Phil Bradburn lives in the countryside and travels to work in London, but found a way to try out run-commuting. He gives his top tips.
The first time I remember talking about run-commuting was in August 2013 at work, when with my colleagues we were discussing what we would do more of if we had the time. “I want to run more” was my answer – at the time, I was running 50 miles a month and mostly at weekends.
It was hard to find occasions to run more: I live in a village with no street lighting and no pavements, my commute makes it difficult to eat and run in the evening (though I hear Scott Jurek can eat a veggie burrito while running a 7:30 minute/mile), and I find it hard to get up early for a run before work. Lunchtime running is simply unappealing to me, and I also dismissed the idea of running up and down the train on the basis that there is probably some kind of ancient railway by-law which forbids it.
I remembered an advert which suggested getting off a stop early on the bus/tube to raise activity rates, and my head started to race with lots of questions: How many miles could I run? Is there a good running route that I could plan out? Would my fitness levels be able to take running everyday while avoiding injury? Would I get bored running the same routes every day? Would other people get in the way? Would I get wet? How would I carry my clothes into work? What would I use to track my runs?
After a bit of research on the subject and lots of trial and error, below are my top tips on runcommuting:
- Bag: I use an 8 litre rucksack to carry bits to and from the office. With practice, I’ve become quite the zen master at packing. It is quite important to have a place for everything (keys, work pass, clothes, etc.), because otherwise you’ll end up at work without a pass or without a locker key and staring down the barrel of a disciplinary. I take a shirt and underwear every day in my backpack and leave my suit at work – no one can tell my shirt is creased while I have my suit jacket on.
- Routes: I vary the route I take, but usually I run from Charing Cross to Victoria the “long way” round via Pimlico using the south bank of the river, which gives me 7-8 miles if I run both ways. More recently I have run a deconstructed Two or Three Parks route – covering the same ground but in a rather different order to Serpie’s Wednesday nights. I have also experimented by running long looping routes of the river of up to 13 miles.
- GPS tracking: Initially I used my smartphone for GPS tracking, whereas I now use a Garmin Fenix 3, as my Garmin 305 was awful at picking up satellites and I would spend ten minutes standing, waving my arm in the air. I wear my Fenix 3 as an everyday watch, so I never have the problem of forgetting it.
- Kit: During winter, I run in my Montane Minimus Jacket. Otherwise, any random wind jacket works when it isn’t so wet. I run in tights (and yes – I do put shorts over the top!), and a selection of running tops. I’ve found it really exciting that I can experiment with lots of different shoes from lots of shoe suppliers. As I save over £600 a year from giving up my Tube season ticket, that is a decent running budget!
The downsides to run-commuting are:
- Meandering tourists and smartphone zombies: I have been poleaxed, stabbed with umbrellas, almost pushed into the river, walked into by tourists and smartphone zombies. I have almost stepped on small children who have veered into my path. I have had cross words with people who have got upset with me running on the pavement.
- Planning around races: I have to be really careful about how much I run overall every week. I found that when I stepped up the running to 160 miles a month, I suffered with shin splints and other injuries. So more recently, I have started to take two or three rest days during the week, which means that I need to plan ahead a little, but mostly just be flexible and take it as it comes. Some days I run four times on a single day. For example on Wednesdays I will often run to work, run at lunchtime, run to the Seymour Centre and then do the Three Parks run. In this instances, I ensure I always take the following day off from running.
- Exhaustion: One of the biggest drawbacks of run-commuting is that sometimes it can be exhausting to run after work, and when you finish late or have to be in the office at the crack of dawn, running in can seem very unappealing. In these instances, walking or using the tube can be the answer.
The best things about run-commuting?
It takes no extra time in my day, I get to “run more” (around 2,000 miles a year); I am not beholden to using public transport in London; and it keeps my core fitness up so that I don’t have to specifically train for running my super slow and ploddy ultras, and I get the opportunity to run shorter and faster routes compared to taking public transport. The de-stress factor should not be forgotten either – running straight after work is an excellent way to clear your head, and you might be surprised how good it feels to let off steam by running home after a particularly horrendous day.
Tempted? Why not give it a go and see if you can fit it around your daily routine. If you like it, try to ensure you vary your route often, to ensure you continue to challenge yourself and avoid becoming a run-commute zombie yourself.
And remember even if run-commuting does become a bit routine, it is certainly no worse than being shoved onto an overcrowded tube carriage by commuters and tourists from hell.