The Four Mile Focus

This winter my running mileage tapered off and as I got back into building my base I landed on and stuck with four mile routes and routines for a couple weeks. Three just wasn’t enough and for some reason I didn’t have the time or the motivation to get much beyond four. I know that doing the same thing over and over can sometimes minimize results and effectiveness but I used my four mile runs as a way to experiment and achieve more out of each run. By using four miles as my distance I had a good measurement of what I could achieve in those four miles; I either improved or I didn’t. I wasn’t trying to add miles, I was trying to make those four miles as good as they could possibly be.

For my Four Mile Focus I used all that I had done during marathon training and tailored it to the shorter distance. At first I was running those four miles outside and then was forced onto the treadmill with the blizzard. Sometimes I ran the four miles simply for pace and I started out maintaining an easy 9-minute pace. When running the four miles outside I would use landmarks as my indicator for switching it up; either picking up the pace or reassessing my form or slowing it down. When I got to the treadmill (as much as I am not a treadmill fan) I found that was the perfect place to really hone in on four mile routines.

The one nice thing about the treadmill is the control you have over pace and incline. Four miles is a great distance to do a lot of work. I usually warm-up for a half or a full mile and then begin my work-out. Some of the four mile routines I have include:


  • Adjust the incline one click for each mile
  • Start out at a 3 or 4 incline and work your way back each mile
  • Move between flat and a 2 incline each mile

Mile Repeats

Ok, mile repeats are a little tough with just 4 miles especially when you need to warm-up and cool down but it’s still a nice idea. You can at least do the 2 middle miles at a faster pace than the warm-up and cool down.

Speed Adjustments

  • Increase the speed one click every quarter mile
  • Increase the speed one click every mile
  • Start out at a faster speed (for me his is my goal 10k pace of 8 minutes) and go down and up 30 seconds every quarter to half mile
  • Alternate speed and recovery every quarter mile

The options are really endless. A recent article in Runner’s World on treadmill training includes additional routines worth checking out. Four miles is enough time to not get bored and also enough time to push hard. With any of the above work-outs they give the body something new to experience each run but you can also measure your increase in fitness. You will be able to do bigger hills for longer and faster times for longer as you improve. And the best part about ‘perfecting’ the four miles with these type of routines is that it makes adding mileage that much easier.

2 thoughts on “The Four Mile Focus

  1. BostonRunner

    I actually don’t find the treadmill that boring. I think my gym is way too entertaining (I love people watching/the tennis courts are right below us). And I completely agree with you that it’s so easy to do intervals and other kinds of things on them! I’m always hesitant to increase the incline though because of my shin splint history.

  2. Rex Mingie

    I run four miles* four days a week (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). I don’t see much need to go beyond that since I have no desire to run a marathon or any other long distance run. I used to run 6.5 miles on Sundays and 4.0 miles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. However, I found that those extra 2.5 miles were a bit of overkill since my only purpose in running is the cardiovascular benefits. I would rather run four miles at a 7:30 – 8:00 minute per mile pace than slow down to a 9:00 minute per mile pace and run longer distances.

    A four mile run is an ideal distance for those of us who simply run for our health and have no desire to run long distances.


    * Actually, I run about 4.2 miles because: (1) I don’t know for a fact that the distance of the two tracks I run is exactly the distance posted, and (2) I may not have gotten my two side street routes measure perfectly with my car’s odometer.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *