Its mid January and we are well into marathon training season. Have you noticed something recently? When I get on a train in the morning I am more likely to be standing next to a lycra clad runner than a booted and suited city worker. When I am running along the banks of the River Thames I am more than likely not going to be the only runner, in fact some mornings its like the start of a race as those aforementioned lycra clad runners bundle themselves through the ticket barriers and ready their GPS watches to start running and doing their early morning run commute.

Run commuting is an easy way to fit in some extra mileage into your program and not waste that commuting time. There are a number of interesting ways to fit that run into your daily commute, are you going to…..

  • Run to the station
  • Run from the station
  • Run instead of getting the train or bus
  • Run to a station further up the line
  • Get off earlier than your destination and run

Run commuting takes a little bit of preparation and organisation, first of all, you need to plan your actual journey, will you have to purchase a different ticket, what route will you choose for your run section, what pack will you take and how much do you need to carry, what about shower facilities. Can you leave stuff at work or at a gym to ease the weight of the pack.

Big Ben

Shot of the Houses of Parliament taken at 0630

It can seem a little bit daunting and perhaps just not worth the effort, but from someone who has been doing it for a number of years I can tell you its fun, rewarding and you get to see some extraordinary things and it makes you walk tall for the rest of the day knowing you’ve put in a decent training session. I remember walking into the office one morning and someone asked me if I had been for a run. Of course I said yes. Usually that was end of the conversation, but it just so happened that morning I was asked where from so I said from home. Oh do you live nearby? …. yes, about 14 miles away… it’s a nice cycle path in for about 9 miles or so and then on roads. Wow, you ran 14 miles? Ermm… actually not today I decided to add on an extra loop to make it up to 20. Silence!!!

On the practical side you need to make sure that your run commute is a planned piece of running in the same way that you break up your weekly training sessions. So, are you on a recovery day, or is it a tempo session, fartlek run etc. Obviously, the more pack weight your carrying determines to some extent what relative speed you can run at, so if you regularly run your tempo session at 8 min mile pace and you are carrying a pack of 6 to 8kg then its going to impact your times. Depending on what you are training for a pack can help. Lets say your goal race is hilly and mountainous and your training routes are relatively flat. Carrying a pack will help in your training for that event.

Some practical tips :

  • Choose a small running pack. More space means more temptation to carry more stuff that will ultimately slow you down.
  • Pack your bag the night before. Its so, so easy to not do your run the next morning if you haven’t packed the kit the night before. There is also a good chance that your going to forget something as well.  Don’t get persuaded by the weather or just through the hustle and bustle of the morning to avoid the chance to run, pack the night before so you can get straight out.
  • Choose and plan your route and intended pace. Is it going to fit in with your days training plan, if not, can you adapt?
  • Check the weather forecast the night before.  Will you have the right kit for tomorrow? is it going to be cold or raining, do you need that extra layer, gloves or rain jacket?
  • Be careful of other runners! So often I have been deviated from my intended run pace by another runner who passes by and then I get dragged into a race. It’s fun at the time of course, but if it’s not a planned fast session it’s eating into your recovery. Funny, but on these occasions you never run slower, it’s always faster!
  • Try, try and try to minimize the amount you are carrying. Can you leave some stuff in the office or at a locker in your gym. Things that are heavy and can be typically left in an office or left out completely, Shoes, Suit Jacket, Coat, Laptop, Towel, Shower Gel & Deodorant.
  • Keep it all dry. Make sure you keep clothes and stuff you want dry wrapped up in your pack. Most packs are not really waterproof enough to survive a downpour. Plastic shopping bags are a cheap alternative to the good dry bags you can buy at a decent outdoor shop.
  • Access to cash, credit cards etc. Have train tickets, credit cards and some cash easily available either in the waist belt pocket that is on your pack or get one of those light waist belts. Much easier than fumbling to get at these items at the station ticket barrier with hordes of people behind you muttering away.

Above all – have fun with the run commute – it’s so rewarding to know you have done your training session before the days work starts.


All images copyright – Ian Campbell – Photography

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