02/18/2014 04:51 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2014

The Zen of Running: Catching Your Third Wind

Most runners are familiar with the feeling of catching your second wind. It usually happens 10 to 15 minutes into a run. After clearing out the initial aches, pains and tightness from previous runs, the body begins pumping more blood into the working muscles and warming up until perspiration begins. The running suddenly feels a bit easier, and the runner usually responds by increasing their pace. This is, of course, why warming up properly before a race is so important.

For runners that stick it out a bit longer, a third wind awaits. For me, this usually happens around mile 5 or 6. I find myself slide into a hypnotic rhythm of footfalls and exhales, and my mind starts to entertain itself in other ways. I'll suddenly have an epiphany concerning a project at work, or I'll find a solution to a problem that I've been struggling with, or I might begin writing an new article in my head. Today, I found myself remembering details of a long forgotten event that took place decades ago.

The spell usually lasts until I realize it's happening, much like an interrupted dream. I imagine this is a mindset that ultra marathoners and other endurance athletes occupy for long periods of time. The act of running tires the physical self and in doing so, allows the inner self to emerge. The self-reflection and contemplation experienced during the third wind leaves me feeling a greater sense of inner peace.

Great changes start with individuals; the basis of world peace is inner peace in the hearts of individuals, something we can all work for. -- Dalai Lama

A third wind isn't available to me when I race. Races requires too much mental concentration. As runners we have a checklist that requires constant monitoring during a race: form, pace, mileage, water, fuel, etc. This constant monitoring interrupts the peaceful process that occurs during a long training run when I can simply let my mind drift.

Weekends are made for long slow runs. If you are out there for a long run this weekend, take note of your second wind and see if you can find your third. Enjoy the miles.