The Fourth Mile

Though it is summer, I am continuing to run six mornings a week.  I’ve learned that I can go further and feel better if I alternate long runs and short runs, so every other day or so I keep my run only about a mile and a half.  On the other days, I run anywhere from three to four miles.

And that’s as far as I can go.

I don’t know if this is normal for a runner, but I have hit a major wall in my running.  No matter how often I try, no matter how much I want to, I cannot get myself past the fourth mile.  It’s like my body knows just when I hit it, and then it shuts down.  My side cramps, my calves ache, my head hurts.  It’s miserable.  If I try to run that far and I’m far away from the house before I get done, I end up having to do a Walk of Shame home because my body physically won’t do it.

Now, under normal circumstances and for the previous 29 years of my life, I would give up right…about…NOW.  When it got harder than I was willing to work, I’d just stop.  Especially for something like exercise.  But I really, really want this.  And not just four miles.  I really want to run long distances because I think I have that in me.  When I finish my 3.9 mile runs now, I’m still full of energy.  I feel great.  I’m ready to go run some more.  So, I figure I just need to mentally get past that darn fourth mile and then I will be good to go for a couple more miles at least.

I don’t know anything about running strategy, but I feel like this is something I just have to condition my body to do.  I just have to force myself to do it for a few times and then my body will know that it’s not impossible and it will quit resisting.  That’s what I had to do when I first started running.  I just had to push myself harder so that I wouldn’t give up, and so that my own body knew that it wasn’t allowed to give up.  I didn’t give up at the beginning, and I’m not going to give up now.  I have at least a half marathon inside me, if not a full somewhere FAR down the line, and so I have to push through this stupid fourth mile barrier in order to keep moving forward.

Two weekends ago, we went to Pensacola to see Chris’s mom, Jackie, and his grandmother, Lettie.  Lettie was in town with her husband for the first time in several years, so we made the trip up to spend Bean’s actual birthday with her and Jackie and the rest of their family.  It was really great to see them.  Lettie hadn’t met either of the kids yet, so it was nice for her to be able to spend some time with them.  They really liked her, too.  She’s quiet natured and very calm, just like Jackie, and both kids really warmed up to her quickly.


(I think Bean looks like Lettie a lot in this picture, actually.  Also, Gracie was snoozing, so she missed the photo op.)

When we were visiting, Jackie and I got up one morning and went for a run together.  Jackie is a very accomplished runner.  She has run several marathons (four, I think?), is a Jeff Galloway trainer for several running groups in her community, has coordinated and organized a ton of races herself, and is on the board of the Pensacola Runners Association.  She’s an avid runner, and I get a lot of my running advice from her.

While we were out running, we used her Jeff Galloway technique, which is running and walking at intervals.  We ran five minutes and walked one, ran five, walked one, ran five, walked one.  As we ran, she told me about running all of her races using this method, including her marathons.  She made great times, ran great races, and all using that run/walk method.  Personally, I like running for a long time.  The longer the run, the better I feel.  But I used the run/walk method for the first two miles when I first started running to get myself conditioned to run farther.  And, clearly, it’s doing something for Jackie because she can whip my butt when we go running.  This is us after our run.  Which one looks more equipped to bust through the fourth mile????


Now, I’m starting to wonder if I should go back to that run/walk to get me through the fourth mile.  Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be using my Jeff Galloway app to help me run four minutes and then walk one until I get through the fourth mile.  I figure if I do that for a week or two, and maybe bump up to five miles, then my body will be conditioned to go that distance.  Eventually, I’ll be able to just run the four or five miles without the run/walk method, just like I was eventually able to run the first two miles without stopping.  But for now, I think I need something to help push me over this hump, and I think Jeff Galloway might just be the guy for the job.

I set my app up this morning and added some tunes to my playlist, so I’m all set for my FIRST 4.5 mile run tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

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24 Thoughts to “The Fourth Mile”

  1. Go you! I can’t get the hurdle of making it a regular thing. Its like my brain goes “exercise?? Hail NO!” (and yes that is what my accent sounds like)

  2. Diana

    Good luck!!!! Why are you running 6 days per week? Perhaps you should cut down to 4 days but keep mileage the same and/or increase your long run by 0.5 mi/week? It probably is mental but it is also possible that those short run days are not giving your body enough time to recover especially since you are relatively new to running. If you are dying on your 4.5 mile run tomorrow, take a day or two off and then try again?

  3. Sommer

    Good luck Katie! I’m sure you can do it. I was never much of a runner and I remember hitting a very similar wall, but mine was at three miles. Since then I’ve run a half which was more than I EVER thought I could do. You’ll do great tomorrow morning!

  4. Marina H

    The first two years that I got into running three and a half miles was my limit. I could never go past that no matter what I tried. Then one day it was like magic and I suddenly could do four miles. Soon it was five and then it was six! You’ll get there!

  5. LizL

    I love your running posts. So inspiring! I have run one half marathon and it took all my efforts! I have a lot of ground to make up when I get back into it again. I think back to my training and I think one thing is I almost felt like flipping from that 5k-ish distance to longer distance required a shirt in your body mindset–like not “I’ll be running for about 40 minutes” but “I”ll be running for a while, settle in”…and I had to slow my pace to accommodate the fact that there wasn’t a quick relatable end time in sight. Slowing my pace helped me feel more in control and more relaxed so I could think about just keep going, clearing my mind from thinking “I just have to make it to x, just have a few more minutes…” Hope that helps!

  6. Yo go girlfriend! Your MIL is gorgeous by the way!

  7. Lindsey

    I would say work some rest days in there! I’m also a beginner – I have been running since January, and rest days are super important. I just ran my first 10k on Saturday and I followed a training plan I found online. I ran 4 days a week, 3 shorter runs, 1 longer run on Saturday. I upped my long runs by a half mile each week. As you get more seasoned, I’m sure running 6 days a week will be no problem. I can’t wait for that day myself!

  8. Lindsey

    Oh, and GOOD LUCK tomorrow!!

  9. Good luck! Hope you did great!

  10. Make sure you update us on how this works for you! I’m trying to run and I keep getting injured :/ so for now, I like to at least plan my strategy!

  11. Anne

    Remember when I met you at Stone Mountain last year I had just run my first half and I was still moving around that afternoon. You can do this! I’m so happy for you!!

  12. Chloe

    So cool! I would definitely reccommend rest days, so important! You can do some resistance training on the odd day too for increasing leg strength and flexibility which helps with running 🙂

  13. Meredith

    Gosh I think I say this every time you post about running but it’s still true… You are a ROCKSTAR! And while I was reading I was thinking perhaps she should try a few short walk breaks in there just to help get through the 4th mile, then they can slowly be eliminated. Obviously, I think it’s an excellent plan! Let us know how it goes. And I LOVED all those posts with Ginny. Makes me wish I had a sister.

  14. Beret

    You need more rest days! Rest days are just as important as running days, believe it or not. I run 2 days, rest 1, run 2, rest 1. When I started running I thought I had to run almost every day to be successful. It was 3 years before I ever ran farther than 2.5 miles. With rest days my body was able to go farther (I now run half marathons). I still get in 20+ miles a week, but I do it in 4 days instead of 6.

  15. I agree with the need for more rest. I’m really bad about not resting and I’m always getting hurt. As the matter of a fact, I’m hurt right now. But I also hit walls. Three and a half miles is a major wall for me. I just have to push through. I also find that nutrition plays a key role in how well I run. When I’m eating crap I just don’t run as well. But just know this you are awesome!

  16. Good luck! You’ll do great! I am slowly working up my mileage too, but I only run 3-4 days a week though, since I ride my bike to work, 10 miles each direction!

  17. It sounds like you’re doing awesome with your running! I went from zero to really slow marathon this winter … things I learned: rest days matter, it’s a mental challenge too, and slow and steady is ok. Oh also … sometimes strategic rest helps your body go further than you thought you could! Keep up the good work – you’re doing awesome!
    ps. I highly recommend “The Non-Runners Marathon Guide for Women” by Dawn Dais – it’s really good for showing you that the things happening in your head are totally normal … plus it’s really funny. 🙂

  18. Lindsey

    Just going through the comments to see what other’s suggested and someone suggested nutrition! Bingo! Are you eating before you run? I would suggest drinking 8-16oz of water as soon as you wake up and then having some toast with peanut butter and some blueberries or something like that. I’m not an expert by any means, but I know I used to have a HARD TIME on my morning runs (I usually run at night) but that was because I wasn’t eating first. Anyway, from one beginner to another – I’m excited for you to get over the 4 mile hurdle!

  19. Kat

    You impress me to no end, Ms. Kate. I’ve never done the run/walk – I’m always more of a run through the pain because when it stops things will go easier. I usually find it kinda hard for the first 2 miles and then after that it’s smooth sailing (doesn’t help any that the first 2 miles of my runs are the hills in my running route). 4.5 miles! I’m so impressed. Esp since you work, have 2 kids, and keep up a house hold. honestly…you impress me.

  20. Katie, Your running posts are so inspirational to me! I am trying to get started but I am having a hard time committing. How long did it take you until you could run the whole first mile?

  21. Rachel @ The Ongoing Planner

    Yay running posts! Yesterday morning when I didn’t want to get up to run, I remembered your post about being more of a black and white decision maker and decided yes I would go run!

  22. I used to run every single day, but when I trained for a half-marathon my body just got tired and bored, I think. I mixed in a lot of walking (even when I felt like running) whenever I increased my distance, and gradually built up to all running. I was able to increase my distance faster that way, and I didn’t feel as tired. I was more rested and looked forward to run days rather than beating myself down everyday. Good luck!!

  23. I am very interested in this! I have been jogging (not really…more like bouncing?) for about a month, and I thought it was going to get easier to go farther (further?) but I’m finding it harder to go even the distance I’ve been going! I can’t wait to hear how it’s going for you!

  24. SJ

    I’m sorry I’m so late to comment on this, but I’ve spent a lot of time over the past week thinking about this post. I went through this too at different stages in running (4 miles, 7 miles, 11 miles), and I’m sure I’ll go through it more as I gradually increase my distances (I’m hoping to run my 1st marathon this fall- something I’ve been saying I’d do for 7+ years). I think something that’s easy to overlook is fueling. When you don’t have the fuel, your body can just give up on you. If you’re running 1st thing in the morning, I’m guessing you haven’t eaten since the previous night? Or if you do eat before you run, it may only be enough to get you through the 3 miles, but not to the 4th? I know that for some people, food and running don’t mesh, so perhaps running at another time of day can help? I understand that life makes that hard too. It really is a tricky balancing game! Energy gels are always an option too. Sorry that this is all over the place, but I think fueling is the key to making that 4th mile happen! Good luck!

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