The New Run Commuters – December 2017

Welcome back to another edition of The New Run Commuters! For our last profile of 2017, we’re featuring Alex Zinni of Mansfield, Massachusetts. While most run commuters take up commuting by foot after years of road and/or trail running, Alex only started running this past year. To maximize family time and to stay healthy, he took up run commuting a few months ago and hasn’t looked back.

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Alex Zinni

  • Age: 36

  • City/State: Mansfield, MA

  • Profession/Employer: Quality Engineer, Med Devices / Bridgemedica

  • Number of years running: 1

  • # of races you participate in a year: 0 (hopefully that will change soon)

  • Do you prefer road or trail? Road, mainly because I’ve never run a trail

 

 

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: After much debate, I went with the Osprey Rev 24 M/L in blue. I have an Eagle Creek garment folder (S) that I use to keep my clothes from getting wrinkled and it fits into the Rev really well along with my shoes, toiletries, lunch (when I bring it), and extra accessories. I pack my work socks, running socks (so I have clean ones for the way home), underwear, and belt into my shoes to save space. The Rev 24 has plenty of straps to tighten it to your body. Unfortunately, my phone does not fit in the media pocket, which is slight bummer, but the bag has a nice slash pocket up at the top so it does not get wet.

    Shoes: Right now I’m using the Ghost 9 from Brooks.  I have wide feet and everyone said they’re one of the best at making wide, light shoes with a neutral sole.  So far, they have not disappointed.

    Clothing: Some type of non-cotton shirt and Under Armor running shorts along with running tights, long sleeve base, and warm up jacket for when it gets cold.  I also have a Salomon WP jacket just in case. I try to go with loud colors because safety.

    Outerwear: Gloves in the winter, because running with cold hands sucks.  I cut out a little slot for my Garmin 735xt so I don’t have to roll the glove up on my left hand.

    Headgear: Since I am sans hair, the Under Armor ColdGear Infrared Hood has been a must during the winter, otherwise nothing.

    Lights: Blue flashing lights because everyone pays attention to blue lights.

    Hydration: Water bottle in the side pocket of my backpack.

 

Alex Zinni

 

Osprey Rev 24

 

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

tl:dr = I’m fat and I don’t have time to work out at a gym or run outside my work schedule. Full version… Run commuting has been the most efficient way to scratch the active lifestyle itch while maintaining our involved family life. With a wife (that works nights & weekends) and 3 kids at home, any time we have with each other and the kids is important to us and not worth giving up. But after putting on about 50lbs over the last 8 years and several half-hearted attempts to get healthy, I decided it was time to make serious change. I’ve been running after work and watching my diet more closely for about a year when I came up with the idea on my own to run to work. A quick search for running backpacks led me to TRC and others doing what I wanted to do. And, now, here I am…

How often do you run commute?

I’m a couple months or so in, and I’m running to work 2 times a week. As the chunkiness and shin splints decrease, I hope to add more days.

How far is your commute?

It’s a little more than 3 miles one way if I take the most direct route.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

Depends on the leftover situation, but I prefer to bring my lunch. I work really close to a supermarket, so either is not an issue.

What do you like most about run commuting?  

Everything. The way I get to combine commuting and exercise. The challenge is motivating even though some mornings I just want to drink coffee and listen to sports talk in a warm car.  The looks I get from people when I tell them that I run commute is priceless. Being outside is awesome. I’m so much more awake and focused once I get to work. I have an easier time staying active throughout the day, playing with my kids, sleeping, etc. Finally – my personal favorite – my wife is a fan of a less squishy me, though she promises me she loves the squishier me, too.

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

Nope, I am the only one of my kind.

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

Driving along in my automobile.

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

I’d say the same thing that I heard in the beginning – start slowly and just do it. Do whatever you need do to ease yourself into it. For me, I was fortunate enough to need several auto repairs and my mechanic is a little more than 1 mile into my commute. Since 2 miles was my previously normal distance, it was a no brainer to drop off my car and run into work from there. It also saved me the hassle of finding a ride every time I dropped the car off. My situation was unique, but the approach would be the same – just get out there and do it. No excuses.

What are the weather conditions like for your run commute?

I live in New England, where blizzards in May and 85°F days in November are equally likely.  The winters can get snowy with temps dropping as low as the 10’s & 20’s. The summers can get pretty hot and humid into the 90’s.

Anything else that you would like to include?

I just want to thank my wife for putting up with my crazy ideas and being supportive. She’s my inspiration, my quest, my love, and my friend. She is my gift and the world needs to know.

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)

By | 2017-12-11T13:59:15+00:00 December 12th, 2017|Categories: General, News, People|Tags: , , , , , , |0 Comments

Run Commuting Challenges – Parenting

Choosing to become a run commuter can be a life-altering decision. As we outline in our Become a Run Commuter series, one must first tell themselves that they will do it, and then begin the planning and logistics necessary to ensure success. If you already have a challenging life as it is, then throwing a run commute into the mix can be difficult – You may have to wear suits every day; your route may lack adequate public transportation; your office may lack shower facilities; you may live 20+ miles from the office, and so on. In this series, we will address some of these issues individually. First up, parenting.

Note: We realize that everyone has unique circumstances that may not fit the solutions provided in this article. We offer these only as examples of how to overcome some more common challenges.

Scenario

Our family consists of two adults and three children, ages 3, 8, and 15 (that’s daycare, elementary, and high school – three places to be, possibly at different times). We are a one-car family and public transportation is available. The adults work in, or near, downtown. All kids can be dropped off at the same time, and (mostly) picked up at the same time. Both my wife and I want to use active transportation to get to and from work.

Before school started in late-July, we sat down and planned out our days to see what would work in our given situation. I would do drop-offs and she would do pick-ups. My wife has meetings a night or two a week after work, so she wouldn’t be able to get them every day. I work criminal trials occasionally, and have to go in early and stay late on court days, so those days we would need to adjust accordingly (and possibly ask for outside help). But for the most part, we have a fairly predictable day. In order to help us create a schedule, we first mapped out all the places we might need to be during a typical day.

Planning

Once we had that in front of us, not only did we realize that everything was within a reasonable running and biking distance, but we were able to create a schedule and plan that works for everyone. Here is what a typical, active commuting day looks like for our family:

  • 5:30 am – Dad wakes up, showers, makes lunches, packs bags

  • 6:30​ ​am​ ​– Wake the kids up. Start feeding them, getting them dressed

  • 6:40 am ​– Mom comes downstairs with little kids

  • 6:40 ​am ​– 7:15 ​am ​- Chaos​, which sometimes includes breakfast, hopefully involves brushed teeth, and possibly involves clothes worn the day before​

  • 7:15 ​am ​– 15-year-old bikes or walks to school; Dad loads little ones in car, heads to their school/daycare​ (these are both within the same block)​

  • 7:25 ​am ​– Dad arrives​ at school​, parks car for the day at school​ (note: car has bike rack on back)​

  • 7:30 ​am ​– Both little ones are in place; Dad’s run to work begins; Mom bikes to work

  • 8:00 am – School starts​; Mom arrives at work and cools down

  • 8:10 am – Dad arrives at work, cools down, then cleans up; Mom begins work

  • 8:30 am – Dad starts working

  • 8:30 am – 3:45 pm – Parents working; kids in school

  • 3:45 pm – School ends/afterschool program begins

  • 4:30 pm – Teenager bikes home

  • 5:00/5:30​ pm​ – ​Work ends, ​Mom bikes to school, puts bike on car, picks little ones up. Dad leaves work, takes the train, and runs home from nearest station.

  • 5:40 ​pm ​- Everyone is home. Begin to prepare dinner.

Results

Following our schedule, here is what our daily mileage looks like:

Dad (dropoff)

Morning

  • 1 mile of driving

  • 5 miles of run commuting

Afternoon

  • 0 – 5 miles of train (depends on available time)

  • 1 – 5.3 miles of running

Daily Total: 6 – 10.3 miles run commuting, 0 – 5 miles on the train, and 1 mile driving.

Mom (pickup)

Morning

  • 3.5 miles bike commuting

  • 0 miles of driving

Afternoon

  • 3.5 miles bike commuting

  • 1 mile of driving

Daily Total: 7 miles of bike commuting, 1 mile of driving.

It is important to note that this is what works for us right now. This is a “while-the-kids-are-in-school” schedule, and once summer arrives and camps begin, everything will change, and we’ll go through the above planning once again.

“Yes, but…”

While this active transportation scheme works for us, we often have to modify it, and sometimes that happens a couple of times a week. Why? For many reasons, including unscheduled meetings, late work nights, etc. For the more common ones, here are some answers to questions I know readers (especially parents) will want to know:

What if your kid gets sick and your only car is at school? How do you pick them up?

This actually just happened this week. Our daycare called and said our little guy was sick and needed to be picked up as soon as possible. I put in for leave at work, set an out-of-office reply, changed back into my (still wet) running gear, and headed to the train station. Then, once the train arrived at my home station, I ran 2 miles to daycare to pick up my son and the car before driving back home.

My other option would have been Uber, a taxi, or a bus that gets me fairly close to school (but is slower than taking the train).

What do you do if your kids don’t finish school/afterschool at the same time each day?

If, for example, one child needs to be picked up at 5:00, and the other at 6:00, the parents could split pickup duties between themselves that day. Or, the main pickup person does both, while the other stays home and prepares dinner.

I don’t have time to do all this, and make dinner, and get the kids to bed on time. How can I make it work?

Using a slow cooker has saved us a lot of time and frustration. Get a good slow cooker with a built-in timer and a crock pot cookbook that has recipes your family would enjoy. Take a little time on the weekend to look through the cookbook, plan five to seven recipes for the week, and go out and buy the ingredients. Some cookbooks split meal prep into the night before, and the morning of, to make things easier.

Aside from the slow cooker, another option would be to cook two large meals on the weekend, then store them for serving throughout the week. For instance, make a pan of lasagna and a broccoli-cheese casserole. Serve on alternate days, and on Friday, take a night off and eat out.


 

I know, I know – this all sounds way too complicated…

However daunting it may initially seem, after you’ve done it for a few days, the routine becomes as normal as any other in your life. You have to get your kids to school and make dinner anyway, no matter how you decide to get to and from work, so why not try to throw run commuting into the mix, as well? You’ll be glad you did!

Pack Hacks: How to Tame Excess Backpack Straps

Run or hike with a pack long enough and you may begin to notice tiny annoyances about your gear transporter that are enough to drive you crazy.

For example, your zippers may make jingling, tinkling noises with each step. The quiet, sloshing water in your bottle or hydration pack might start to sound like you’re camped next to a gushing waterfall. You may even get noticeably angry at your straps that keep swinging into your arms as you move.

Some backpacks come with pre-built solutions for all these issues, but many do not. What can you do to keep yourself sane while out on the run? We’re here with answers!

In our first Pack Hacks instructional post, we’re going to show you how to deal with excess backpack straps.

The Problem:
Excess Straps on Your Pack

The Solution:
Secure the Straps with Velcro Tape

Here’s How to Do It

Step 1

Purchase some Velcro Tape

Also known as “fastening tape,” velcro tape comes in a wide range of sizes and lengths and is suitable for many jobs in which things need to secured (wires, cables, yoga mats, rope, etc.).

For our example, we used a roll of 3/4″ tape.

Step 2

Cut a 5″ – 6″ Piece of Tape

The length may vary depending upon how much excess strap you have, but usually 5 – 6 inches (13 – 15 cm) will suffice.

Step 3

Place End of Tape Near End of Excess Strap

By placing the first part of the tape inside the roll of strap, you will be securing it from unrolling later on.

Step 4

Roll Excess Strap to Buckle

The roll doesn’t have to go all the way up to the buckle – it can finish near it.

Step 5

Wrap Tape Under and Around Strap and Secure

If you have too much tape leftover, trim the excess.

Done!

The Finished Product Should Look Like This

When done correctly, the straps should never come loose. If you need to expand the pack straps, simply unfasten, adjust, re-roll, and secure once more.

Use anywhere you have too much extra strap on your backpack

By | 2017-06-10T22:49:35+00:00 June 10th, 2017|Categories: Gear, General, How To|Tags: , , , , |7 Comments

Run Commuting Story Roundup – April 2017

It’s the end of April and it is time for another edition of the Run Commuting Story Roundup! There seems to have been an increase in articles about lately, and while it’s probably tied to warmer temperatures (people more likely to run) we like to think it’s because run commuting is becoming more popular.

If you have written a post about run commuting on your blog, or have read a news article or post about run commuting that you want us to know about, send us an email and it may show up in a future Run Commuting Story Roundup.

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Review: Alpine Dam’s “The Shoreline” Trucker Hat

If a Goldilocks exists in my modest collection of running caps, it is Alpine Dam’s Shoreline model. The sweet spot especially is its brim.

That is no small praise. There is a glut of trucker caps proffered to the running community these days. They have grown increasingly popular since Anton Krupicka wore a trucker cap in his Leadville 100 victory. They espouse, perhaps embody, the simplicity and care-free attitude self-proclaimed dirtbag runners seek to claim – yet that counter culture cap, once de novo, has become de rigueur.

Salt-crusted hats are where it’s at.

Short of blocking sun, containing hair, or concealing a bald spot, choice of such caps really comes down to brand. They are, like bread, permutations of only a few ingredients assembled in different manners and amounts.

I have several, some of which were race takeaways, others I’ve purchased since my wife encouraged me to wear sun protection during Atlanta’s immolating summers. The reasons that have led to my abandoning some are precisely why I have grown enamored of Alpine Dam’s cap in the several weeks since they provided it for review. My disdain and disappointment in most are enumerated thus:

  1. Brim too long

  2. Dome too high

  3. Material destroyed by my incessant and salt-heavy sweat

There is a little room in the Shoreline’s crown, so air can move through and hair isn’t plastered to my scalp, yet not so tall that it looks absurd. Same with the brim: not a stub, as on bicycle caps (Krupicka’s current favorite, by the way), nor so long that it juts above your vision like the Star Destroyer in Star Wars’ opening scene, or that you feel you’re wearing a Goofy cap from Disney World. Even Beyonce looks a fool in a Goofy hat. You want to look good on your commute: you want to feel you look good, too.

The hat also wears well for hard-style poses amongst a trucker’s wasteland.

Here’s what really sealed it for me about the Shoreline: those long brims also obscure headlamp beams. That is important when you are run commuting in early or late hours, or running ultra distances. One shadow is enough to grab a toe and send you sprawling, leaving your flank scraped by Supermanning down a sidewalk, or your sternum marred by trail Braille.

The Shoreline cap is royal blue, with a mesh back and a foam front panel, sporting a flashy sherbet-hued logo: big, bold, and satisfying, like a glimpse of Atari, and absent the glaring day-glo safety colors so prevalent in active wear of late. So the cap is attractive, if unobtrusive.

You’ll notice it is choked with salt. As The Run Commuter founder (and my best friend) Josh can with a sneer of revulsion attest, my sweat is so salty that it appears I’ve been laboring the live-long day in the mines of Syracuse, New York, rather than enjoying an eight-mile run. It has honestly ruined cotton caps by destroying and warping the fabric. So far, the Shoreline’s foam has stood firm and shown no discoloration.

The logo is reminiscent of a mountain elevation profile, and wondered whether it was that of Mt. Tamalpais, located near Alpine Dam HQ in Marin County, California. Company founder Adam Melenkivitz clarified it is intended as the former (his daughter chimed it looked like their maps), and not actually Mt. Tamalpais. Rather, something with which anyone familiar with such profiles could identify.

He continued, “Specifically, the sharp end of the logo is how I imagined the climb from the Alpine Dam years ago … well prior to Strava. I always saw this as a winding, sharp climb in my mind. At the time, I had to work up to this ride, so ‘Alpine Dam’ was big goal for me. Alpine Dam for me wasn’t just the dam, or lake and the trails, but the entire experience of the loop.”

That’s a noble goal. It appeals to me, as certainly it will to others. It’s my Thunder Rock, or someone’s Iron Man, or another’s 15K. It might be your run commute.

The one detriment I’d note in the cap again comes back to sweat. Alpine Dam sent two models: the Shoreline, which I tested, and the BoFax, which my wife claimed. Hilary commented that she would like an integrated sweat-wicking band inside the BoFax. Neither model carried one, but it wasn’t much of an issue to me. The Shoreline did just fine, drawing sweat up into the cap’s body and brim.

One last thing I appreciate about the brand, which might be a deciding factor to some, is that Melenkivitz in his correspondence, and in Alpine Dam’s media, consistently references his kids. They are heavily involved in the products – selecting logo colors; doodling mountains on the patio; reviewing design ideas. Alpine Dam offers a few kids’ models, too. So though dirtbag runners seem to lean toward lone wolf branding, Alpine Dam might position itself across a variety of pursuits and social activities, as well as with active families.

That’s a rich market, neither too big, nor too small: just right.

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To see more of Alpine Dam’s products (currently with a 30% off code on the homepage!) visit their website.

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Disclaimer

Alpine Dam provided us with the trucker hats for review, however this did not influence my opinion regarding this product. The thoughts and pictures contained in this review are my own.

The New Run Commuters – March 2017

Runner’s World magazine (Oct 2016) recently gave Seattle the silver medal for number 2 best running city in America (behind San Fran). Aaron Mercer, our runcommuter for this month, is a Seattle resident who uses his runcommuting to make the most of what the city has to offer. He braves the state’s rainy, wet conditions to runcommute almost every day. Aaron is helping his work colleagues stay healthy, too.

A scientist at Novo Nordisk, Aaron is also the Wellness Committee chair and promotes running to other employees. Aaron says he enjoys exploring his city on his runcommutes. He manages to incorporate cafe-testing into these runs as well, taking advantage of Seattle’s abundance of coffee joints. An excellent idea for all runcommuters: the combination of running and coffee is a classic, and what better way to start (or end) the day…especially when it’s raining!

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Aaron Mercer

  • Age: 33

  • City/State: Seattle, WA

  • Profession/Employer: Research Scientist, Novo Nordisk

  • Number of years running: 17

  • Number of races you participate in a year: 4

  • Do you prefer road or trail? Trail, but I have learned to love the road again with all of my run commuting.

 

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Formerly an Osprey Manta AG 28, but I recently made the switch to the IAMRUNBOX Pro.

  • Shoes: Anything around 7 – 8 oz in weight from Brooks or Saucony. Their shoes fit my narrow feet better than most companies’.

  • Clothing: A mix of tech shirts and shorts, as well as race shirts. I never match, because run commuting is about form over fashion!

  • Outerwear: I have a few running jackets from Brooks, but I typically layer a short sleeve and long sleeve tech shirt because winters are pretty mild in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Headgear: I typically don’t wear a hat but I will wear sunglasses in the warm/sunny months.

  • Lights: Black Diamond Sprinter. It has good lumens for the dark and drizzly evening commutes in Seattle.

  • Hydration: I’ll hold a water bottle if I bring anything at all. I tend to only bring extra hydration for runs longer than 10 miles (16km), or when the temperatures get too warm outside (above 75F).

 

Aaron Mercer

Aaron’s runcommuting route.

Beer Run!! Aaron and his friend Pete ran 10 miles between 5 breweries. Did they follow it with a coffee run?

Aaron’s runcommute pack, in his home’s appropriately white, scandi interior. 

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

Evening traffic in Seattle can be atrociously slow, and my run commute many days is as fast or faster than most forms of transport. My office is next to Amazon’s ever-expanding campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, so traffic is almost always a grind. Runcommuting also gives me a chance to get in miles without cutting into my family time outside of work.

How often do you run commute?

2-4 days per week after work, but even on my “non-running” days I add in 2 miles of running between the most efficient bus lines to get home [editor’s note: we consider any combo of running+vehicular transport to be runcommuting! So, Aaron runcommutes more than he admits ;-)]

How far is your commute?

10.5 miles (16km) for the full run, and around 2 miles if I mix in bus commuting.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

Either, depending on what leftovers I have at home, and how much volume I have available in my backpack. My go-to spot for eating out is a Vietnamese food truck called Xplosive that seems to live on the Amazon campus — their vermicelli bowl is my favorite way to get veggies/carbs/protein when I’m in a hurry. I’m also fortunate that my job provides catered lunch twice a week.

What do you like most about run commuting?

1. I enjoy the efficient use of my time, since I get my commute and exercise finished in one activity.

2. Runcommuting keeps me disciplined with my eating and sleep habits to keep up with the demands of 20-40 miles of running per week.

3. It gives me a chance to explore the city. Seattle has a lot of history and interesting neighborhoods, so runcommuting gives me a great opportunity to scout the area. It’s also a good excuse to try one of the dozens of independent coffee shops here.

What are the weather conditions like for your runcommute?

Temperatures are always fairly mild in Seattle, but there are many days with rain and slick pavement. True to the stereotypes it is cool, wet, and cloudy for most of the year. It’s good running weather even if footing can get a bit tricky.

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

No, but I do see other people running with backpacks in the city. I would assume that they are runcommuting as well. There are many, many people in my office and in Seattle who bike commute, however.

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

If I’m not running, I will either car pool, or mix in 2 miles of running to get to-and-from express bus lines. Once Seattle finishes expanding its light rail network, I will be two blocks from one of the stations.

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

Invest in decent gear, and monitor your shoes for wear and tear. It’s hard to keep up with runcommuting multiple days per week with busted gear or a busted body.

Anything else that you would like to include?

My PR for a slightly longer run commute (11.46 miles) was set in October with a time of 1:18:32 (6:52/mile pace). I strive to beat that pace every time I run home!

I chair the Wellness Committee for Novo Nordisk in Seattle. My role is to oversee the budget for sports and events, as well as organizing our office’s participation in the annual JDRF Beat the Bridge Race. I encourage all Seattleites to run the race, and to join Team Novo Nordisk if they would like some camaraderie!

Even runcommuters need a holiday…Aaron in Tucson.

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)

Run Commuting Story Roundup – February 17, 2017

Here’s a quick roundup of interesting run commuting stories I found recently. I’ll try and do a similar post monthly if enough content can be found.

If you have written a post about run commuting on your blog, or have read a news article or post about run commuting that you want us to know about, send us an email and it may show up in a future Run Commuting Story Roundup.

 


 

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Review: IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro

Finally – a backpack specifically made for run commuters!

The company that brought us our favorite garment carrier, IAMRUNBOX, released a series of run commuting backpacks after a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and we were extremely excited to get our hands on one recently. The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is a stylish and extremely practical backpack for everyday commuters who run with a change of clothes, a laptop, and a few personal items. Best of all, this pack won’t bounce! 

Test Model

IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro

Size: One size fit all

Carrying Capacity: 10L, 610 cu. in.

Cost: US $170

Performance and Evaluation

I logged approximately 40 miles with the IAMRUNBOX under a variety of conditions and temperatures. Unfortunately, I have yet to test it during a good rainstorm. I wore it a few times when there was a light sprinkle, but I didn’t feel that was a good test of the pack’s water resistant features.

While I expected it to feel a little awkward on the run, since the construction is markedly different than a standard pack, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it runs. The four foam pads that make contact with your back are comfortable and almost unnoticeable. Since the main compartment is rigid, there is no pack flop that you tend to get from a soft pack, so I expected loose items inside the pack to bounce around. However, that was not the case – everything remained firmly fixed.

The carrying capacity of the IAMRUNBOX works well for those run commuters who only run with their work clothes and a few personal items. I had trouble packing larger lunches and weekly supplies into it after packing clothing and accessories. It worked fine for a light lunch, like a sandwich and some mandarin oranges, for example, however larger bags of crackers/chips/crisps would get crushed when zipping the main compartment shut and deeper containers of leftovers were out of the question. This specific issue probably won’t affect a majority of run commuters, though, since most prefer to pack as minimal and light as possible.

One additional note regarding the pack’s volume; the back face of the pack is crisscrossed with an adjustable elastic cord. Since I tested the pack in the winter, I needed to carry a jacket with me for any out-of-office excursions. The cord system easily secured my jacket, and even retained additional room to carry more.

 

The laptop carrying feature works quite well. It’s a simple, two-strap holder that rides close to your back, but it does what it is designed to do. Smaller laptops or tablets may need additional padding around them to keep them from bouncing up and down in the pack.

The deep and wide zippered waist belt pouches are a fantastic feature. Most backpacks that have these usually tend towards smaller, stretchier styles that work for carrying, at most, a few gels, a thin beanie, or a pair of gloves. The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro’s waist pockets, in contrast, can hold large smartphones, thick wool hats, sunglasses, and more. I normally carry my Nexus 6P (which is 6 ½” long and 3 ¼” wide) in the main compartment or in inaccessible side pouches of other packs, so it is awesome to have it right in front of me and be able to pull it out to take a picture or check a text message.

You notice the weight of the pack just forward of your shoulders and at the small of your back. I couldn’t identify any potential chafing locations – the fit and feel of everything was perfect.

Waist and sternum strap with whistle

Waist strap has openings on both sides to hide excess strap

What I Liked

Overall comfort and feel

Zippered clothing compartment

Laptop carrying feature

Large waistbelt pouches

Rigid structure of the pack

What I Didn’t Like

Limited carrying capacity

Velcro strap location

Cost

Backpack Details

Overall Construction

Both the pack and the zippers are made from weather/water-resistant materials. The exterior consists of a black nylon fabric with a polyurethane coating while the interior is lined with black velvet fabric.

Front

The front of the pack is mostly unremarkable, save for an elastic band system for holding larger, non-packable items like a jacket or a pair of shoes (an optional shoe bag is available, as well). For added visibility during low-light conditions, I add Amphipod flashing lights to the strings and strap.

The velcro strap pictured here functions as an additional hold-down for the large items on the front and can be rerouted to the back of the pack to secure the shoulder/waist straps together if you want to carry it by the carrying handle. If the strap is connected to the front of the pack however (as shown in the picture below), you must first disconnect it in order to open the pack, as it covers the zipper.

Sides

The sides do not include any additional storage or features.

Top and Bottom

The top and bottom of the pack include reflective strips. No additional features are present.

Main Compartment

When open, the right side of the pack is where you store your clothing. To hold all the clothing together, the Backpack Pro has a zippered, breathable cover, which makes it very easy to close the pack once everything is inside.  

The left side of the Backpack Pro is used for securely storing up to a 13.5″ laptop. It can also hold a tablet, a book, or a few magazines quite well, or any other items that you may need at work (small lunch, belt, packable raincoat, etc.).

Open and empty

Fully packed with a light lunch

Back and Waist Strap

The back of the IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is rigid, with four palm-sized cushions strategically placed to allow the pack to rest comfortably against your back while walking or running. When the pack is on the body and cinched down, the cushions rest at the base of the scapulae and on both sides of the lower back.

The waist strap is wide and lightly-padded and a simple plastic buckle secures it to your waist. There is a large zippered pouch on each side that is big enough to hold large smartphones and plenty of additional gear (see notes at end of review regarding the metal zippers). A unique feature of the waist strap is that each side facing the buckle opens to reveal a pocket that can be used for storing excess straps. 

 

Four cushioned pads make for a comfortable ride

The waist strap pockets hold large phones and more

Suspension

Compared to most packs I’ve used, the shoulder straps on the Backpack Pro are wide, coming in right at 3 inches (7.62 cm) and there is very little narrowing of the straps along the length. There is some very thin padding on the inside of the straps, and I found it to be adequate for running with heavier weight.

The front of the right side strap features a reflective loop and a zippered, crescent-shaped pouch. The pouch holds a pair of gloves or a few gels when closed, or – when opened – a water bottle. This is a neat feature and works best with shorter bottles.

The left side strap includes a reflective loop, as well, and an elastic expandable top loading pouch that holds smaller smartphones (iPhone 5, etc.) securely.

Sternum Strap

There is one sternum strap on this pack. It is made of nylon and includes a piece of elastic that stretches an inch and a half that enables the strap to move when the wearer inhales and exhales. The sternum strap can be adjusted 9 inches vertically, so that it can placed in a comfortable location on the wearer’s chest.

Suspension system. Right strap opens to hold a small water bottle

Fully loaded with a winter jacket secured to the front with straps

Additional Notes

The metal zippers shown in this pre-production pack will be replaced with string pullers to avoid clanging sounds and the water-resistant zip will be upgraded to ensure softer opening.

Bottom Line

The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is a fantastic pack for run commuters; especially those that need to transport a laptop and keep their office clothing looking good.

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Disclaimer

IAMRUNBOX provided us with the IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro for review, however this did not influence my opinion regarding this product. The thoughts and pictures contained in this review are my own.

By | 2017-04-24T10:45:15+00:00 February 2nd, 2017|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , , , |9 Comments

The New Run Commuters – January 2017

Our first runcommuter profile for 2017 is Bon Crowder, who also heralds another first for TRC, as she is the only runcommuter featured on this site to hail from Texas. Bon is a teacher who runs to work every day of the week. Through her That’sMath startup company Bon is educating the youth. But she is also an example to her own children in her active lifestyle. Bon shows that it is possible to be a mom, a businesswoman, an educator and also maintain a daily fitness routine — by runcommuting. Keep up the brilliant work in 2017, Bon, and we look forward to seeing your giant chicken impression on Youtube sometime soon….!

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Bon Crowder

  • Age: 45

  • City/State: Houston, Texas

  • Profession/Employer: Educator & Founder, That’s Math LLC

  • Number of years running: 11

  • Number of races you participate in a year: 2 or 3

  • Do you prefer road or trail? Road – although trail is fun, when you’re in Houston it’s kinda dangerous to get too far off the beaten path. 

 

Bon Crowder

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Pink Osprey Tempest 20 (with the backpack “raincoat” thing for those not-so-dry days)

  • Shoes: Brooks Ghost

  • Clothing: Cheap spandex shorts and Duluth Trading Company No-Yank Tank

  • Outerwear: Nike warm stuff (that fuzzy-inside stuff that Nike makes)

  • Headgear: Cap most of the time, but when it’s cold I wear something over my ears 

  • Lights: Headlamp – some cheap kind but it seems to keep going, so I’m running with it #pardonthepun

  • Hydration: Water with lemon juice in a small Osprey reservoir

Runcommute arrival at the halls of learning!

Bon loves running in the rain.

When it gets cold in Texas…..

Bon running on her birthday….to the donut store!

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

I just couldn’t find time to run. It made me nuts. So I thought, “Well, dog-gone-it, I’ll just run TO WORK!”

Since the school I was teaching at was only 2.3 miles away, it seemed ideal!

How often do you run commute?

I try to run commute everyday. I don’t buy the parking pass for the garage, so if I don’t run, I’m stuck paying parking.

That’s less of a motivator for me and more of the ideal excuse when others want me to drive and I want to run!

How far is your commute?

Well, theoretically, it’s 17 miles, but I take the bus some of the way. On a good day, I get in about 2.8 miles before the bus and then about 0.9 miles after the bus.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I pack a lunch. It’s always challenging figuring out the volumes of food and clothing I can carry. If I need a blazer and fancy shoes that aren’t at the office, then it’s likely my lunch is a protein bar.

On casual Friday I can go with a giant salad!

What do you like most about run commuting?

I look cool. Okay, “look” may not be the word. But you definitely gain points with people when you tell them you run to work.

For different people, it’s different reasons. Some people like that I’m not driving so there’re lower car emissions. Some are impressed with my healthier lifestyle. And then some just look at me and think, “She’s out of her mind!”

Oh, and there’re the long races. I ran a half marathon once with no official training. Turns out 10-15 pounds + 2 x day runs in ALL weather really gets you ready for just about anything!

I’m also running the Houston Marathon this weekend. My first!

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

Sadly, no.

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

I’m in Texas, so I have a car. My SUV or pickup truck gets me anywhere my feet can’t get me.

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

Make a list. Laminate it. And check it off every morning. You DO NOT want to get half way to work and think, “Oh, crap, I forgot….”

Anything else that you would like to include?

I’m a mom, wife, math teacher, and founder of a startup. I also blog at MathFour.com and tweet at @MathFour.

And, I can do an amazing impression of a giant chicken…

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)

By | 2017-01-12T09:48:29+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Categories: General, News, People|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Review: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20L

Is THIS the best run commuting pack…ever?

For some people, perhaps even many people, the answer is yes, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 is the best run commuting pack ever.

Those who read my review of the OMM 20L will recall that I opened that review with a similar question, and a similar answer. There are reasons for this: firstly, I cannot deny that I enjoy using the question as a rhetorical device, but, secondly and in my defense, I have had the good fortune to test two outstanding run commuting packs this year, both of which are destined to become classics, in my opinion. Both the OMM Adventure Light 20 and the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 are brilliantly designed and made, and both function perfectly for the daily run commuter who totes medium to large loads of clothes/shoes/food.

 

The difference between these two packs is profound, however. The Ultimate Direction Fastpack is what is called a running ‘vest’ in the trail-running world. Right here on TRC Josh reviewed the smaller sibling of the UD Fastpack, the UD Peter Bakwin Signature Series Vest 3.0 (see review), so you may already be familiar with the new generation of running packs invented – and designed for – trail and adventure-running. My ‘Pack Off’ article comparing the relative merits and downsides of the two styles is coming to TRC soon!

The UD Fastpack 20 is across-between the traditional and the vest style. It is not a compromise, however. It is a fully functioning backpack with all the advantages (and possibly disadvantages) of no waist strap and double sternum straps on wide chest straps, instead.

Test Model

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20L

Size: Small/Medium

Carrying Capacity: 20L

Cost: US $105

Add-on: Hi-Vis Rain Cover (X-Small)

Performance and Evaluation

For run commuters who have struggled with the combination of traditional backpacks and running, the UD Fastpack may be the answer. Say goodbye to the uncomfortable waist belt that pummels your stomach and bowels, and the (especially for women) awkward sternum strap that is never quite in the right position, and the shoulder straps that (again, especially for women) don’t sit comfortably on the torso. Embrace the freedom and comfort of the vest pack and run until you drop!

One of the recurring questions about backpacks is whether or not they can be tightened onto the runner sufficiently to prevent swaying and bouncing whilst running. Some people have suggested that the lack of a waist belt on vest-style and hybrid packs is responsible for a greater sway and bounce. Professional US ultra-runner Megan Hicks wrote a review of the UD Fastpack in which she says she wouldn’t use it in the Marathon des Sables, because it is less stable than traditional backpacks with a waist belt. However, Megan runs at an average of 10km an hour during the MdS, for an average of 6 hours a day. I run a lot slower, and for approximately 1 hour per run-commute leg. I have found the Fastpack to be just as stable as my traditional backpacks, with the same load (medium-full) and at the same speed. Perhaps, like Megan, those who run very fast with a very full pack will find the Fastpack sways more. Run commuters who fall into this category are lucky, and get the satisfaction of being fast to compensate for having to wear a traditional backpack! Seriously, though, unless the pack is very full — for example with everything you’d need for a three-day self-supported back-country camping trip — you’re unlikely to feel any difference in the movement between this pack and a waist belt/sternum strap pack.

Pros

Very comfortable, particularly for the internal (and external!) organs!

Multiple run-accessible storage areas

Very lightweight

Advanced hydration system

Double sternum straps

Not as ‘action sports’ as many other vest packs

Double sternum straps

Did I mention that it’s super comfy?!

Cons

Expensive

Slightly floppier, more sporty, less ‘office-y’ looking than many traditional backpacks

No rain cover

Sway/bounce may be very very slightly more evident than with a traditional backpack (though I did not experience this)

May be too large for smaller or thinner people

Chest and straps

This is where the action is on this pack. The vest-style flaps that come from the inner-back edge of the main compartment, over the shoulders and down the chest, are key to the comfort of the Fastpack 20. These flaps feature large pockets that can hold water bottles, smartphones or food, for easy access whilst on the run. Running horizontally between the two flaps are two chest straps, which can be adjusted vertically by sliding them up or down their rails, similar to the more limited adjustments that can be made to the single sternum strap usually found on a traditional backpack. Together, the two sternum straps on the vest pack secure the chest straps tighter or looser against the torso, and thereby cinch the pack more tightly or otherwise to the body.

The two sides of the chest have a different configuration of pockets. On the left is a water-bottle pocket with a pull-cord tightener, and underneath this is a smaller zip-up pocket that can easily hold a Clif bar and a credit card and car key. On the right is a pocket that is closed flat against the chest strap by a vertical zip. Opening the zip gives you room to stuff a water-bottle into that pocket, by virtue of a small expanding pleat. When the zip is closed the pocket still has an open top, and is the perfect shape and tightness to hold in a smartphone. Underneath this zipping pocket is a smaller pocket about the same size as the one at the bottom of the right chest strap. The one on the left is closed by a Velcro fold-over tab, however. This means you wouldn’t want to put anything precious in it, only cliff bars/food, as there are gaps where a key could potentially escape. All in all, the chest pockets are very well thought-out, and allow access to lots of food, water, phone and other necessities, whilst on the run.

 

Each sternum strap can also be tightened or loosened. Together with the strap that connects the bottom corner edges of the main compartment to the bottom corner edge of both vest flaps, this allows for further customization.  Playing around with different strap positions and tightness is worth it when you first get the pack, as the different configurations can change the feeling of wearing the pack a lot.

An example of the chest straps at three different positions can be seen in the photos below.

Sides

On either side is a large, mesh water-bottle pocket. It is not closed, but an elasticized rim keeps the bottles in. This elastic is not as tight as on some packs I have worn. Once I took out two full bottles in these pockets when there was nothing really in the main compartment, and the lack of padding from the main pack meant that there was more leeway for the bottles to agitate out of these mesh pockets. They didn’t actually fall out, but I was worried once or twice, and I had to keep checking… Otherwise, if the main compartment is at least half full, the water bottles feel pretty secure, even when running fast.

Main Compartment and Access Rolltop

The main compartment is like a sack, and it closes in the roll-top style, first being pressed shut with Velcro and then rolled over like rolling up a carpet, until it is tight against the pack. At this point each end of the roll is clipped in to a strap that comes up each side. The strap is then pulled tight, cinching the whole thing vertically while the roll secures it horizontally. This is a very effective closure method, though it does take a few more seconds to do than a single zip would (such as is found on the Osprey Stratos and Talon series, for example). The strap on each side that cinches down the roll does create the only annoyance I have experienced with this pack – the long, dangling excess lengths of each side strap can whip around as you run, sometimes even coming round and lashing you in the front (possibly as punishment for the evil thoughts I have about car drivers…). You can’t trim them off—as Josh shows you how to do here in the ‘Pack Hacks’ series—because the extra length is needed on occasions when you fill the pack to full capacity. (See photos) What you can do is thread the excess strap into one of the daisy-chain loops on the front of the pack, which keeps them out of the way.

The main compartment itself is huge and empty, awaiting your clothes and lunch. If you don’t put anything in the main compartment, but do fill the front pockets with heavy items (such as full water bottles), you may find the front pulls forward/down, which can cause pressure on the back of your neck. This is an unlikely situation to be running in, however. I did this once, just for the experiment to see what would happen, but in the normal run of things it’s not a configuration most run commuters will want to try. If you do, for some reason, want to carry tons of water but nothing much else, it’s better for the weight distribution to put the bottles in the side pockets of the main compartment, behind and under your arms. This scenario is not fool-proof either, however…(see comment in ‘Sides’, below).

Back

The back of the pack consists of a machine-knit fabric that is slightly thicker than t-shirt material, overlaying a nylon or other material than can just barely by glimpsed underneath.

There are no seams on this back panel, making it very smooth against the back. The whole back panel as well as the backing on both over-the-shoulder and down the chest vest flaps is a single piece of material. There are no seams or joins anywhere where the pack touches the wearer, except for where the yellow material meets the soft grey edging material. This trimming material is also soft. The pack did not cause any chafing on my back at all, ever.

Inside the main compartment of the pack is a Velcro-closed compartment that holds a foam pad cut into the shape of the back of the pack, and which gives the pack a firm, stable, back padding. This foam pad is smooth foam on the side that faces into the pack. On the side that sits against the wearer’s back, the foam pad has many little nipple-bumps all over it, for massage-style comfort. This pad can be taken out of the pack and used to sleep on etc when you’re doing a stage-race in the Sahara Desert, or when you get tired on the way home from work and want to take a quick nap in the park.

 

Hydration System

The Fastpack 20L does not come with a bladder or bottles, but hydration compatibility is one of its design priorities. There is a dedicated hydration bladder sleeve inside the main compartment. Immediately above this is a Velcro ‘hook’ for hanging the bladder from (so it doesn’t slump down into the sleeve). Above this, in the center of the top of the pack, underneath the grab-handle, is the hole for the bladder hose. There are two elastic/nylon strips on each vest flap near your clavicle bone for the hose to route through. Then there are two large mesh pockets on either side of the pack, as mentioned above, for water bottles. Finally (sort of), there is a pull-cord-closing bottle pocket on the left vest strap. If all this still didn’t give you enough storage for fluids, there is also the zip-closing pocket on the right vest strap, which can be opened wide enough to hold a 600ml bottle if necessary.

 

Above: An example of the amount of liquid you can carry in the UD Fastpack when simply using the designated pockets: 2L bladder, 3 x 750ml bottles, 1 x 420ml softflask. Of course, if you wanted to, you could also put a mini-keg in the main compartment….

Conclusion

So, how does the UD Fastpack 20L perform as a daily pack for run commuters? The answer is: extremely well…. For some, this will be the perfect run commute pack and, like the OMM 20L pack, the only pack they’ll need for both the daily run commute and the Marathon des Sables or the 4 Deserts adventure races!

Additional Pictures

By | 2016-12-21T12:47:00+00:00 December 21st, 2016|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |8 Comments
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