“Do You Shower?”

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

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

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

“You should shower,” is the consensus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

Frank Wu
Frank H. Wu started running in 2015 and completed more than 75 half marathons in three years with a PR of 2:17. He is a run commuter in San Francisco, traveling 4.5 miles to his day job as Distinguished Professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law. He blogs regularly, with more than 100 credits at HuffPo, and he also has published in the New York Times and Washington Post.

One Comment

  1. Dimitri Fruchtenstein February 16, 2018 at 6:46 am - Reply

    I have an aversion to public showers. Paper towels all the way. And, of course, a complete change of clothes.

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