The Running Commute: Make The Rat Race Work For Your Running Game

I have an Uber problem. That is, I had an Uber problem (now it seems Uber has its own problems). But, what I mean is I was pretty dependent on Uber to get me to/from work for way too long. I figured a quick $10 each way wasn't breaking the bank, however over time it started to turn into real money - that I could be spending on shoes and race entries - making me question the value of getting into the office so early was worth it. But, 2017 is the year of pulling away from complacency and putting efforts towards goals that will make me a better friend, husband, rider, swimmer and runner. So, a heartfelt goodbye to those drivers who stop their car on the side of the street to show me their 400 page book they wrote about government conspiracies and ones that ask if I don't mind that they "just take a second to light this up" - all real things. Ah, Seattle.

That left me with a bit of a problem; how to get to work? Of course, there's the bus, but that's too easy and the city's growing homeless population seems to have made city busses their de facto residence. I have ridden to work many times on my awesome road bike, but Seattle winters are like 11 months long, rainy and the jagged, asphalt-ridden hills are just begging for my skin to slide across them. So, what's left? Well, I've got these two legs that used to work pretty well. So, I decided to give running to work a try. 

When I lived in Chicago (ah, Chicago I love you), I had run home from the office on many occasions, gliding down the road amidst the mile-high skyscrapers and smells of the boutique restaurants wafting throughout the city's Old Town neighborhood. But, never to the office. As for Boston? Well, we don't talk much about our time in Boston. But, Seattle had promise. After all, my office has showers, so that's the biggest win right there. 

Last week, I laced up my shoes and hit the road taking on the easy four miler that hugged Lake Union, past the Space Needle and into the city. Given my last run was the marathon part of the Dopey Challenge, expectedly I was dead by mile one. But, the weather was holding at a crisp 41 degrees and not a rain cloud in sight, making the journey a pretty relaxing one. Heading home was much the same, save for having to traverse the massive mile long hill to get back home. But, hey, hill work!

It's like the first day of school! (Note: Pay no attention to the shoes, those were a bad idea for commuting). 

Since I'm still relatively new to the run commute, I'm learning as I go. But, I wanted to share some tips that I'm finding increasingly useful to adopt as I continue my bipedal commute. I should also mention, for those who have been tackling the running to work thing for awhile, I'm wide open to tips of your own to make the trip easier, more fun, etc.

Gear up, kids!

No One Wants to Get to Work That Fast

First thing I learned was to treat this more of a long run and less like a race. This was apparent on day one commute home. Thanks to the morning stage of the run and effort I put into it, the evening commute forced me to run on dead legs. Lesson learned and day two saw a less vigorous commute. 

Gear to Get You There

Shoes: Arguably the most important device in your commuter arsenal. If you know anything about me, you know I abhor cushiony shoes. I like to be low to the ground and feel every pebble under my foot. But, learning from day one's mistakes of donning a retired race shoe, day two brought up an inch or two with a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam Zantes. These shoes tend to be my trainers for anything over 18 mils, so I figured they would work well for the constant start and stop of city running. And, I was right. The cushioning helped me to stay comfortable on the run, as well as kept my feet fresh for the rest of the day (I have a stand up desk at work, so comfy feet are a must). 

Carrying Your Crap: The second most important piece of your kit would be the right container to carry your day clothes, shower stuff, computer, lunch, etc. I guess you could use an everyday backpack, but if it's too big or has the wrong kind of straps, all the bouncing will bring your commute to a screeching halt. Therefore, I use a hiking pack that's a little smaller than a standard backpack and has good stabilization straps in the right place to minimize the bounce factor. My go to pack is the Marmot Ultra Kompressor, it holds about 22 liters (plenty of room for jeans, shirt, undies, computer and showering accessories) and is extremely light and tight. Plus, at under $100 it's inexpensive enough to be a viable everyday running pack. 

Various Accoutrements

One could get away with just the products above. I mean, you'd still need clothes, unless you're a kinky SOB. But, since it's pretty gross out here in Seattle, I like to add some elements to keep my skinny heiny warm and comfortable. 

Base Layer & Bottoms: As for my base layer, I will normally don one of the thousands of long sleeved race shirts I've accumulated over the years. Bottoms will always be shorts - I hate tights - unless it gets into the teens and then fine, tights (with shorts over them - no one wants to see your junk, bruh). 

Jacket: Because Seattle can be cold, rainy and damp one moment, and then dry and warm the next, I selected shell that provides some respite from the elements but also has strong breathability to regulate my heat output. Also, a hood is a must. I like to use the Arc'Teryx Incendo Hoody Shell as my go to. It's lightweight and braves most of the elements. At $140, it's a little pricey, but I love this jacket so much, I'd still buy it if it were double the price. 

Hat & Gloves: Good gloves are a must for your extremities when running out in the cold. When I ski, I'm all for puffy Goretex, but on the run I like minimalism and functionality. Therefore, I look for gloves that are easy to stow and can allow me to work my iPhone without taking them off. My go to gloves are from local company, Brooks Running, they even have a slot for your house keys which is a nice feature. Per the Brooks website, it seems they no longer sell the gloves I use, but they have others. For hats, any old wool hat will work, but I like hats that aren't too constricting and leave a little room for my headphones. I'll go through a few different hats, mostly by New Balance and Mizuno Running. 

Socks: Since I'm headed into the office, I've found compression socks keep my legs fresh, as well as keeping them warm (and somewhat dry) while on the commute. Plus, they tend to get looks from other running commuters (and my office mates) anytime I throw them on. My go to socks are from PRO Compression since they are the only long sock company that seems to have socks that stay up on my skinny legs. Plus, they're pretty warm. NOTE: At the time of publishing I am a PRO Compression ambassador, but that did not influence the content of this post). 

Headphones: The other thing you may know about me is my love of music. Seriously, it's my everything. From sitting down at a drum kit on stage to sitting in my home office with my headphones on, music rules my world. That goes especially for running, so good headphones are essential. My go to headphones are in-ear monitors from Shure. First, since I spent so many years on stage, I'm used to the in ear fit. Secondly, in-ears provide better sealing and remove a lot of ambient noise. Of course, that does mean it's more dangerous to wear them while running (my wife grimaces every time I put them on an head out), so you really have to be aware when wearing these on the run. 

Of course, headphones are optional, but if you do don the buds, use whatever you are comfortable with. I'm very accustomed to mine and am aware of the dangers of running with them. 

Watch: Hey, you're running everyday. Why not track it and post it to Strava so you can shove your commuting accomplishments in your friends' faces? My running watch is the Garmin Forerunner 735XT multi sport watch. Since 2017 will be the "year of the triathlon" I needed a new watch that can do more than just running. I like the fenix, which does a lot of what the 735 does, but I also don't need 18 extra pounds (estimated) on my wrist. 

The Most Important Detail:

Last, but without a doubt, the most important item to make sure you have packed (or stored at the office) is deodorant. You'll have a better chance of becoming the office badass by not smelling like ass. My go to is Gillette Sport, because I'm a man, dammit. 

In conclusion, running to work hasn't been such a bad deal. I am feeling some unusual aches since starting, but I believe it's due to the dramatic changes in elevation over the course of the runs, so I'm not very worried. There are some other things to think about that make my commute doable. One, I live in an urban environment with plentiful sidewalks and trails. Some runners may not have that luxury, so one has to be careful about how easy it will be to get to work and not have to navigate traffic. Second, my office has showers and lockers, meaning I can leave a lot of stuff at the office, lowering the overall bulkiness of my commute. Lastly, the distance is only four miles each way, minor length for a seasoned runner. 

Take the time to evaluate all the variables that could be a factor in your decision to start commuting by foot. If the pros outweigh the cons, maybe try it one way on a good day or a weekend and see if it's for you. 

Until next time, 

Run fast. Run smart.