How to Run Commute

Last summer, I incorporated run commuting into my training for the first time. I more or less followed Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training program for my sixth marathon, and while I like that it only required three days of running per week, the number of miles I needed to run on those days stressed me out.

Four weeks into training, I gave run commuting a try and instantly fell in love. Run commuting allowed me to do long(er) runs on weekdays without sacrificing my entire evening, alleviating what I felt was the most burdensome part of marathon training.

That being said, I couldn’t just get up from my desk one day and run home. Run commuting required a fair amount of forethought and planning. Today, I’d like to outline the various things I did to make run commuting a pleasant and successful addition to my training.

run commute, active commute, commuting on foot

Is run commuting for me?

Several questions can help answer that:

  • Can I reasonably cover the distance between my office and my house on foot?
  • Is there a safe way to get between my house and office on foot? (Are there sidewalks or running trails? If there aren’t, is the traffic light enough to run on the shoulder? Am I comfortable running in the areas I will need to pass through to get between my house and my office?)
  • How will I return to my starting point in the afternoon/tomorrow morning?
  • What do I need to bring between my house and my office on a daily basis, and how will that fit into my running?
  • Will my destination have the accommodations I need after I run? (If you run commute in the afternoon, this is likely a nonissue, since your house should have everything you tend to use during your post-run routine. If you run in the morning, you’ll need to consider these things.)

For me, the answers to all of these questions made run commuting (in the afternoon) sound reasonable:

  • I can walk the distance between my house and my office.
  • No matter how I went from my office to my house (I usually had to take very indirect routes to make sure I got in all of my miles), I would never need to run in conditions that made me feel unsafe (i.e.: there would always be a sidewalk or trail) or in unfamiliar areas.
  • I take the CTA to work. The CTA runs regardless of how I got home from work the previous day, unlike a car, which will stay where you left it until you move it later.
  • The only things I needed to take between the office and my house every day were my Ventra card, my phone, my house keys, and my work badge. I also chose to bring other particularly important cards from my wallet (like my license and my insurance cards) in case of an emergency. I leave my laptop and work shoes at my desk every night regardless of whether or not I run commute, so I didn’t need to consider those items, and everything else–my lunch box, the Tupperware in said lunch box, my work clothes, my backpack and the various pieces of scrap paper in it–were all things that I could survive losing without a major disruption or inconvenience to my life.
  • Since my runs ended at home, I had everything I needed to return to normal after running. If I ever did choose to run in the morning, my office has fully equipped shower facilities I could use (and a gym with space for foam rolling, stretching, and PT exercises, though I can’t imagine I’d ever start my run commute early enough to fit in all of those extras after a run).

How should I plan for a run commute?

If you answered with yeses: congratulations! You’re a good candidate for run commuting. Now comes the “forethought and planning” part of the equation.

If your office has a dress code, chances are you can’t wear your running clothes during the day. If you run commute in the morning, regardless of your office’s dress code, chances are neither you nor your coworkers want you to stay in your sweaty clothes all day. You’ll need to have work clothes available at the office, either by bringing them in a small backpack with you on your run, or by bringing them the previous work day–which means you’ll have to know that you plan to run commute at least 24 hours in advance.

To run home in the afternoon, you’ll need to bring your running clothes and any related accessories (watch, water bottle, fuel, sunscreen, hat, etc.) with you to work. This doesn’t offer you much flexibility when it comes to make last-minute decisions on what to wear for your run, nor does it offer you much flexibility in terms of deciding to run commute at the last minute, either.

Regardless of whether you run in the morning or afternoon, you likely won’t want to carry much with you beyond the absolute essentials. You’ll need to have a plan, then, for the nice-to-haves. For example, I bring my lunch to work every day, but I don’t want to haul my lunch bag + ice pack + Tupperware home with me on a run. To accommodate, I have two lunch bags, two ice packs, and more Tupperware than any one person needs. That way, I can leave all my lunch accessories at the office overnight and still be able to pack a lunch for the next day. To run commute successfully (i.e.: without forgetting something important), you need to think through all the things you’ll need to run, all the things you’ll need during your work day, and how to get those things from Point A to Point B in a way that won’t burden your run.

One other note: if your run commute will take you through areas with tall buildings and you tend to rely exclusively on your GPS for distance data, realize that your watch may not provide remotely accurate readings while you run near the tall buildings. If you’re concerned about getting in a particular number of miles (compared to running for a certain amount of time), I recommend mapping your route ahead of time on something like MapMyRun to ensure you cover the right distance.

When can I run commute?

Whether you run commute in the morning or afternoon comes down to your personal preference and your access to post-run accommodations (like a shower, or, minimally, a bathroom where you can freshen up). I prefer to work out in the afternoon, which is why I run commute home rather than to the office, but you can certainly do either!

In Chicago, I think summer is the only easy time to run commute. When you run commute in the summer, you have one less major essential to consider: a coat. I don’t want to carry my fleece, pea coat, or parka home on a run commute, but I also don’t want to try to get to work the following day during the colder months without a fleece, pea coat, or parka. Because my coat is a non-negotiable for my next commute after a run commute when it’s cold, unless I’m going to bring that coat with me on my run, I’m not able to run commute. In the winter, boots also come into the equation. I’m absolutely not going to carry my heavy boots home on a run, but I’m also absolutely not going to try to get to work through snow and slush the following morning without them. Not having to consider those elements in the summer simplifies the process immensely, which is why I stick to summer run commuting. (Though I am also willing to run commute during jacket weather. I have two lightweight jackets, so I can leave one at work when I run home and wear the other to work the following morning.)

Even though it requires a fair amount of planning, run commuting has been the most positive addition to my training. If it’s an option for you, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Do you ever run commute?

 

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