Run Commuting

The past two weeks have been a microcosm of the past 5 years of my life – too much to do and too little time to do it all. During the last half decade I’ve done a pretty god job of trimming wasted time out of my life, so it’s hard to come by further gains as there is little left in my life that I’m willing to give up at this point. Well, two Sunday’s ago I came up an unexpected time saver – the run commute.

I’ve surely had the idea before, but I’d always dismissed it for one reason or another. The logistics are too hard. I didn’t want to shower at work. I hate morning runs. Did I mention the logistics problems? In the end it took the prospect of further drastic cuts in my time commitments to take the plunge… and you know what? It’s not so bad.

For the past seven days I’ve either run to or from work and I plan to continue this, when possible, for the foreseeable future. My run home is about 6.5 miles and it’s easy to tack on flat miles around the Mall (which is beautiful around sunrise and at night) or throw in some extra miles in the neighborhoods of North Arlington when I get closer to home. Eventually, I would love to run both ways Tuesday-Thursday with Monday mornings and Friday evenings being dedicated to taking cloths to and from work.

The primary benefit of the run commute is that my commuting time essentially disappears. No longer am I sitting in a car or riding the metro. Instead, I am running, which I would otherwise do another time of day. In turn, I’m freeing up the time when I’d normally be running! A second benefit that I don’t want to overlook is that I get to work earlier when I run to the office. To shower at work, I have to walk into my office and then use a shower in the office suite. As a matter of professionalism, it’s best that I’m not walking into the office suite in running shorts at 9 a.m. when the first thing I walk past is a conference room where clients could be meeting. I’d also prefer not to be occupying the bathroom by showering once the business day starts. I actually like getting into the office early, but it’s very hard for me to get out of bed and metro in – much easier if all my suits are in the office and I must run in.

In starting my run commuting, I came across scant information on the topic. It would appear as though no one does it and I know that’s just not true. I’d like to compile some tips and tricks in a later post. If you run commute or have run commute in the past:

  • What got you started?
  • What your routine was – How often? How did you work the logistics?
  • Any gear that helped? (Please let me know if you have a way to run with pressed shirts!)
  • What were the benefits? Drawbacks?
  • If you stopped run commuting, why?

Please leave a comment and share your run commute experiences with the rest of us.

There are 12 comments

  1. Loomdog

    I have done running commutes in Boston and in DC and hae had good luck with going in Monday morning by Car (or Metro) and brining a bunch of clothes for the week. Then running home.In DC I metro'd in and ran home for a good 2-3 months (sometimes ran to a different metor line, then got on all sweaty…why not?!) Sometimes I ran the entire 12-15 miles home depending on route choice. I carried a big camel back with my lunch and socks, undies, undershirt. The rest of my uniform I had dry cleaned at the office.In Boston I did a 10 miles in and 10 miles home commute 1-2 times a week. Those were b ig days, but I got in shape.My dad was probably the best one out there… for 3 years he ran back AND forth the 6 miles to his work as a factory worker. He often did 10 on the way home for good measure. He managed to bump his marathon PR down from 2:50's to 2:34. He drove in clean clothes and showered upon arrival. He started as a way of saving gas money.

  2. Anonymous

    I have been a bike commuter for some time and I have done it every day for several years (5 mile commute). I take my work clothes in with me in a special bag on the bike.Adjusting to add in some run commuting worked well. I combine the two on a regular basis. For example, I could ride in on Monday. If I decide to run home from work (leave my bike at work) then I just have to make sure that I run into work the next morning. Then I can ride back home after work that day.I started commuting by bike and foot because I felt I didn't need to use a car with such a short commute.Chris

  3. Trail Goat

    Loomis,Thanks as always for the input. That's interesting about your dad… I didn't realize he was such a runner. As for your old long commutes – I kinda wish I had that. I was talking with Mike Bur last night and he was telling me that if he wants his weekends to be free, he'll run commute 20 miles home on Thursday and then run commute 20 miles to work on Friday. Nice way to get a long double over with.Chris,Thanks for stopping by. Here in the DC metro area there are a good number of bike commuters (including two off and on bike commuters in my 60 person office). In past years I'd see them before or after work and be a little jealous, particularly of their dry bags. In running, I can carry small clothing items, but there's no way I could get a suit or pressed shirt in. Maybe I'll have to get one of those packs and try bike commuting in.. though I'm not ready to brave the mean streets of DC on a bike yet.

  4. Anonymous

    Hey, I did almost the same commuting routine for about a year. I live in Arlington and ran through Georgetown and down the mall to get to my job in DC. 6.5 miles each way. I started to build up my mileage for my first ultra. I kept suits, ties, belt, and shoes in my office. I ran with shirt (Brooks Brothers non-iron), socks, and underwear in a backpack. There was a shower at work, but I found if I showered right before I left home I was alright too as soon as I cooled down.Now I work in Tysons and the run is over 10 miles each way–I can't manage that every day so I bike some of them.

  5. Trail Goat

    Arlington Anonumous, what neighborhood do you live in ? I'm up in Ballston. Once I'm in better shape, I'd love to head through g-town some mornings. One day I dream of running up to Potomac Overlook Park and heading down the Potomac Heritage trail before heading into DC for work.I'll have to look into non-iron shirts – though at this point I do metro or catch a ride in often enough that shirt's aren't a problem. I have 4 or 5 in the office at the moment and can rotate them through the cleaners. I should look for one downtown to make things even easier – since I have a hard time getting home before my cleaners close in the evening. I'll look into the no shower morning as well.Anyway, thanks for the input!

  6. Anonymous

    I just discovered your blog, so I am way late in posting a comment to the run commute tag.However, it is a great way to run and also an effective use of time. I have run commute off-and-on since 1984, and the basic concept has remained the same. Carry a clean set of clothes to change into and some food for lunch in a pack and shower at work. Usually I will do a longer run in, maybe 40-75 minutes, and then a more direct route home, 12-35 minutes.

  7. Anonymous

    RUNNING WITH SHIRTS!!!sorry to yell, just thought it might stand out for those curious…I have been using cycling and running in my commuting for almost 20 years. My suits, belts, ties, etc. stay at work, and go to the closest dry-cleaner. My socks and underwear and shirts come with me.I use a camelback cloud-walker. it is the ideal commuting pack. i can fit a dress-shirt, socks, lunch, and rain or cold gear (i live in calgary, and have run in conditions from -30 degrees centigrade with blowing snow, to rain/hail, to +35 in the sun).the trick with the shirt is as follows :while on the hanger, gently fold the sleeves across the chest (the cuff will have to double back). then (gently) fold the hanger down, and 'roll' the shirt around it. the collar and sleeves are inside the roll and tails outside, incase some dirt or other stuff leaks in.this will give you a 'folded/rolled' shirt about 10"x20", just right to slide into the cloud-walker. i keep a stock three shirts at work, that way they can hang a couple of days before i use them, and any small wrinkles that appear can loosen out.happy running!

  8. Trail Goat

    Thanks for the tips anonymouses. The shirt folding tip is great – I'll have to try that out. I can't wait to run commute past the cherry blossoms this week. I need to remember to pack my camera!

  9. Sat Sandhu

    I often do my runs in the morning – it's not quite a "commute run" as I actually end up running away from work before heading in the right direction (in order to get some distance in) but I roll my shirt, without a hanger. It seems to do the trick. Lie shirt on it's back, fold in from the sides so that the shirt is only width of collar, then roll from bottom up to the collar. Ensure there's no folds of material – that should ensure no creases.I also take trousers into work (rolled too) – but I can since I don't need to wear a full suit (hence no issue with jacket). So essentially I take all my clothes in on a daily basis.I too hate running in the morning but it does save you time – especially since you save on a shower (i.e. your morning shower and your running shower become combined into one – a bonus for the environment).Definitely seeing more run and bike commuters where I live (London, UK) – so more and more people obviously discovering the benefits.One problem with run commute is missing the normal breakfast in the morning, so I also ensure that at the start of the week I buy plenty of fruit to keep at my desk – otherwise after your runs you're hungry and without fruit readily available you go for a quick and unhealthy option (usually a bacon sandwich – or worse – around here!)Great blog – keep up the running.ThanksSat

  10. Trail Goat

    Sat,You are definitely run commuting – nothing wrong with tacking on some mileage en route… even if it is in the opposite direction.Thanks for the practical tip re how you roll your shirt. I wish I had the same option not to wear a jacket, though with the DC summer nearly upon me, I will soon be leaving my jackets in the office no matter how I commute.

  11. Adam

    I'm thinking of starting to run commute too – I was given a tip to use the Patagonia Houdini Pack – enough room to hold pants, shirt, socks, and wallet/keys without bouncing around and stuff. Good luck!!!

  12. Anonymous

    I live in Austin Texas and usually cycle to work if I don't run to work. I only live 5k away, so I sometimes do some trail running through Walnut Creek along the way. Running to work is a great way for me to get in my weekly miles for marathon training. We don't have showers at work, but years ago I read something that seems to work. Right before I leave home I take a shower. Even though I get entirely drenched in sweat (it's always summer in TEXAS) I can get by with a sponge bath at the restroom sink. Apparently, the shower cleans off enough bacteria to keep me smelling lovely all day. It must work, or believe me, the others in my department would let me know. I carry all my clothes back and forth everyday in my adventure racing pack with a water bladder inside it. Oh ,and the best part is buying my second breakfast when I get to work. I love telling all the overweight weight watchers and calorie counters that the huge pile of food is my SECOND breakfast and that I only hope it's enough to get me through to lunch! "What diet are you on?" they ask. I'm on the slim and trim run commute diet.

  13. Jenn

    Way late to this discussion – but thanks for the input – I had a similar light bulb moment waiting for the bus – it's only 5 miles home, most of it downhill and I spend easily 30 minutes (wait and bus time) to get home only to then turn around and run 5 miles or more. Now I just have to figure out how to get the important stuff home with me since I don't have a car.

  14. Brian Stark

    Also adding in late, but a great topic and one that needs to be discussed more, especially as we see no end to near $4 gas! I started run commuting as a substitute teacher in '95. I never needed lesson plans or papers so I could just show up with my outfit. Most schools have locker rooms but those without I just used a staff bathroom sink. My most extreme commute was after I became a classroom teacher and had a 35 mile commute to work each way. Several times over two years I got up at 1:30 am and ran the entire way to school. I never did the double commute and always got a ride home from another teacher but that sure makes for one long day in the classroom! I still run to school. My current school is only 13 miles away and makes for a nice marathon day. I try to do it twice per week.

  15. Steve

    even later…I am at 30 miles/wk and wondering how to get to 60. I occasionally bike the 18 round trip (9+9) so it struck me, 2 days of running is 36 and I'm there. So I searched, ordered a small, light backpack, this forum, and next week I start. (it's friday) It will be fun to notice the things I miss on the bike, and never notice in the car.

  16. Ben Smith | Run to W

    I've been running to work for around 6 months now – and it's been great! I started run commuting to lose weight and find a way to build exercise into the day. I began once per week (Friday mornings) and built it up from there. At the moment I run three times per week, running both to and from work two or three times. As long as I get between 20km and 35km under my feet during the week, I'm a happy bunny.

    The only gear I really needed was a decent backpack with chest straps and waist straps – I blogged about that on my website. But then again, I have the benefit of not needing to wear a suit. Casual dress at work is for the win!

  17. Chris

    Hi – I've just started running to work occasionally after many years of cycling. Presently just one way, one day a week but I'm planning to increase that once my calf muscles get used to the strain.

    London UK again and a pretty flat 5 mile commute, which takes me 25 minutes by bike, presently about 50 minutes running or just over an hour on the bus. I'm taking it easy 'cause I'm 52 and I've not been running that much recently, but I figure that if I want to I can probably get to where I'm running both ways every day. In the meantime I'm trying to work out the logistics of always having a bike in the right place so I don't have to do two runs in quick succession. Since I have two bikes it shouldn't be too tricky, or I may use the hire bikes now available courtesy of our Mayor Boris.

    Since I normally cycle I keep clothes at work anyway and just do the occasional laundry trip with a backpack. A shower is a must for me since I sweat a lot, fortunately we have one.

    I see maybe a dozen other people running to work and probably hundreds cycling, on my commuting route alone, so it seems to be getting increasingly popular here.

  18. Dani

    I run to and from the store frequently, and to work (downtown DC) 3 to 4 days a week. I find it much easier and less of a hassle than biking. And nearly as fast for me (because of the traffic) and if you count the time getting my bike out of the house and then into the garage later. It's 8 miles, but I sometimes take different routes to make it longer. At times I use it as part of my training, so I work in hills and run hard for some of it. (And thus sweat a lot, but I have a shower and locker at work.) I keep a few pieces of clothing at work: sweater, jacket, spare shoes, but I usually carry my work clothes, shoes, towel and breakfast in a backpack (I just use a kid's day pack and that has served me well) and carry water in a handheld if the temps are high. I find if I roll my clothes, they stay pretty wrinkle free, and I hang them near the shower while I'm showering for the benefit of a little steam.

    I have been doing this off and on for 5 years, and at first drew some odd looks, but now I see more and more commuter runners. Glad it is catching on.

    Maybe we should organize a national run to work day.

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