Fame, Retirement, and Hoping to Make a Comeback

I have achieved fame as a run commuter. The simple act of traveling to work by a means almost all are capable of but few consider trying makes people take notice. However, I also am on hiatus due to health challenges. That is a function of hubris. I am determined to come back. I will not retire as a run commuter until I am rendered physically incapable of undertaking the pursuit. Please allow me to share the story.

A student where I teach wrote an article about our adventure on a Friday morning in San Francisco. He joined my run commute. We actually walked for the greater part of the route, as he duly reported. He had been commissioned for a magazine theme issue on how to address stress in law school. I was flattered by the profile. He approached me with the earnest outlook that I regret we seem to destroy most effectively through the rituals of Socratic dialogue. I attribute his attitude to walking. You cannot be disillusioned while walking. Cynicism is cured by a walk. You can be mad and stomp around. But, you are eased into a better state by a good ramble on a trail in the wild or trek on city sidewalks.

It wasn’t the first time this habit had been mentioned by the press. But, given the anxiety about law school and the animus toward deans of the institutions (which I once was), the earlier entries of media coverage might be forgiven the snarkiness of our era. The authors seemed to regard walking — with students! — as a ploy, like the scam they had deemed the JD degree to be. Perhaps an invitation to walk together will be suspected of an ulterior motive, since our effort to engage with other people meaningfully has been wrecked by swipe left-swipe right encounters and the prompts to connect to “friends” with whom we enjoy a commercial relationship at best. I associate walking, however, with conversations that are genuine, an exchange between equals, side by side, since you do not talk easily if one is ahead, another behind.

Run commuting is not about garnering publicity of course. I decided to turn myself into a run commuter because it is intrinsically good. Then I continued because I discovered it is fun. By good, I mean I had a belief, in a culture that scorns any sincere feeling, that it would be morally worthwhile — without aggrandizing, it is in daily details that we establish our true character. By fun, I do not mean a moment of exhilaration as when riding a roller coaster, but the sustained contentment of the body after the heart has been pumping vigorously, which calms the mind and ultimately the spirit.

What is remarkable is that moving along on your own two feet has become remarkable. Time was, for our ancestors, it would have been normal to hike to a dinner party, stroll with a colleague on the boulevard, or put in 10,000 steps doing chores around the farm without the confirmation of any fitness tracker. Our forebears would have journeyed to the market alongside an ox pulling a cart laden with the fruits of their labors. The pace of life, and even consciousness of the lands beyond the immediate neighborhood, would be set by the measure of the distance that could be covered on human power, or maybe horseback. To await the illumination of a full moon to light the path would be literally natural.

Yet for us, driving alone in motor vehicles and soon to be driven by automatons guided by algorithms that account for the dilemma of the fat man run over by the trolley car, the notion of run commuting verges on preposterous. I have made it integral to my life. Among the most important decisions I have made, ranking with choice of spouse, is to live near work. Without judging those who have consigned themselves to a three hour round trip door to door to find a suitable home and make a living, I have concluded that I do not need a suburban mansion. Contemporary Americans reside in single-family dwellings that are twice the size, on average, as those our grandparents accepted as comfortable enough, and that exceed the expectations of our peers around the world. Where our home is, and who our partner is, are related too, in a cause and effect cycle. Until technology assisted dating, the factor that best predicted whom we would romance was their proximity; then, in settling down, a couple would negotiate about where to do so, and the community would define their own identities. We traverse more miles than any but explorers would have dared. That means there is all that much more space between us to separate souls.

All that philosophy is fine, but I have experienced a practical setback. I deserve it. I had become too confident of my abilities, that I was exercising as I had done never before in fifty years, logging 75-mile weeks with the splits improving, even entering back to back half marathons and finishing without injury. I now am ill. I probably am able to cope better, for all that exertion, without which my former self would have been laid low without as much hope.

What has happened has been gruesome. I developed sores all over my body, open wounds the likes of which provoked even my primary care physician to make a face and exclaim out loud. In addition to the blood which stained the front and back of my t-shirt every morning, soaking through the pajama top, threatening to ruin my wife’s sheets (hers, not mine nor ours, in this context), such that she insisted we lay a towel beneath to protect the mattress, my scalp exuded a waxy paste that dried into a purulent crust of blazing pain. As these decorations spread over the territory of defenseless flesh, I was diagnosed with, successively, spider bites, an allergic reaction, severe eczema, and a staph infection. I was prescribed pills and creams, to which I added experiments in whatever the pharmacy had on its shelves, ointments with honey, silver, tar, and proprietary formulas promising relief. I affixed bandages of every brand and type, increasing size, over the stigmata that would not progress to scabs, but which shone to any observer as symbols of my rot.

The proper diagnosis was a relief. It is the prerequisite to recovery. The clue was the blistering in the mouth. I was starting to sound a bit drunk when I spoke, as I sought to avoid agitating the flaps hanging from my cheeks or loose inside my lips and tried to ignore the hard white nodules that had formed a line under my tongue.

My wife’s alarm compelled me to visit the doctor’s office on an urgent call; I should have acted sooner, and it could have been an emergency. The junior dermatologist took photographs with her smartphone, to send to her senior colleague, who telephoned immediately from his Latin American vacation. He informed me this was pemphigus vulgaris, a rare, serious autoimmune condition, among the most severe conditions a specialist such as he would treat, equivalent to cancer. I was to start a course of oral steroids at the maximum dosage that could be administered safely. A biopsy would ordered for confirmation.

The tests proved it. I had joined an exclusive club of suffering. Thanks to modern medicine, the ailment is no longer guaranteed fatal — according to reliable sources, it killed off approximately 75 percent of its victims within two years, in spectacular fashion the details of which should be spared any not already familiar. It remains what kids would deem a BFD. The doctor issued me a letter stating I had a “life threatening” problem, ordering me to cancel my planned trips, and while I was grateful his verification meant full refunds from the airline the plain language sent me the message as well.

My doctor has great bedside manner; he established rapport, which made him reassuring. I looked him in the eye and asked the question: “Am I going to die from this?” His answer was a perfect laugh, followed by a simple, “No.” He did caution me that the half marathon I had signed up for was not a good idea. I had not even mentioned the vertical gain. If we have no humor, we are dead. I appreciate that my odds are excellent. We are arresting the agent of my misery. I can look in the mirror to see my enemy. By definition, “autoimmune” refers to one’s self. By some mechanism, my body has been confused into attacking itself.

For the moment, my rest has been imposed against my will. I am past the worst of this outbreak, but I may have months or years before we declare remission. My regimen now includes a series of prescriptions. They are their own problem, with side effects that impair any running, such as unrelenting fatigue and severe sun sensitivity. I may be on methotrexate for the duration, with folic acid as a supplement. I have to adjust, as others have before me. Among the salutary consequences, more abundant than supposed of sickness, is my newfound empathy for my wife. She has managed lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune infirmities, relying on the same remedies.

Nonetheless, for the moment, I cannot not run commute. I have to reset. It’s back to the beginning. My very first attempt was an hour and twenty, 80 minutes, and my personal record is 47 minutes. It was a five-year effort to advance from the former to the latter, a saunter to a race against myself. I will be more toward the slow end of the scale, but I can do it. I deny that my attitude is denial. My home is the same as before, my work too, so nothing is farther off than in my memory not at all dim. All that has changed is my resolve is more robust.

What I Carry

All of the items described in the post, with a bonus photo of the dog, Bebe.

Here is what I carry on my morning run commute. I am a minimalist. That philosophy requires discipline. Every now and then, I wish I had brought along this or that, but that is rare enough – I’m fine with the risk.

I use an ultra-lightweight backpack. It is a cheap but durable nylon number by Marmot. It isn’t specialized for this purpose. If I cinch the shoulder straps, it is stable enough. The interior contains a divider between two compartments, which allows me to stow sweaty clothes after changing. There is a little zippered top area, too. I liked it enough I bought a spare when it was on sale, so if I need to throw one in the wash or take one on a trip, it’s fine — I travel enough that I sometimes leave the extra at my elderly father’s house, so it is there when I check on him. The only problem with this model is it lacks any padding. I cannot throw it around for fear of damaging the gadgets inside. That only means I need to be careful. Or I could buy a separate case for the tablet. (For races, I switch to an Ultimate Direction vest.)

Inside the backpack, I have keys (two: house and office) with a high-powered flashlight attached, on a tiny locking carabiner. I have a driver’s license, work ID, credit card, and MUNI pass for the trip back, in a card case style “wallet;” an iPhone; and an iPad with my files for work. It is that last item that has made the run commute feasible. Basically all my data is accessible.

Oh, I also have a camera with me. I almost always have that, a real camera, typically a vintage film camera. That is extravagant. It weighs as much as everything else put together. I took up running and photography simultaneously, and for me they are associated activities. Others likely would forego the film camera.

Finally, I have a partial change of clothes: fresh socks, t-shirt, and shirt. I also have a lightweight towel meant for athletic use, about a quarter the size of a bath towel and much thinner. I sometimes carry another pair of pants or an extra pair of shoes, especially if there is inclement weather. I’d prefer not to do that though. I wear pants that are acceptable, as I judge it anyway, for a casual work environment. (My wife has a “no-fly” rule: if I am out with her, my pants must have a fly; these do.) I also have a cap, because my mother taught me to err on the side of putting something on my head when it was cold. (The running cap is soaked through with sweat when I arrive, so that has to be swapped out.)

There are omissions. I sometimes wear headphones, but I’m ambivalent doing so. If I will be going back and forth — a great day includes a round-trip run commute — I might pack a spare battery.

All of the above are shown on a list. I am an inveterate maker of lists. That is a bit OCD. But I wouldn’t be comfortable if I didn’t check off these items before I started out.

Run commuting compels me to plan. I have to consider what else I am doing that day, to ensure I bring what I need. If I am headed to the bank, for example, I add my ATM card in a separate “wallet.” But I do not want to be burdened by baggage. Most of the stuff I own, I don’t use. I no longer feel any need to acquire material goods in general, unless I am confident it will become integral to my life. I’d rather be out there running. There is always someplace else worth the journey.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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