The life of a runner, mother, radiopharmacist and vicar's wife – that's me!
It’s been a whole week since I last wrote a blog. Luckily it hasn’t been a whole week since I last ran, although the running hasn’t gone quite as well as planned. I’ve really struggled to get any proper sessions in but at least I have the running commute. I thought that others might benefit from my experience as a running commuter so I’ve compiled a list of top tips for a successful running commute – although they could equally work for cycling, skating, walking, skiing, rowing, swimming etc. to work, well, perhaps not swimming.
The running commute is something that you could consider to add some extra miles to your normal training routine or to get in a run when you haven’t got time to fit in a run. Here are my tips and some of my own experiences about how to make the running commute successful.
It might be that there isn’t a natural running commute for you. Perhaps you live miles from your workplace so it isn’t feasible to run the entire way. However, you could consider running part of the way either getting off a station earlier or parking your car further away from your workplace – this might have the added benefit of being free rather than paying hefty charges for the staff car park.
In my case, I’ve been parking my car near to my kids school and then running the longer route from there to work. It’s only about a mile but those miles add up. Being a little more organised, I could add in a few more miles by extending my route if I wanted to get in some extra miles.
It might be that you can catch public transport and run to or from the station/bus stop etc. When I did this in London, it meant that I got off at a station in Zone 2 rather than in Zone 1, thereby saving a few pounds each week.
This week, the commute has been a little more interesting than simply running from my parked car to my workplace. I had to go to Manchester yesterday and that meant that I could leave a little bit later and catch the ferry over to Liverpool. I’ve wanted to do that since we moved to the Wirral almost exactly a year ago but I’ve never had the opportunity to do it because either I’ve had to be at work early before the first ferry or I’ve had to pick up kids from school at the end of the day (and they will moan too much if I make them walk the nearly 2 miles from the school to the ferry only to wait around for half an hour to catch the first ferry home at 5pm).
It was low tide so the ramp down to the ferry was pretty steep, good training running back up it though! There was an interesting mix of passengers on the ferry but there were a large proportion of cyclists and one fellow runner.
Maybe, if running isn’t an option for you, then you could cycle instead. Often trains have places to put your bike or, if you can afford one, then a folding bike might do the trick. My husband, Peter, got pretty fit when he had to cycle to the school where he worked every day. It was great because it was downhill on the way there and then a real good workout coming home back up the hill.
There are, as far as I know, two Mersey ferries but the one I went on was repainted with a “Razzle Dazzle” design by Sir Peter Blake (who designed the cover of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album). You can see all those cycling commuters with their fluorescent jackets sat on the lower deck.
On an unrelated note, I am taking part in a Facebook page where, on the 10th of each month, we have to take 10 photos; so I looked out for things to photograph on my journey – most of the photos on this blog entry were part of my 10 photos. If you are interested in seeing other efforts then the link is here.
As we left Seacombe, the sun was just rising over Liverpool. I think that the waterfront was based on Chicago so, to me, it has a bit of a foreign feel to it. Looking the other way, to the Wirral, is much more English.
2. Dress appropriately
If your commute involves some public transport then you will have to consider what to wear so that you don’t get cold on the bus/ferry/train etc. but so that you don’t get too hot on your run. I take an extra, thicker, top in my backpack so that I can put it on when I’m not running but can take it off when I’m running.
I also wear full length, light weight, running trousers as I feel comfortable about being seen in these in public – I’m not so sure I want to show off my legs to my fellow commuters first thing in the morning when I’m sat on the train or bus, or in this case, ferry.
3. Leave enough time
The great thing about running rather than taking public transport, or the car, is that you are much more in control of the time it will take to get from A to B. However, you still need to factor in that, for most jobs, shorts and a vest is simply not appropriate attire. So, you will need time to change (and possibly shower or at least flannel down somehow).
Running to work can certainly save you time but you will have to balance that against the time it takes to actually get changed once you get there and how conveniently placed the showers or toilets are to your workplace.
I find that I’m normally pretty good at leaving enough time to get to work but I’m forever rushing on the way home, either to get to the kids’ school in time to pick them up or to catch public transport home. This can actually add to the whole challenge of running to work as you can find yourself getting in some extra speed work as you sprint to catch that train home.
Luckily, yesterday I had plenty of time, and I was able to stop and photograph the Beatles. At that time of day there was nobody else about, in fact, there had only been about 20 people on the ferry so there weren’t even hoards of people getting off the ferry.
Having run the mile from the ferry terminal to the station, I was able to get changed in the toilets at the station (at the cost of a whacking great 30p!) but I could have saved myself the money if I’d got changed in the train toilet but I didn’t want to risk trying to put on a dress in a confined space and tights are a nightmare to put on on a moving train – take my word for it if you are a man.
I decided to walk from the station to the course that I was attending in Manchester. The course was very useful although not exciting enough for me to write about on this blog except to say that “Problems with making a cup of tea” was one of the subjects discussed. Now, I’ve got you wondering how that fits in with my work as a pharmacist preparing radioactive injections haven’t I?!
Manchester itself was unremarkable except for the fact that it didn’t rain. It always rains in Manchester so this was somewhat strange. I also tried to get some more photos for my “10 on the 10th” project.
I found Archimedes in a well and a strange metal rope arch by the university before I had to catch the train home.
The train was late, very late, more annoyingly, it crawled into Liverpool Lime Street as the minutes ticked on. The ferry only goes every 20 minutes and I knew that it had a taken 7-8 min to get to the station in the morning.
When I finally got out of the station, I had less than 10 minutes to get the ferry. I literally sprinted through the streets of Liverpool (with a heavy backpack with my work clothes – and shoes – in it). Luckily the lights were in my favour when I had to cross the main road close to the ferry terminal and, when I got onto the ferry I found that I needn’t have rushed – I had a minute to spare! Well, I figured that it was pretty good training being forced to run so fast with the backpack. It also made the whole commute a bit more fun as it was like being in a race against the ferry. Anyway, this leads to my next tip.
4. Pack your bag carefully
Yesterday I didn’t have much choice about what to put in my bag because I needed to be smart for the course I was attending so that meant putting the dress, tights and shoes (actually boots) in the backpack, which made it a bit heavy. There’s also the problem of what to do about a coat. I usually pack a lightweight rain coat so that I’m not forced to wear my fluorescent running jacket if I need to pop out in the day. I used to leave a spare coat at work, and that was a pretty good solution to the problem.
Basically, you want to be carrying as little as possible (unless you really want some strength training). I would caution against trying to carry too much though as there is real risk of injury if you aren’t used to it.
I try to leave as much as possible, particularly shoes, at work and then just to take my lunch as the bare essentials. Try to get rid of things from your bag that aren’t really necessary.
I have, in the past, managed to run with just a money belt type of thing round my waist. I also have a similar, but bigger, bag that fits round my waist if I need to carry a bit more but I usually use my backpack. I guess it depends how far you have to run, how much you think you can carry and how organised you are. I find that I get more organised the further I have to run so, when I was running 10 miles into London, I just had the very minimum amount of stuff with me but now I’m only running about 1 mile then I can get away with extra stuff in the bag and it doesn’t really matter.
5. To shower or not to shower
I’m lucky in that I don’t really sweat all that much when I’m running, especially if the weather is cold and I’m not running very far. I’m also lucky that there is a shower at work, although, to be honest, it’s almost as far away as my car is from my actual workplace!
I have found suitable solutions to this problem in the past. Of course, you could just take a flannel and give yourself a good wash down that way or baby wipes are a godsend. Don’t forget the deodorant though!
6. Plan your week
My work clothes are fairly simple and light so I can put them all in the bag on Monday and bring them all back on Friday but it might not be that simple for you. To overcome this problem, you can plan your week so that you take everything in on a Monday (using a more normal form of transportation) and then bring it all back on Friday night. If you are incredibly organised, you can also do this with your lunch. That way, you can really travel pretty lightly.
It might not be feasible to run in every single day but to start with you can just try to run home from work or just run to work – whatever suits you. If that works then you could run home one day and run to work the next and then try that on a couple of days. That certainly makes it easier managing clothes and food etc. that are required at work.
7. Get a decent running bag
I have a Raidlight bag that is about 10 years old. It is brilliant, it distributes the weight really evenly so, even if I’m carrying quite a lot of stuff, I don’t notice too much. There are plenty of running bags on the market to chose from and I would definitely recommend getting one rather than trying to survive with a standard sports backpack. It will cost you more but it will be worth it and will mean that you shouldn’t get back problems and sore shoulders and the like.
You can also go for smaller, round the waist options, as I mentioned earlier but you have to be a bit more organised if you do that.
8. Have some spare things at work
I try to be pretty organised but even with that, I have found myself minus a sock, or worse, minus a bra, when I’ve arrived at work. No problem though if you keep a spare stock of those really essential items at work, just in case. I have actually had a complete set of spare clothes at work just in case. They are clothes that are perhaps ‘second best’ but still perfectly OK for work and fine for an emergency.
So, hopefully, this will help you if you are planning on starting to run to work – good luck and hopefully you’ll find it a fun way to get around.
I took the ferry again this morning. It was a bit later so the sun had risen a bit more. I also got a free cup of tea (comes in the price of the commuter ticket). Even though I wasn’t taking pictures for the Facebook page, I still got the camera out.
By the end of the week, I will have run more than 15 miles simply by using my commute to run. None of the runs have been all that far but it has still been a pretty good way to get some running in during a week when I didn’t really have time to do any training. In my podcast this week we talk using the commute to get in some exercise. Pity that Peter doesn’t have to go any further than from the bedroom to the study to get to work, that might explain why he isn’t all that fit right now – but hopefully all that will change soon.