Among the best aspects of run commuting is that it is not competitive. Or, more accurately, it is a pure competition: you against you, for the purpose of self-improvement.
My run commute in San Francisco is approximately 4.5 miles, according to multiple outings measured by various devices. My personal record is just under 48 minutes. That depends on traffic lights turning to my advantage. A reasonable goal for me would be 45 minutes. Even that, however, is laughable to the real runners. I regard myself as serious but slow in this avocation, with enough repetition plodding along to establish both my sincerity and my speed. There are bicycles and cars to dodge. There is at least one hill no matter how you map it.
Competition has its place of course. Our system of capitalism depends on our faith in this premise. You improve by playing sports against those better than yourself. The desire to win produces progress. A slacker with inadequate motivation is to be talked to, whether cajoled or reprimanded.
Yet we also try to instill the opposite in children. We instruct them to cooperate. They can be too aggressive, too selfish for the good of society. We encourage them to share, because we acknowledge with varying degrees of enthusiasm that it is for the best. We worry about only children, if they become too accustomed to owning all the toys around them.
I have run with many people. Running is a rare sport. Without altering the rules an iota, it can be enjoyed solo or with company. Among strangers in a race, I succumb to what I believe many of us do. I select somebody in the anonymous crowd as my personal pacer. Unbeknownst to them, I am determined to beat them. They will not pass me.
I once signed up for a half marathon with two work friends. One said to me, “It’s not a race.” Then she corrected herself, “Oh, wait, I guess it is.” I finished in the middle: our other colleague was a ringer; she had run track in high school, a fact she did not disclose in advance. The one who was confused about whether it was a race or not had once done an ultramarathon overseas, but was set back from a recurring injury.
My pace was just between them. As one said goodbye to me, I bid farewell to the other.
My relatives by marriage include a niece who has run a marathon, which is more than I can claim, but who has not done so since bearing children, the eldest now a teenager. When they took a trip to see our new house, I persuaded several family members to run commute with me one morning, and she could barely make it. On the way home — I stayed at work of course — she had trouble climbing up the stairs at the neighborhood subway station (Forest Hill, San Francisco), reputedly the oldest in the American West, deep underground, with multiple sets of steps from the tunnel to the street, so that as you rounded a corner you groaned at the prospect of climbing further. A few years after she returned to running, for which I would like to take credit, which among kin is possible deserved or not (and will receive push-back if too much to assert), she was back to form. On vacations, I could not keep up, even if I started ahead, with my run-walk alternation. Yet it is good to be humbled.
It is a reminder of the reality that for everyone slower, there is somebody else equally faster, with the exception for the winner of the race. There are the multitudes slower than the last finisher of any race. They are slumbering abed as in Henry V’s rallying cry to battle on St. Crispin’s Day. They will regret they did not awake.
My favorite companion in this endeavor is a fellow named Ali. We are about the same age, but he is the most laid back guy I have ever met. He and I have hit the trails. We have done back-to-back races on a single weekend. I am pleased, probably too much so, that I have beat him consistently. On a demanding course in the country, with vertical gain over 3000 feet, I was worried that a mishap had befallen him. While hanging out at the finish line waiting for him to cross, shivering in the rain, I chatted with the organizers. I explained to the guy handing out t-shirts the nature of my relationship with Ali, how I liked him because I was sure I would finish before him.
“What are friends for?” the kid replied with the laugh of sarcasm, endorsing my feeling, as petty as I might be.
The run commute, however, is more purposeful. It is about arriving at the destination within a specific time window. I always have something I need to show up for: a class to teach or a meeting to attend. I need a few minutes to clean up and change into appropriate attire. That goal implies the opposite of what it might. It compels me to transcend competition. There is no victory to the run commute other than to clear the mind. That is a worthwhile aspiration as the opposite of crass ambition. It is all about the experience. The ideal mental zone for the run commute focuses on the run more than the commute. I can imagine I am dedicated to improving myself no less than the world. Thanks to that preparation, my job has meaning.
The run commute instills virtue despite yourself.
When I started to run commute, I also started to wear a uniform. I acquired enough of the same shirt and pants — and even, importantly for the task, shoes — to wear for a week, requiring only that I rotate through them, changing t-shirt and underwear and socks (though I’m in the process of switching to identical t-shirts and underwear, too). I am lucky. I happen to hold a job, as a professor, that allows me to pursue this consistency without worry that I will be shunned. I am risking a bit of spousal disapproval and mockery from students, both of which are inevitable anyway. The benefits outweigh the costs. This is who I am.
I would not have attempted such an endeavor at an earlier age. I used to be ambitious in a conventional sense. That means I had people to impress. I had to mature into myself.
The credulous believe fashion catalogs that promise the right look ensures the happy life. You try to assimilate. As a kid, I remember begging my immigrant parents for the same sneakers and the same blue jeans that the neighbor kids had, the suburban aesthetic, which made them cool and which I was compelled to copy. My brothers and I would not be accepted in our hand-me-downs brought annually from the cousins and home sewn polyester courtesy of our mother. I came of age during the preppy handbook era, which proposed we embrace the fads of East Coast WASPs who were proud of the privilege symbolized by polo shirts. I wore penny loafers for too long, slouching and shuffling along, until I developed plantar fasciitis, only to receive the recommendation that I alter my footwear choice as a cure, which worked to my great relief. As a lawyer earlier in my career, I still had to imitate those at ease in business attire. Casual Fridays were introduced then, and the standard was anything but casual, because there was a secret code established by social superiors of how to relax properly. Henry David Thoreau offered the advice not to undertake any occupation that involved a new set of clothes. He was a frugal fellow and a wise one as well.
Nowadays, I am ambitious in a better sense. I am content with my station in life. My current goals are along the lines of better form as a runner, a faster pace, and greater stamina. I would like to be a decent human being. That includes humility.
For this new phase in the cycle of the universe, my costume is black. I dated a woman once who insisted that all shoes had to be hair colored. When I met her husband, I glanced down at his feet immediately. An astute man, he said, “Yes, yes, I know. Hair and shoes should match.”
Whether that admonition is the origin of the style, my top is lightweight black merino wool or cotton, a pullover, a turtleneck if it is especially chilly. I favored Ibex, which went bankrupt, and I switched to Icebreaker. The pants are black, Underarmour, which can be worn during the run and then for the rest of the day. The belt is black webbing, as plain as possible. The shoes are black leather pull-on, the type with stretchy side panels. They were a bargain, so I stocked up. These are carried in an ultra-lightweight backpack. (Some days, the shoes are black Hoka One Ones, eliminating the need to swap out footwear to a dress alternative). If I must don a collar, I have no-iron black dress shirts bought in bulk at a discount. The underwear is technical fabric, or, based on research, bamboo. The t-shirts are Amazon Basics, v-neck in black, so I don’t have bits of white t-shirt visible underneath a black shirt, as if I remained a geek unaware that this violated norms — I guess I am a conformist to that extent.
The running wardrobe emphasizes high-viz yellow for safety’s sake. That includes a cap and a jacket.
There is a philosophy to the practice. I have no desire to put on a necktie, nor advertise a corporation by displaying its logo. An organized life becomes convenient. I fold my clothes when they come out of the laundry, stacking everything so I can grab the next iteration from a series. A side effect is efficiency while traveling. I waste neither time considering what to pack nor space on extra items.
I am not embarrassed that I am a creature of habit. I follow the same route on my run commute. I vary a bit, more due to traffic patterns than for the change of scenery. But even the same route is not the same daily — if you become attentive to subtlety, which I would like to, there is the passage of the seasons and the new goings-on in the neighborhoods through which you pass. When I do something different, it is still within a range of options that have become familiar: I turn left a street earlier or later, or, if I want an adventure I head through historic Haight-Ashbury, home of the “Summer of Love” (1967), the year I was born, albeit in the much more conventional Midwest.
There is much to be said for habit. I have realized that, even if I may be rationalizing. My wife and I are homebodies. When we eat out, we have a few places where we are regulars. At the sushi joint down the street, I study the menu, but I have always, without exception, ordered the same dishes: the mentai oroshi (cod roe on grated radish) and the sashimi moriawase (the raw fish daily special). All that changes is the drink, based on the weather: sake, hot or cold; or beer. The husband and wife proprietors recognize us. They laugh with us, a private but shared joke, as we study the board showing specials, then recite what they have heard us say before many a time, because our dining there is a ritual.
There are others who have followed the same regimen. They save themselves the trouble of a decision each morning. Efficiency commends itself. Albert Einstein is reputed to have done it, but I have doubts about whether that is apocryphal. The late Steve Jobs appears to have followed the discipline. Gilligan and the rest of the castaways on the island in the eponymous television sitcom, like the Star Trek crew (pity the redshirts) and other fictitious figures who have fan followings, possess limited wardrobes, although of course their story explains the constraints of the situations: for Gilligan, the Skipper, and their guests, other than coconuts, there wasn’t much they could add to their closets since they had planned on only a three hour tour. They become so easily identified they qualify as iconic. John Wick comes out of retirement with a white shirt and a black shirt. But he never removes the bulletproof suit jacket (“tactical”). There is a gender aspect to the method of course, to the advantage of males and the disadvantage of females, as is typical of gender inequities. It likely is easier for men to repeat the same outfit incessantly without social stigma, and even those who are not trying to do so can duplicate suit, shirt, and tie without others noticing much less objecting. There is no reason a woman could not adopt this system.
For me, the run commute and the uniform are related. They started simultaneously. I have more important matters to consider than what covers my body. Among the subjects to contemplate productively are the transcendent aspects of the urban hike outside my door before dawn. Beyond that, my run commute and uniform are about the cultivation of control over one’s self, about establishing character through specific actions, deliberately, mindfully. I want to be my own person. Ironically, every individual aspires to the same. But I am confident that only a few will follow through: wake up early, venture forth in the dark despite cold and rain, clean up at the office, and be ready for the day as the author of one’s own story.
I have not decided if running is a solitary activity that I engage in within a community, by racing half marathons; or if it is a social activity that I engage in alone, commuting back and forth. I have concluded, however, that it is a contemplative activity. For me, running naturally promotes thinking, and thinking naturally leads to writing. I am not alone: Haruki Murakami, the avante garde, Western-influenced Japanese novelist, turns out to be a marathoner. A decade ago, he published a memoir about training as well as how he became a runner, a writer, and then a runner-writer who blends the activities as many of us aspire to do. It deserves the acclaim it received. I loved it.
This book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, made clear the difference between doing something on the one hand and talking and writing about it on the other hand. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a magician. I tried to persuade my parents that I should give up piano lessons for the magic equivalent. I bought treatises and supplies and tricks and those boxes of everything including a wand, which were advertised on television. As I delved into coins and cards, trying to palm them, force an audience member’s choice, drop or load, I became intrigued by the histories and the stories. No doubt that was an excuse: I have to admit I was too lazy to practice the manipulation needed to fool anyone but the especially gullible. I was curious, but by character preferred studying to performing.
Since then, everything I have attempted to do, I have wanted to document, no matter how well it turned out. I have written about motorcycling, for example, and I once rode across the country, a journey I recommend heartily; I also have blogged about photography, a pastime that I have combined with running, and which I took up in earnest at the same time in life. So I am more analytic than athletic, more abstract than practical.
Yet the run commute and writing match perfectly. I want to run commute as much as I want to write, daily. The point of the run commute is more than either the exercise or reaching the destination in order to work. I could exercise elsewhere, including by running for the sake of running, which I confess I rarely undertake. I could travel through San Francisco by motorcycle or MUNI train or my wife’s car or on a bicycle.
The run commute is magical though. I feel as if I have made a discovery. I suppose since it is new to me, it can be described as such, belonging to that category of revelation about life that you need to experience for yourself, even if it would be foolish to suppose it is in fact unique to you. It is personal. You cannot gain the insight by any education other than experience.
I enjoy the run commute so much that, while as a matter of principle I deny having any regrets, I am willing to acknowledge that I wish I had embraced the run commute much earlier in life, or at least the long walk. When I was in college at Johns Hopkins University, they had housing only for first year students, and after that I lived off campus what seemed a great distance away, all of six blocks, far enough to excuse missing class too often. I had a friend in the dorms with whom I lost touch, in part because the following year he moved around to the other side of campus and that hike of what likely was less than a mile was too much to manage for the geek I was back then. For that, I look back in disappointment at myself, acknowledging the cliche that youth is wasted on the young, because I would be in such better shape today if only I had developed this good habit much earlier, not to mention still being acquainted with a fellow who was an amiable conversationalist when I was able to work up the will to go for a saunter.
That is why it is wonderful to learn from Murakami. His book is easygoing, as if he were accompanying you and encouraging you to continue pushing forward. I imagine it would be great while running to listen to the text in audio format. Then it would be as if his thoughts had become your own thoughts, giving that illusion of being faster as a runner and smarter as a writer too. It’s like an extended interview, as in the Paris Review, about how a writer does what they do (Murakami has been the subject of just such a session). Readers, in particular those who wish to be writers, enjoy that, as if copying a mechanical routine in turn will produce a manuscript: talent, we are told, is not the same as focus and endurance. Murakami is a bona fide celebrity. He also became a recluse. He and his wife agreed, when they moved to a rural area early on, that they would see people they wanted to see and not bother with people they didn’t like. That is as admirable as it is difficult.
Son of a literature professor and grandson of a Buddhist monk, Murakami the young man had been proprietor of a jazz club. He recalls how at a specific moment, he decided to enter a contest to write a novel, sending away the only copy, the original manuscript he had handwritten in Japanese with a fountain pen, then being surprised he won, coming into consideration for a major prize. He then set out on a career, which seemed speculative against the established success of the jazz club, a comparison that indicates how risky writing really is as anything but a hobby, but supported by his wife, who otherwise scarcely appears in his story. The running was a self-imposed compensation for sitting all day to practice his craft (he also quit smoking). The book title is a reference to the late Raymond Carver’s definitive short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love — Murakami is Carver’s Japanese translator. In addition to magical realist fiction, he has published a book length conversation with conductor Seiji Ozawa and a journalistic study of the terrorist attacks using Sarin gas on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
Perhaps he, and any reader of this minor scribbling, will forgive me for envisioning myself as a junior colleague to Murakami. I have always figured I was a writer with a day job. The reason he is inspiring is his thoughtfulness about how running is integral to writing. His running is directly related to writing both because as his blood flows the ideas course through his brain, which he can record later, and since running itself is the subject of writing. I feel the same. It is inevitable that a good run will produce a good piece of writing. That is my definition of a good run, that it generates such a result. Running is reflective. There is so much to a simple act that, if you pay attention, can be discussed. I’m merely imitating Murakami. That is fine, because running is sincere rather than snarky; you cannot be ironic about the activity despite the costumed crowd at events such as Bay to Breakers, the festive race in San Francisco.
Murakami is no slouch. The guy is a bit of a nut. He tested himself by running around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo seven times, for a total of more than 22 miles. His PR in the marathon is a self-reported 3:27. He has even, solo and on commission for an article in a magazine, completed the original marathon, i.e., to Marathon in Greece albeit short by a mile due to the straight route being not quite the distance imputed to it (his time was 3:51). At the time of his book, he had finished the Boston Marathon six times, and in the concluding essay, he is preparing for a triathlon. He said in an interview that finishing, then eating clams and drinking beer is among his happiest moments. He enjoys American rock music, the classics extending into the 1980s (he mentions Duran Duran and Hall and Oates, which are not the same genre at all). He’s not a team sports participant despite being a baseball fan, following one of the less fashionable Japanese franchises, and he has jogged with fellow novelist John Irving, famous for his enthusiasm over wrestling. However, running is now “like brushing [his] teeth.”
I am sure not everyone will agree about running and writing. Some will suppose I am too philosophical. You write about motorcycling or photography, and some readers take you to task for not being out there riding or taking pictures. It is academic, pedantic, and pretentious, to be literary about what they would prefer to lack such self-consciousness. We all have our own dispositions.
Murakami gets it. I am disappointed, however, that he disapproves of the run-walk. That is my mode. His epitaph will declare he never walked. I also don’t have the same style. He goes topless. Since I do not know Japanese, I am not sure if it is Murakami or his translator — even though he gives speeches in English and does the reverse of turning English into Japanese, he has relied on someone else to transform his prose. He sounds colloquial, contemporary, as if he is “shooting the breeze” alongside you; that is the sort of phrase that appears, “shooting the breeze,” with an everyday tone.
For me the run commute has taken on the qualities Murakami has identified. I intend to write more and to read more. After Murakami, there are many others who have documented excursions. If you are open minded, attentive to details, even the same route to the office will be epic.
Here are three reasons (other than rain) to have your running backpack cover – aka the rain cover – on at all times.
1. To be seen from far away
Most running backpacks these days come with an integrated cover. Make sure the cover has reflective bands, and is of a visible colour. Reflective bands on a backpack cover can be spotted by a car driver from farther away than most portable electric lights. Avoid dark backpack covers.
2. To catch loose gear
In the past 10 years, my backpack cover has saved me from losing my cellphone, and even my wallet. Not that often, maybe just once or twice, but losing your wallet even once is not something I wish on anyone. These side pockets are very handy, but sometimes, when you decide to push the machine, things will shift, a zipper may come loose, and stuff starts falling out. Having your cover on will save you lots of trouble.
3. Because it is snowing!
Yes, snow will eventually make everything wet on the inside of your pack if you stay outside long enough.
That’s it! An other good reason to always have it on is to be ready at all times when the rain starts coming down.
Happy run commute!
About four years ago, in the midst of my transition from conventional running shoes to more minimalist ones, I was offered a quick glimpse of what I thought were the ugliest shoes ever made on this planet: the Hoka One One. I just could not picture myself run commuting in them without becoming the laughing stock of the Ottawa running community.
Then, in the past months, The Run Commuter published a few (serious) articles about using them for run commuting. At about the same time, I started having some troubling leg pains, which forced me to cut back on my run commuting habits (I also turned the big 4-0 around the same time). This was not a good thing, and I started looking for ways to be able to get back to a normal run commuting regime. I tried many things (physio, osteo, massage, sports medicine, etc), but none of them really solved my problems.
At the end of February of this year, being a bit despaired to see my weekly run commuting mileage go down in such dramatic fashion, I tried something bold: I bought a pair of Hoka One One Huaka. This turned out to be a very good decision.
Within days, I was able to run distances that I could only dream of running a few days before. My run commuter partner made lots of fun of my shoes, going as far as telling me, jokingly, to run a few feet in front of him to avoid him the embarrassment. I did not pay any attention to him: these shoes were getting me back on the roads and it felt great. To this day, running in my Huakas is still the same treat that it was the first time.
Hoka One One shoes are a great addition to the toolkit of serious run commuters that have entered the master zone. They are a great shoes to wear at the end of the week, when your legs are tired and the pain is uncomfortably increasing.
Running with a pair of Hoka One One is like running on soft packed ground all the time. Despite their thickness, the stability is OK, and weight is similar to any normal running shoes. Their only downside is that the increased volume of foam tends to wear off faster than in a normal pair of shoes. Despite that, I intend to keep a pair in my run commuting rotation at all times, even if I have to buy them more often than other shoes.
Run commuting is catching on all around the world. Just ask Claudia Cruz, this month’s featured New Run Commuter. Over the past several years, Claudia and her sister, Silvia (founders of Corridaamiga), have been working on developing run commuting as a more popular form of active transportation in Brazil. In addition to that, the group also works on local advocacy and public safety issues, such as sidewalk repair/replacement. Claudia is currently abroad helping to expand Corridaamiga in Sydney, Australia.
The New Run Commuters Submission Form
While not technically a backpack, the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 has all the features you would expect on a pack, and a whole lot more. It’s great for the run commuter who doesn’t carry much with them to work, and is perfect if you also want something light and comfortable for carrying gear and water on long road/trail runs.
The sides of the Adventure Vest are the defining characteristic of vest-style packs. Each side of the vest forms one unbroken loop from the waist all the way to the top of the shoulder. In a backpack the shoulder straps have thinner straps that connect to the bottom of the pack and can be shortened and lengthened to tighten the bag to your shoulder area. With the vest you put your arms through each loop and buckle the sternum straps at the front.
On each side of the vest at hip level, there are large zippered pouches, made of the same soft, stretchy material found on the front of the pack. These are great for storing hats, gloves, sunglasses, etc. Softer things would probably work best though, as this area presses directly against you hips.
Behind each large pouch is a small piece of velcro that, when opened, reveals an adjustable strap that tightens the vest to your waist. It took me a while to realize that this important feature was here, so be sure to make note of it’s location if you plan on buying one.
In front of the large pouches are smaller ones that are ideal for energy bars, gels, a wallet, or other small items that need to be accessed quickly and easily.
Left side of the vest
Right side of the vest
Working our way up from the bottom on the right side, you will find a pouch that holds a water bottle. It can hold anything really, but was designed to hold a bottle and includes a cinch strap at the top to hold the bottle in place. On the outside of this pouch, you’ll find another small, stretchy pouch that is good for holding one or two gels or a Clif bar.
At the top of the shoulder strap on both the left and right sides, is a narrow, long, zippered pouch that (like the previous pouch) will hold a couple of gels or an energy bar.
On the left side shoulder strap, you will see a large, stretchy, open-top pocket that will hold a hat and/or gloves, camera case, or similar-sized items. Above this is a pouch similar in size and location as the water bottle holder, but zippered on two sides. This is great for a large smartphone, sunglasses, or additional clothing, such as a t-shirt. It will also fit another water bottle!
The UD PB Adventure Vest has two sternum straps attached to long, sliding rails allowing for a wide range of adjustment. The straps themselves are thin and unpadded, and connect using small buckles. There are no excess strap holders, so to keep them from flopping around, try securing them with small pieces of Velcro tape.
Closeup of sternum straps
Zippered pouch on left side holds an additional water bottle
The Adventure Vest does not come with a bladder, but will accommodate most bladders with capacities up to 70 oz. (2L).
The hydration pocket can be found within the zipper located at the top of the vest. Inside is a velcro strap that holds the bladder and keeps it from slipping down and bunching up. The drinking hose can be routed out either the top left or top right side through holes that bring it out and down the shoulder straps. The hose can also be passed underneath the narrow, white, zippered pouches in the shoulder straps to keep the end of the drinking tube from bouncing around while running.
“Hair is a woman’s crowning glory”, according to my grandma. Granted, she’s 95 years old, and we might hope that nowadays women are appreciated for more than their hair, but to an extent my nan is still right: for many women, long, flowing locks are still the go. When they’re styled-up or blow-dried they’re magic. But what about post-runcommute sweaty, frizzy, out-of-control long hair? I would hazard a guess that long hair is the reason that many females who are potential runcommuters baulk at giving it a try.
If you are just such a female — contemplating run-commuting but put off by the ‘long hair problem’– trust the women who have runcommuted before you when they say: it can be negotiated successfully.
Here is both the Good News and the Bad News from the perspective of the female no-shower runcommuter.
The Bad News:
Long hair that has been sweaty can become dry and feels disgusting for the wearer.
Due to this, you have to commit. Always fully wet your head—scalp and hair—with fresh water, no matter how inconvenient this may initially seem.
The Good News:
Once you have done this a few times (wetting your hair and scalp thoroughly) it simply becomes a part of the general run-commuting routine, and is no more of a hassle than anything else.
Shampoo is not necessary (unless you don’t use hairspray or other product on your hair, in which case you may need to use a tiny bit of shampoo just to avoid the ‘earthy’ smell of hair washed in water only).
As both Josh and Kyle suggest, have a proper shower before leaving home. This will mitigate all sweaty-hair problems somewhat.
Long hair necessitates one additional product for female no-shower run-commuting and it is…..the extra towel. In the name of successful hair management, a sufficiently absorbent, sufficiently large extra towel is the key piece of equipment. It needs to be able to absorb as much water as possible if you want your hair to be as dry as possible. It also needs to be large enough to be securely tied up. Not the same kind of miniscule stamp-sized micro-towel that might be perfect to dry your body with, as it won’t be long enough to wrap up your hair and tuck back into itself. Specific ‘towel-turban’ products exist (see below). Crucial here is pre-run practice: wrapping your hair in the towel before using it on a real life runcommute, to make sure it’s long enough.
Some specific towel-turbans:
(Click on all images to open product page in Amazon.com). This one looks chunky, but purports to do all kinds of super-technical hair-drying. Claims it is: “Super Absorbent Will Suck The Moisture Right Out Of Your Hair.” Gosh!
This one is less chunky, and it’s patterned:
You may need either one or two towels to wash and dry your body, depending on whether or not you embrace wetwipes. If you do, then you may need only one towel, probably a micro-towel such as those reviewed by Josh in his ‘Destinkify’ post, to dry your skin after you have wetwiped it. If you prefer soap and water, or plain water, you can use a face-washer sized micro-cloth and wet it to clean your skin. Then you’ll need another, probably slightly larger, towel or cloth to dry your skin.
The fluffy cotton basics (I just love the brand name of these ones!):
Some super cute ones….
And some high-tech functionality ones, which claim to remove makeup with warm water only!
Finally, the ‘cheap and cheerful’ 24-pack:
Hairspray, styling gel or mousse or other hair product
a little bit of shampoo
Whatever your usual makeup products. See ‘methods’ for further advice.
Optional Changing Robe:
This can be either a home-made job, a basic store-bought beach product, or a full-on, warmth-focused professional outdoor sports DryRobe. If you run-commute in really cold conditions, you might want to check out DryRobe’s range of robes that you can change underneath. Their robes are used by pro surfers and so on, to stay warm or when changing on a cold beach. The inside of the robe is synthetic lambs’ wool. Check it out here:
Can be anything from your soap container to a vessel you have specially designated your ‘hair washing’ container – your choice! I use a very small, soap-bar sized clip-lock tupperware container that also holds my soap. I put the soap on the basin and then use the container to wet my hair and scalp. (See pic)
You’ll need flip-flops to allow you to get out of your running shoes and socks, but without exposing your bare feet to the germ-party that is a public bathroom floor. Theoretically, you could take off your running shoes and put your work shoes on immediately, but you can’t put your clean underwear/tights on until you’ve wiped down your legs and ‘business’ areas, and it’s hard to get them over your work shoes. The issue of balancing on high-heels might also come into play if you wear heels.
Step 1. Post-run-commute: Claiming a ‘clean up’ space
Pick up your makeup/towels/flip-flops/changing robe from their storage place (See Note 1 at end).
Proceed to the bathroom.
Go into one of the toilet cubicles and hang your pack on the back of the door. (See Note 2).
Go back out to the washbasins, whilst still in your running gear, and wash/rinse your hair and scalp under the tap or by tipping water over your head from your container.
Once you have sufficiently rinsed the sweat off your scalp and hair, wrap your hair up in your ‘towel turban’.
You can now proceed back into the toilet cubicle for Step 2: Gettin’ Naked!
Step 2. Gettin’ naked! (and then washing and getting dressed again)
In the cubicle, strip off your running clothes, leaving your towel turban on.
Use your wash/dry towel to wipe your limbs, torso, and private areas down, and then to dry them. The method for this last directive changes depending on your choice of ‘washing’ equipment.
Chemical-covered wet-wipes are technically supposed to be safe to use on your ‘lady parts’, given that they are used on babies’ bottoms, which are surely some of the most sensitive skin around. However, everyone’s skin is different, and some women may find it more pleasant to stick with plain water.
If so, this may require a thinking-through of method.
The wet-wipes method:
Go back into your cubicle
Wipe down your body with wet-wipes
Dry your skin thoroughly with your dry towel.
Apply body powder if desired.
If you eschew wet-wipes, there are two methods you can adopt for the body wash:
No wet-wipes method 1:
Whilst still dressed in your running clothes, but having wet your hair and tied it up in your ‘towel turban’, wet your ‘washing’ cloth/microtowel thoroughly under the tap. Squeeze it out until most, but not all, of the water is out.
Take it back into your cubicle. Shut the door (!)
Hang the wet cloth on the hook over the top of your pack
Wash your whole body bit by bit (except your face).
Hang the wet cloth back on the hook.
Use your dry towel to dry your whole body
Exit the cubicle. Wash out your wet cloth, refresh the water it is holding, and wash your face and neck at the basin.
Dry your face and neck with your dry cloth.
Some people may feel that there is insufficient refreshing of the water in the wet cloth when using this method. For example, you may feel like you want to wash sweatier areas in a separate ‘go’. If so, the second method is the one for you.
No wet-wipes method 2: (Start off in the same way as per Method 1 up to and including “Get undressed”.)
Put on your ‘changing robe’ (take a moment to feel smug that you have a ‘changing robe’…).
Using your cloth underneath your robe, wash the sweatiest (or least sweatiest, your choice) areas on your body with the wet cloth.
Still wearing your changing robe, exit the cubicle, rinse wet cloth under tap, refresh with water, and either return to cubicle to wash remaining areas, or wash them in public, underneath your robe. Your colleagues cannot complain you are being indecent, because your nakedness is hidden under your robe!
Once washed go to cubicle, shut door,
take off changing robe so you are completely nude, and use your dry cloth/microtowel to dry off your body.
Get dressed in work clothes. At this point you should be dressed, but still wearing your towel turban on your wet hair.
You are now ready for Step 3. Hair Management.
*Remember though, if you go with the wet wipes option, throw them in the bin, don’t flush them down the toilet! See here for why (but not if you’re eating whilst reading this post).
Step 3. Hair Management
There are a few options here. The easiest is to wear your hair up for the day somehow. This reduces the need for product, though a full head of wet hair sitting there all day can feel ‘heavy’ and cold in winter or cold workplaces.
If you want to leave your hair down, you can either blow-dry some of your hair before applying product, or just apply product straight to your wet hair. (See Note 3).
Step 4. Makeup
Female-specific ‘no shower’ runcommuting is the same as runcommuting in general. It is all about planning and organisation. As with many things that require planning and organisation, the payoffs are totally worth it. Try it tomorrow.
Note 1: If you don’t have a private filing cabinet or drawer or any other place to permanently store your makeup, you may need to adopt Kyle’s ‘secret ceiling panel’ method as detailed in his ‘From Sweaty to Office-Ready’ post.
Note 2: Most toilet doors have hooks on the back. If your workplace has toilet doors without hooks, you have a problem! My advice in such a case would be to either: ask management to install them, or install one yourself, without asking.
Note 3: Some workplaces will now have those blow-driers for hands that are designed to blow upwards, from waist-height, in a narrow slot in which you lower and raise your hands to dry them “in ten seconds”. This is an unfortunate development for the long-haired female runcommuter, as it is impossible (though some have tried) to stick your head in a five-centimetre slot. Technology: always changing, often for the worse. If your workplace has invested in such machines….I have no advice. Suggestions welcome in the comments below!
Note 4: Personally, I don’t use a huge range of makeup products, so I’ve been able to adopt the method of simply buying a duplicate set of products. This may be more of a hassle for women who have an extensive or expensive set of makeup products costing hundreds of dollars. But think of it this way: you’d have to buy another set eventually anyway, for runcommuting you’ve had to buy two at the same time but they will last double the time.
If you run commute year-round above the 49th parallel, you most likely have a variety of thermal tights. Up until this year, finding a pair that performed well below -20°C/-4°F proved to be tricky (at least for me) unless I was ready to spend lots of money. However, Mountain Equipment Co-op came out with a great new set of tights this year that solves my dilemma: the MEC Flyer Tight.
Source: Mountain Equipment Co-op