Run Commute “Cheats”

Here is a typical week. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, were run commute days. Thursday was low in mileage, but in part because of a transcontinental flight that took up much of it.

As a run commuter, I happen to be a bit of a cheater. I don’t mean a fraud such as Rosie Ruiz, who was stripped of her Boston Marathon medal in 1980 for not completing all 26.2 miles of the course or even very many of them. I merely mean I am not a stickler for results to brag about on Strava. I want to get some exercise into my day and get to work. Those are straightforward goals. I’m not looking to impress anyone.

A preface before my confessions. I am no slouch. In January 2018, I ran to work a dozen times; February and March have continued similarly. That is 4.5 miles, or as much as 4.75 miles depending on the exact route and meandering, including days that rained. On a few occasions, I also ran with my coach. On at least one of those days, I exceeded 15 miles on foot (and I have provided the digital proof).

Yet, I want to be honest and humble. I am not the run commuter I aspire to be. I did not run another eight mornings when I could have. There are various reasons. The least common among them, only through self-flagellation (figurative, not literal) is laziness. There usually was an impediment, and the most aggravating among them was the need to put on a business suit, followed by the disruption of airplane travel and ensuing jet lag.

What I fail at most often is in fact to run. The truth is, as I admit freely, I am technically a run-walker, not a true runner. I am a fast walker though. So I figure my run-walk routine satisfies whatever is the abstract, agreed-upon standard for what constitutes “running.” I am constantly striving to increase the speed and the length of the run portion of the cycle. I am seeing modest gains. At 51 years old very soon, but only three years into the sport on a serious basis, I figure the inevitable effects of aging — as they say, better than the alternative — will offset the progress of discipline. I cannot seem to break 45 minutes (10 per mile) over the distance I must cover, though I can make it just under 8 minutes for a single mile.

I have discovered a new tactic though. I feel good about this maneuver. Bike sharing is the latest trend. But it will be, I predict, more than a fad. I have now done a part-run, part-bike trip that allows me to indulge the fantasy I could do a biathlon or triathlon. (I grew up with a swimming pool, and I must be about the worst swimmer for someone who had that luxury, so there is more work to be done.) In San Francisco, they are rolling out undocked, electric-assist bikes! That means you can leave them anywhere within the authorized zone, and they offer a boost for the hills. The dual workout is wonderful. I am using different leg muscles, while also exerting the lungs to greater capacity. Run, then bike, and see the city as you could not enclosed in a vehicle.

Even my most obvious dishonesty is defensible. I have more than once hopped on the bus. The reason is keeping to a schedule despite the sauntering for a spell. I have competed against myself. All out, I am pretty sure I’d beat the bus. But at the run-walk pace (see above), I can save a couple of minutes with mass transit. Since in contemporary America, we suffer what has been called “bus stigma” — in the hit movie Speed, which made action stars of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, her character is compelled to explain why she is stuck with the other losers who are aboard a bus in Southern California — I feel I am engaging in a worthwhile protest against the One Percent by boarding the MUNI; I can proclaim that I am a man of the people. Besides, the bus line I take travels through the historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the home of the “Summer of Love” that transformed our culture.

Like everyone else who doesn’t quite live up to their aspirations, I suppose, I am compelled to rationalize. The point of run commuting is to get the blood flowing and accomplish the task of traveling from home to office, while being better to the environment. I figure if I have something of a shortcut, I am still better off than if I drove a car by myself, both to me and toward the world. My point is that the run commute is intended to be pleasurable and practical. It is supposed to decrease stress, not increase it. It’s not a sanctioned competition. Easygoing is fine. Most of the rest of my day is intense. People who do not run commute misunderstand. A good run commute is relaxing. It adds rather than subtracts to the energy I have. The psychological benefit turns into a physical one.

Nonetheless, every time I do not complete a run commute on strict terms, I feel guilty. And if I can set a new PR, even if it is only for my own satisfaction, I feel I am a better person.

The New Run Commuters – April 2018

Spring is here and it is the perfect season to start run commuting! The temperatures are finally warming up and the snow is going away. Maybe you are bored with your current running routine, too. Variety and extra mileage is what lured Lionel Adams, TRC’s New Run Commuter for April, into becoming a run commuter himself. And, as a long-distance runner and running coach, Lionel knows that changing things up can help keep you motivated to achieve your goals. Read more about Lionel below, and fill out the form at the end of the post if you are interested in being featured on our site. 

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Lionel Adams

  • Age: 31

  • City/State: Charleston, South Carolina, USA

  • Profession/Employer: Dietetic and Nutrition Administrator at Charleston VA Medical Center

  • Number of years running:5

  • Number of races you participate in a year:12

  • Do you prefer road or trail? I prefer road running, however I’m not against trail running. When road running, I don’t have to worry about roots, branches, etc. This yields the freedom to focus on breathing and form. I usually throw in trail runs to mix things up in my training.

 

Lionel Adams

 

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Quest 2L Hydration Pack (without the hydration bladder)

  • Shoes: Nike Free Runs

  • Clothing: A regular quick-drying shirt and running shorts.

  • Outergear: When the weather is cold, I wear my Brooks Running Jacket and my Under Armour Cold Gear Tights.

  • Headgear: When I do wear headgear, I wear my Under Armour Dri-Fit Cap.

  • Lights: If needed, I use my cellphone to light my path. It is also good for warning oncoming cars. 

  • Hydration: None. My journey is only five miles. I rehydrate once I change and prepare for work.

 

Run commuting pack and contents

 

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

I decided to run commute to add some color and variety to my run weeks. It is an easy way to add mileage during a hefty work week. I love being able to watch the sun rise on my way to work. Equally, I love passing the ridiculous traffic on the way home.

How often do you run commute?

I run commute 2-3 times per week.

How far is your commute?

Depending on the route, my run commute is approximately 5 miles.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

No matter the day, I consistently pack a lunch. I am keenly interested in the amount and nutritional content of the food I eat. I want to know exactly what ingredients are in my meal.

 

Lionel, about to head out on his commute

What do you like the most about run commuting?

I love being able to sneak in mileage just by commuting to work. I can complete 10 miles on any given work day. As a marathoner and long distance running coach, I’m always searching for innovative ways to get in mileage. I also love the bewilderment of my coworkers upon learning of my run commuting.

Do you know of anyone else in your area who runs to work?

Unfortunately, I know no one else who runs to work.

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

When not run commuting, I conform with societal norms and drive to work.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

Be sure to pack and plan ahead. Being able to wake up, shower and go will make the run commuting day so much easier. Also, be sure your backpack works for you. There is nothing worse than an inadequate backpack while running.

 

Are you interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters? If so, fill out the form below and we’ll send you more details.

The New Run Commuters Submission Form

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Tell us a little about your run commute! (required)

Why I am a Run Commuter

The US Mint in San Francisco, which I pass on the most challenging route I can take, up and over between Mt. Sutro and Twin Peaks.

Run commuting has made me a better person. I am not who people believe I am. To wake up early and trek into the office on my own locomotion is intrinsically worthwhile. Yet it also is consistent with my plan for self-improvement. Please allow me to explain.

People regard me as among the hardest working individuals they know. I once said to a colleague that I felt I wasn’t hard working enough, and he replied explicitly that there was something wrong with me if I were sincere in the statement. That is no brag. Throughout my career, I have worked so much that people who have commented on it have not intended it as a compliment. When I practiced law, albeit briefly half a lifetime ago, I billed at a 2750 hour per year pace. I’m told that remains a respectable amount even now.

But here is my secret. I am among the laziest people I know too. I can cite various examples. If I am working, I won’t bother to leave my desk if I am thirsty or need to use the facilities. In the interest of efficiency, I wait to rise from my seat until both conditions are satisfied. Observers assume I am ambitious. To the contrary. I’m an idler. I like to sit at home with the dog.

There is no contradiction between being hard-working and being lazy. The hard-working persona is cultivated; the lazy one, natural.

When I was a kid, I enjoyed the T.H. White retelling of the King Arthur legend, entitled The Once and Future King. Written with World War II ongoing toward an outcome that seemed at best uncertain, the tetralogy of novels has endured as the version of the myth for our era, featuring Camelot, the sword Excalibur, the wizard Merlin, and so on. It was the basis for the Disney cartoon. The monarch is an orphan transformed into various animals to learn by allegory. What made an impression on me is the defining dialogue between the ill-made knight, Lancelot, and the Queen, Guinevere, who are carrying on, certainly within the awareness of Arthur, who regards the French chevalier as his only friend and the champion of the round table. Lancelot, asked by the Queen why he strives to be so virtuous, confesses it is because he is so wicked. The sentiment is profound, for any of us who aspires to personal progress. Our perfect selves are not our true selves, and although we might not achieve the former within our lives we need not be as awful as the latter.

Social scientists now have data about how we make decisions that suggests we can change the architecture of our choices. The Nobel Prize in economics this year went to the professor who has promoted the concept of “nudges.” We can alter, in the aggregate and on average, behavioral outcomes while respecting free will, by changing defaults from opt-in to opt-out and otherwise being conscious of the framework within which we pick among options. We, many of us anyway, will save money if enrollment in the retirement program is automatic — though within our ability to change, since we won’t bother. We will tend to control our portions by putting out smaller plates and consume less sugary soda by insisting on smaller containers. These are important insights about how our brains function, whether we consent. We can fool ourselves, not necessarily for the worse.

Run commuting has become my means of enforcing discipline for myself. It is effective. You can structure inertia to favor continued activity. In my fantasy life, I have long been a runner. It was easier to implement my imagination than I had supposed, following Lancelot and using “nudges.”

To begin, I set appointments with others to walk, eventually adding speed to the stroll. The commitment made all the difference. I had to live up to it. Otherwise I’d be disappointing a colleague. In some instances, we dubbed it a “walking meeting” — I was thrilled to discover that, like run commuting, the walking meeting turns out to “be a thing” as kids say nowadays. I even arranged, as a teacher, to lead groups of students, adding a coffee break at the end, though fewer than half who RSVP’d typically showed up for the 7am start.

Then I became known as a run commuter. The security guards on campus become accustomed to seeing me arrive in my hi-viz yellow windbreaker and a cap soaked through with sweat, disappear into my office for a moment, then show up once again in my regular outfit for the day. The expectation of others is vital to my motivation. It might be less enthusiastic than the cheering from the crowd during a race, but it serves the same purpose of inspiring. Even though run commuting is becoming more popular, anyone who engages in it likely is enough of an outlier to develop a bit of local fame. It’s only slightly more common than, say, riding a unicycle.

Here is my discovery — not original, even to me, but rather one of those aspects of human nature I keep realizing after forgetting how integral it is to all of us. Repetition forms habits. These can be good practices, despite our more acute awareness of their bad counterparts. I run on my own now. I run without people taking notice, even to “run” errands.

Run commuting has trained me. It has become a mindset. Its value extends beyond the exercise. I have become more deliberate in planning my day and more mindful in carrying out activities shown on the calendar. I appreciate both the moment and the surroundings.

In a sense run commuting has become my philosophy of life.

The Perils of Crossing the Street

San Francisco Muni Train on the “F” line featuring vintage cars


I jaywalk. I admit it. I was well into adulthood when I realized this conduct was considered mildly criminal. My wife was once given a citation for it, which means I am not alone in failing to comprehend that it is frowned upon — or perhaps we have in common that we are scofflaws in this regard.

Yet I also am paranoid about crossing the street. When I run commute, I make it a point to stand well back at intersections. I have a specific memory. Or, more accurately, I was told a story once that was so vivid I felt I had witnessed the event myself, even though I was only relayed the situation; it’s a textbook example of hearsay but no less compelling to me for having heard it from a friend.

More than twenty-five years ago, so essentially in another life — I am twice the age now I was then — I was meeting my pal Chris. He was a bit late.

When he showed up, he explained to me he had seen a terrible accident. He saw somebody die. This was in San Francisco, downtown, maybe on Market Street, one of the major thoroughfares. He was walking. A bicycle messenger swerved in front a city bus, but come what may didn’t make it, and the guy was run over by the massive vehicle.

What made it compelling, however, was that Chris told me, at least in my memory, he watched, as did other bystanders, the death throes of the victim. As the victim was being crushed under the wheels and the weight, his legs twitched madly, with blood seeping outward. His description was completed by his shock, which was palpable; I shared it.

Even though I was not there, I have to say the incident made an impression. I visualized the gruesome scene as perfectly as if I had been there in the flesh. In the free association of trying to exorcise the image, I recalled childhood piano lessons that had failed to make me a concert-playing prodigy. There was a style of song, the tarantella, which had a mythology about dancing to death.

So when I am headed downtown in the early morning, I have trained myself to be mindful. There are so many cars pulling out of garages or turning behind me as I dash straight through the crosswalk, not to mention the buses, public and private, that come with great speed perpendicular to my path of travel, and the MUNI trains, which rattle the very ground. I appreciate, both in the sense of being grateful and in the sense of being awed, that this anecdote had such power. In my work as an advocate and a teacher of those who would persuade, I communicate using narratives and encourage the same.

I also have direct experience of the near miss. More than the moments when I personally came close to shuffling off my mortal coil, I am enthralled by what I was present for, observing in that manner that has the sensation of being at the cinema (what analogy was appropriate before moving pictures?), that surreal perception of slo-mo that somehow cannot be stopped despite its pace. Once, I had met a colleague at the Golden Gate Bridge to hike in, enjoying an urban landscape that tops my list of places to live, and as we proceeded along Crissy Field in the amiable conversation I associate with strolling, a woman of a certain age, oblivious to the risk, violated the right of way held by a luxury car being propelled forward far too fast. By some miracle, she was not squashed, not more than two arms’ lengths away, and, even more shockingly, she appeared to be undisturbed by the prospect of her demise; she continued in her daze. By coincidence, the driver was even more insensitive to what was happening around him, and, in a display of the inaction that is more remarkable than any action, he disappeared into the traffic rather than screeching to a halt.

The moral is what they say about getting out of bed in the morning. If we possessed perfect knowledge, we would not rise. All in all, I prefer the alternative. I hazard the run commute, and I am the better for it. I just have to pay attention to the lights — we all do.

By | 2018-03-12T08:59:35+00:00 March 12th, 2018|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

The New Run Commuters – March 2018

This month’s New Run Commuter is David Roland, from our headquarters city of Atlanta, Georgia. I had the pleasure of meeting David in person last week, and we spoke not only about how he became a run commuter, but also of Atlanta’s many, many distracted drivers and the dangerous conditions they create for vulnerable users, such as pedestrians, runners, and cyclists. David’s advice for staying safe? Be mindful of cars turning at intersections – they often don’t see people in the crosswalks – and make sure you are as visible as possible.

Read more about David’s story below and if you are interested in being the next run commuter featured on TRC, please fill out the contact form at the end of the post.

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Runner Basics

  • Name:  David Roland

  • Age:  35

  • City/State: Atlanta, GA

  • Profession/Employer: Web Developer | Software Engineer

  • Number of years running: 5

  • # of races you participate in a year: 1 – 3

  • Do you prefer road or trail? I like both, the good thing about running on trails is that you don’t have to look for cars.

David Roland

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Gregory Miwok 18. I carry work clothes, breakfast and some extra running clothes. I think 18 is a good size for my needs, because if I need to also carry shoes or lunch, I can.

  • Shoes: Nike Downshifter 5, though I don’t recommend them for running everyday.

  • Clothing: Nike running shorts and any t-shirt (preferably a t-shirt from a running race or a dri-fit one). I also wear a Buff headband on my neck when it is a bit chilly.

  • Outerwear: During winter, I use a thick windblocker: New Balance Men’s Windblocker Running 1/2 Zip, and New Balance running tights/pants.

  • Headgear: Nike Featherlight Dri-Fit hat. I prefer to run without it, but when it is raining or too sunny, I use it. Also Rudy Project Rydon glasses.

  • Lights: LED Slap Armband – sometimes I use it on my arm, and sometimes I hook it on the back of my backpack. Usually I run home during daylight, so I don’t use it that often.

  • Hydration: None. My commute is not very far, so I drink water before and after.

Atlanta traffic from above

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

After watching the movie McFarland, USA, I thought I should try it someday.

I’ve been a bike commuter since 2013. This winter I started having many flat tires on my bike, since I was commuting on a single speed with thin tires. I didn’t carry any gear to fix them, so I started running back home. After 3 or 4 flats, I started run commuting back and forth and leaving the bike at home.

How often do you run commute?

Almost every day, though I don’t want to overdo it, because I’m afraid of hurting my knees long-term.

How far is your commute?

3 miles (5 km) each way, very hilly.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I buy lunch at the office cafeteria – usually a salad with some protein.

What do you like most about run commuting?

The most important reason for me is that I hate being stuck in traffic, that’s why I choose running or biking over taking a car or bus. I love the feeling of waking up and thinking “Nice, I will go running”, instead of “Uff, I need to go to the office” :D

Also, it is more fun, better for physical and mental health, better for the environment, and cheaper.

 

Gregory Miwok 18 with contents

Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work?

After I started run commuting I was googling more about it and I found this website. Since the creator is also from Atlanta, I messaged him and we met.

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

Sometimes I bike (10-15 min), or else I take the bus (35 min), while running takes me 25 min.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

I read this before and I think it’s great advice: you don’t have to run everyday or both ways, or even all the way (mix it with public transit or driving), just do what you can. You can also try the route over the weekend to see how you feel and learn what it is like.

Also, try to find where you can shower. Maybe there is a gym close by, or even showers in your building – ask around.

Anything else that you would like to include?

Some advice based on my experience: when run commuting, you have to be careful at intersections (even with lights) because drivers turn without looking for pedestrians. Some of them are on their phones. It is very dangerous. Try to wear bright clothes.

Are you interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters? If so, fill out the form below and we’ll send you more details.

The New Run Commuters Submission Form

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Tell us a little about your run commute! (required)

Am I a Runner?

A few medals

 

“You’re not a runner. You’re a racer.”

That was what my coach said to me. She was neither complimenting nor criticizing me. She was describing me.

This is the story of my running career, such as it is. In 2015, I ran my first half marathon. My cousin and her husband had come to visit. He was running the San Francisco marathon. He told me if he could do it, I could too. I have since repeated that sentiment to many others, because it is true.

Inspired by casual conversation, I signed up. I figured I would try a half marathon. That is 13.1 miles. It seemed just within reach.

I finished. It took just under three hours. I was stiff and sore for two days. But I had found myself. The experience was that combination of joyful and miserable that compels repeating — I was once in the San Francisco Chinese New Year’s parade, riding a convertible at night in the cold rain, waving nonstop while trying not to fall off the back of the vehicle; that was the perfect combination of fun and discomfort that should have a name.

That year, I did another ten races. I did not train. I didn’t do anything in between. Except I regularly walked to work. I didn’t taper in that routine.

Perhaps I am obsessive. In 2016, I ran a total of 36 half marathons. I had set a goal of 24, but I got carried away. I brought my personal record down to 2:30. I looked for events wherever I went. In 2017, I managed approximately 27 half marathons. I am not quite sure because I stopped keeping track with care. I ran at altitude, above one mile, in Fort Collins, Colorado. I added different distances. There were multiple night races carrying lights. I achieved a 2:17 in the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll. But I also learned I couldn’t fly coast to coast, arrive late at night, and perform the next morning.

At some point, my wife decided I needed professional help. She concludes that about various aspects of my life. So, she hired a trainer for an assessment.

When we met, Angela put me on a treadmill and filmed my butt. She informed me my stride was asymmetrical and inefficient. I bought a package of sessions.

We are working on making me more of a runner. I’m not a runner in another sense. I am a run walker. I alternate. I have thought I ought to learn race walking. That sport may be just my speed literally. I admire its quirkiness. It has that punctiliousness about rules that appeals to me as a law professor.

For now, I run about a mile at a time. Then I walk a bit. I goad myself. Others use the same technique. I say when I cross that intersection or pass that tree, I have to get going again, then I have to make it at least to the next similar marker and so on. I pick a personal pacer. I remind myself not to be creepy about following someone.

So, I still am not fast, but I am persistent. I have never not finished. I have run back-to-back races, Saturday and Sunday, more than once. This past New Year’s Eve, I ran with a friend who is faster. I finished at the top of the bottom tenth. The next day, I ran with her sister who is even faster. I finished at the top of the bottom sixth. Considering the earlier excursion and the elevation gain of the route, I was satisfied to see the improvement relative to the field even if I remained at the back of the pack.

Along the way, I became not a runner, but a run commuter. I was I delighted to discover that to be a run commuter, as kids say nowadays, “is a thing.” I want to make progress in this pastime. My coach assures me I am ready for a full marathon, especially having completed the final warm up for the New York City marathon, an 18 miler that consisted of three loops of Central Park. She also tells me I can be considerably faster if I were disciplined, running more often and actually running when I “run.”

Thus, I turned the stroll to work into a jog, and, now, a run-walk. There are two long, gentle downhills, at the beginning from my home into the park and at the end through Hayes Valley toward City Hall. On both these stretches, I really move. Ever so briefly, I am a real runner. Yet I can report that through all this I have not once laced up my shoes to run, other than to a destination or in an organized event. I don’t just go out to run. It doesn’t interest me. I love running. I simply don’t do it for it’s own sake.

There are many types of runners. I guess I have created a category for myself. I’m an anti-runner who happens to run. There must be others out there.

The New Run Commuters – February 2018

It’s still winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the handful of people that continue to run commute year-round in snowy regions have their fair share of sub-zero temperatures, icy paths, unshoveled sidewalks, and slush-filled roads with which to deal.

Enter Frederic Otis.

He only started run commuting two months ago, but to begin in winter, when the weather in Québec can be at its worst (and continue to run throughout) makes Frederic an especially notable New Run Commuter who will no doubt continue to run to work for years to come.

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Frederic Otis

  • Age: 36

  • City/State: Quebec City, Québec

  • Profession/Employer: CRIQ

  • Number of years running: 9

  • # of races you participate in a year: I have only ran one race… the Montreal Half-marathon in 2012. I plan to register for a marathon, or a 25km trail run, later this summer.

  • Do you prefer road or trail? I really like both! For me a great run is a mix of both. I’m lucky to live in an area where it is possible to vary a lot – road, trail, hills, riverside, etc. And, there’s also winter running, which is not quite road or trail… That would be my favorite, because the conditions change a lot, and rapidly. One day can be extremely cold, the next one windy, and the other icy like an ice ring…or all three together!

Frederic Otis

 

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Lululemon Surge Backpack It’s truly a great backpack, but I couldn’t bring my work clothes in it because they would be all creased up. I’d really like to try the IAMRUNBOX backpack for that reason.

  • Shoes: Summer shoes –  Vibram FiveFingers V-Run, Winter shoes –  Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG

  • Clothing: Summer clothing – plain sports t-shirt and shorts. Winter – I wear merino wool base layer because it keeps warm and dries very fast.

  • Outerwear: Winter: My merino base layers (1 or 2) plus a soft shell to cut the wind.

  • Headgear: Summer : Ciele Athletics cap (another Montreal based company that makes great stuff), Winter – merino beanie for warmer conditions, or a country skiing hat

  • Lights: None, or a running light on one of my arms.

  • Hydration: For longer runs or when it’s hot, I use a Camelbak pack like this one.

Frederic’s gear

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

I finally decided to start run commuting in December 2017, once I was finally well established at my new job, and the distance from home seemed perfect. I just needed to find a way to organize my runs with 2 drop-offs : one of my girls to school and the other one to daycare. While reading on the subject, I ended up finding a great article that inspired me to make the move – Run Commuting Challenges – Parenting. I really have to mention that my wife (also a runner) is incredibly supportive, because it puts more pressure on evenings to go get the kids and get dinner ready.

How often do you run commute?

My run commute history began only in January this year. Since the first week back to work, I run commute two times a week. Gradually, I plan building up to 3 times a week in Spring.

How far is your commute?

It’s a total of 15-16 km to and from work. In the morning, it’s a smooth downhill run, but to get back home is much harder…especially when there’s lots of snow and/or ice.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I always bring my lunch to work even on run commute days, because it’s the best way to eat healthy food. Homemade meals are the best, and it’s so much cheaper! The only additional food item I have in my lunch box when I run to work is a Naak bar. It’s an energy bar made with… cricket protein powder! Crickets are the most sustainable protein source, and the bars taste very good.

What do you like most about run commuting?

What I like the most is being able to combine running and transportation to work (who likes traffic!). On about half of my run, I literally go faster than the traffic, which is a pretty cool feeling. Also, I get to be outside longer, and start (and end) my day with the best exercise in the world.

Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work? 

No, I don’t know anybody else who runs to work. I’m trying to influence a few colleagues though…

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

I have to drive to work when I don’t run. Unfortunately, the bus that could take me to the office doesn’t work well with my schedule.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

Well for me it started with putting my daily routine on paper, and playing with it to fit running. It seemed so complicated at first, but in the end it’s part of my routine. If you are not sure of your schedule, why not try to do it on a weekend to see if your plan works?

Anything else that you would like to include?

Especially if you have to run in changing conditions, make sure to have an emergency kit: cell phone with battery charged, money, extra pair of socks, ID cards, etc.

Are you interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters? If so, fill out the form below and we’ll send you more details.

The New Run Commuters Submission Form

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Tell us a little about your run commute! (required)

“Do You Shower?”

Where my run commute ends. The UC Hastings Tower is in the background on the left.

The only issue that run commuting presents is whether to shower. I have run with a colleague’s husband, a fellow who is much faster than me and who plays team sports in an adult league, meaning “run with” refers to getting together afterward. We have enough rapport that he, of Hispanic background, answered the question whether I need a shower, “Don’t tell me you Asians don’t smell! There are Asians on my soccer team, and I can tell you that you smell just as bad.”

Informal polling shows that the majority is with him. Whenever people learn that I am a run commuter, they want to know about the physical details, as if the greatest deterrent for them to consider this practice is that they would work up a sweat. I cannot recall any other context in which acquaintances have been so curious about my bodily functions, but that seems to be just about the first thought that comes to mind for everyone — it actually is a funny indication of how similar we all are to one another. So I explain the mechanics. Then I solicit their opinion.

“You should shower,” is the consensus.

The truth is I do not shower. I towel off with baby wipes stored in the office. I could, I suppose, shower in the men’s locker room of the gym in the residence hall of the school where I teach. No doubt it reveals something about me, but I don’t want to use the facilities there: too many memories, none positive, about high school, and I’d rather not be naked in the presence of students, even in a place where it is appropriate. I further rationalize my reluctance on the basis that I am unlikely to find myself that close to anybody on campus, that they would object. An arm’s length distance, what is comfortable in contemporary American culture for most folks, ought to be beyond the range of any run commute body odor — but perhaps I am only fooling myself. It’s also an extra fifteen minute production, having to trudge down the street, check in with the guard, store everything, etc.

What I do is I change my outfit, down to the socks. That is primarily what I carry, a full set of clothes. I keep the same shoes on. I am lucky to have a job that does not require coat and tie. In addition, San Francisco has a climate that does not compel seasonal changes in wardrobe, and an attitude that allows professionals to wear a much wider range than likely would be true in most cities. Inspired by Einstein but without any delusion of other likeness to such genius, I almost always wear black pants and a black pullover shirt, having a half dozen identical items in the closet. The one piece of attire that I regard as a necessity at all times is a good, year round cap or hat. I replace the running cap, usually soaked through, with more of a beret, upon arrival. There is a bit of variation. If it is raining, I can take a fresh pair of shoes. Given the bulk of footwear, it has to be very wet for me to do that. (Since I am disclosing these details, I keep a toiletry kit in my desk drawer, too. It includes Gold Bond powder to sprinkle. I know nobody wants to catch a whiff of anybody else’s feet.)

The ultra lightweight backpack I bought has two main compartments. That enables me to stuff the dirty clothes into the back half.

The great development that has made my run commute possible is the tablet and the internet. I contemplated lugging my laptop. I have not even tried. It would just wreck my stride. Suggestions in this regard are welcomed. But my iPad, the medium sized model, is fine anyway. I load all the materials for the day onto it, or I have them available via the cloud, which also connects through the office desktop computer, and even in the classroom, equipped as it is with a “smart board” system. The necessity of planning ahead enforces discipline. I have to be mindful about my schedule. Every now and then, since my wife is on the faculty too, I stow a bag in the trunk of her car, which I can retrieve. We have different schedules though.

There you have it. That’s my routine. But, no, I don’t shower.

By | 2018-02-11T10:38:37+00:00 February 12th, 2018|Categories: General, People|1 Comment

The Math of Run Commuting

Twin Peaks, San Francisco, where my morning run commute starts

Here are my calculations that turned me into a run commuter. I concluded that I could invest twenty minutes of time per day for a full workout. I was already considering the idea. But I was persuaded by the argument from efficiency.

I live in San Francisco. That is an advantage. People travel by every conveyance in the Bay Area: cable car, ferry, bicycle, motorcycle, and powered skateboard are acceptable means of arriving at the office. There is no judgment, and what you wear, or even if you are clothed, is not regulated as would be true most other places. The city also is compact. It is seven miles by seven miles. My home is on the “other” side of Twin Peaks. My office is near City Hall.

My primary mode of transit was either the MUNI train or my vintage Honda Hawk GT V-twin cafe racer. By the former, it was about 25 to 30 minutes door to door; by the latter, perhaps 90 seconds faster, but with the tasks of putting on and taking off a high visibility riding suit over street clothes. I actually tracked it for these purposes.

I was walking everywhere anyway. So I did a test. On foot, without too much exertion, I could make it in under an hour. It is a 4.5 mile route with the option of a modest hill, through the park overlooking the famous “Painted Ladies,” the Victorians seen on postcards with the skyline in the background. With a bit of training, and considerable sweat, I have brought my PR down to 47 minutes. It is realistic to believe that I could achieve 45 minutes.

Painted Ladies, Alamo Square via Wikimedia Commons

At that rate, the run is an incremental increase of 20 minutes over the alternatives. That seemed to be a worthwhile investment for the benefit of clearing my head and exercising my heart.

The mornings are almost always cool, sometimes foggy. I have quite a bit of company along the route, especially in popular areas such as the “panhandle” of Golden Gate Park. Every now and then, I will double the distance by returning in the afternoon with a slightly slower jog. If I am feeling like a bit of leisure, I will take my camera for a photo stroll. On the occasions I fall behind, I allow myself to cheat. I will catch a bus through the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. I figure I’m still better off having done a couple of miles under my own locomotion, than if I hadn’t bothered at all. I’m not trying to impress anybody.

The most important social science finding to report is borne out by research. You can form a habit quite easily. Laziness is a habit, as is its opposite. I could have been accustomed to, and probably was, staring at my smartphone while on the short train ride from the Forest Hill Station (said to be the first such subway stop with a building in the West) to the Civic Center Station. After finishing my first run commute, however, I became addicted to it, and as a consequence, if I take too long of a break my body protests the withdrawal into inactivity.

Before I tried this experiment, I would not have believed it was possible for me to do it. But it has worked better than I could have imagined. I run commute about three days per week. No doubt others can best that if they try.

Strava Data Reveals Surprising Numbers on Run Commuting

London tops the list of cities with the most run commuters, according to Strava’s recently-released 2017 Year in Sport report, while Amsterdam, Paris, New York City, and Sydney, Australia round out the top five.

We’re fairly certain that our friends at Corridaamiga were solely responsible for #8, São Paulo, Brazil, as they are at the forefront of run commuting advocacy in that city.

What is even more exciting to see, is how much run commuting has grown over the last year. The number of run commuters grew by 43% and the number of runs tagged as commutes is up 51%! While these numbers come only from those that use Strava to record their run commutes, last year alone, 136 million runs were uploaded. That’s a ridiculously large set of data to analyze. 

While the percentage growth is impressive, the actual numbers are even more amazing. Over 31,000 run commutes were recorded weekly in the United States alone! Let’s break that down a bit.

According to our 2014 International Survey of Run Commuting, a majority of respondents said they ran to and/or from work 2 – 4 days a week. Lets go with the middle number of 3, and assume they ran to and from work, for a total of 6 commute events per week, per person. Now, if 31,169 commutes are recorded per week, and each run commuter racks up 6 of those, then that means approximately 5,194 people are run commuting in the United States each week!

Obviously, we’re making some assumptions here, but even at the high end of our guesstimate, saying that the only people who recorded commutes every week, worked 7 days a week and ran both to and from work (14 commute events per week), the number still comes out to 2,226 run commuters!

And the grand total of Strava-recorded run commutes in the U.S. over the past year?

1,620,788!

We’re seriously blown away. We knew you were out there running to work, but we had no idea you were doing it so much. Keep it up throughout the next year and all years to come!


If you are not using Strava to record your run commutes, please make 2018 the year you start doing so! You can sync your fitness tracker to it, and then tag your run as “commute” on the phone app once your done. There is also a Global Run Commute Crew club you can join (currently at 125 members). See you on the streets!

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