of 4 to 7 miles in length. Of course, we don't start the athlete out the first few weeks running this far for a tempo run.

We start off around 2 to 3 miles and gradually lengthen our tempo runs out. The same goes for the long runs. Remember, always follow a faster long runs followed the next weekend by an easier, relaxed long run. Recovery is critical to adapt to the stresses you are placing on the body. So, you have to jog on those easy days. The world's top runners know this for a fact and follow it.

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Speed Development

Speed development is the 3rd of 4 phase of RunDreamAchieve training plans and running courses. The 4 phases are listed below.

  • Aerobic base-building phase
  • 3 miler specific training phase (focusing on training at or near goal race pace)
  • Speed development phase (focusing on training at speeds significantly faster than goal 3 mile run time pace
  • Taper phase (focusing on a 10-day rather than a 3-week taper)

Training at your vo2 max is running at or around 95 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate. There is nothing easy about training at these speeds. That being said, it will help make your 3 mile run time goal pace feel that much easier.

Remember, focus on starting your next interval once your heart rate gets back down to 120BPM. We focus on giving the athlete more rest earlier in the build up between reps. Furthermore, as the athlete adapts and get fitter, intervals paces increase and rest between reps decreases Again, the end goal is to become very strong. In addition, clear lactic acid faster than it is building up.

Hill Work

Hill training will instantly force your heart rate up and force you out of your comfort zone. Again, these types of workouts will help you to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Easy running will not produce this physiological effect. Yes, easy running is most certainly still needed to lower your 3 mile run time though. The reason being is you need to build that endurance and run much further than 3 miles during those long runs.

I used hill training over the years preparing for my 5K to marathon races. I sprinkle these types of workouts into the training plans I have created here.

The focus is to get the athlete lifting their knees and pumping their arms. Again, you will need to do this at the end of your 3 miler when everyone else is slowing down. The better you can get at running at very high speeds the easier your 3 mile run is going to feel.

How Long Should You Train for Your 3 Miler

I would recommend a minimum of 12 and preferably 16 weeks to do it right. Longer is usually better. That being said, runners have different schedules. So, you may choose to invest in an 8 week 5K training plan here. I have had other athletes who focus on 16 weeks. We all are different. I think that the less you try to rush your fitness the better off you are going to be.

Physiological adaptation takes time and cannot be rushed. Again, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt the stresses you are placing on it. So, the benefits of the hard workouts you are doing today will be seen several weeks from now, not days. The patient will always outperform the impatient.

Invest in Yourself

We have training plans, monthly online coaching and running courses available here at Run Dream Achieve. One of the best ways to improve your 3 mile run time is to study what the best runners do. Find out what tactics and strategies they follow and duplicate their work habits. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel.

I create new vlog content there each week to help professionals such as yourself get to the next level in their training. I have been writing content here at RunDreamAchieve since 2011. The sport gave a great to me and it is my duty to give back to others. The end goal is to hopefully speed up your learning curve. So, you don't make the same mistakes many other runners make.

Focus on Your Nutrition

Pay attention to how well you are hydrating during the week. The 3 mile or 5K distance is relatively short. That being said, you will still need to make sure you are drinking during your long runs. In addition, re-hydrating after your speed workouts, tempo runs and long runs are complete. Again, the best middle to long distance runners pay attention to all of the fundamentals.

We make it look easy for a reason. One, we spent a much higher percentage of our weekly mileage running at higher heart rates. Too much aerobic running will only make you an outstanding, long, slow runner. I am sure you have a specific goal 3 mile run time you are going after. So, you are going to have to do more than the average.

Closing Thoughts

Make sure you focus on mental training. Mental rehearsal is repetitive visualization practice seeing yourself running at very high levels. It could also bee seeing yourself mentally getting across the finish line with the goal 3 miler time you are aiming for on the clock. So, see yourself performing well and relaxed.

Mental training is commonly overlooked with runners. The very best combine both mental as well as physical training to get superior results. Google the word “Supercompensation”. I can guarantee you that most of your competition have never heard of this term.

So, you are already a leg up on them already. Remember, the benefits of your hard training come from within the rest. You are 2 to 3 times weaker immediately following those speed workouts, tempo runs and long runs. The real benefits come the hours following those harder workouts. You are more than welcome to visit the about page if you would like to know more about my racing background.

Keep me posted on your progress and I look forward to hearing about your new 3 miler personal best.

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