Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 10 Sep 1999 12:04:41 -0400

Commute Route

(from RC 288)

On September 17th, which the Road Runners Club of America has proclaimed "National Run to Work Day," I won't celebrate in the intended way. Instead I will run FROM work.

I'm an ex-commuter-on-foot. Inspired by British runner Ron Hill (a career-long running commuter as well as the second marathoner ever to break 2:10), I ran to work for several years.

Mine was a one-way trip to the Runner's World office. My wife would pick me up in the afternoon and drop off a change of clothing for the next morning so I wouldn't have to run with a bouncing backpack.

The need for this type of commuting ended for me when I left the magazine office. I'm now a computer commuter, living 3000 miles from RW headquarters, and the distance from my bedroom to my computer has shrunk to 20 steps.

My practice has long been to run away from work instead of to it. I spend some time at the desk each morning, then leave for a run.

For the rest of you who leave home to work, the commute-run has several selling points. This is a practical way to train regularly and in quantity without sacrificing a great deal of time. You spend little or no more time running to work and back than you would driving the same distance through heavy traffic.

Working against the practice are two powerful forces. One is our worship of automobile travel, and the other is our urge to take a shower immediately after every run.

The almost universal way we commute is by car, one person to a vehicle. This car use allows us to live a long way from the office, and daily drives of marathon distance and longer are common.

Running this far each day isn't possible. But some runners overcome this problem by finding a parking spot within running distance of their workplace, then run there morning and evening.

An early commuter this way was Senator William Proxmire. In the 1970s he ran the final miles of his journey from the suburbs to the Capitol in Washington, DC. Some days he would park closer to work, other days farther away -- depending on how he felt and how tight his time was that day.

The problem of the shower remains. Americans runners don't feel ready to face the business world until we have washed away the sweat and changed into clean clothes.

Businesses in this country don't actively discourage running to work. But few of them encourage it, either, by offering shower rooms for active employees. The best we can do is towel off and change clothes in the restroom.

Instead of commuting on foot, many runners leave the office to train during their lunch break. They start and finish at a nearby health club -- with a changing room and showers. This routine is especially popular during the winter months, when mornings and evenings are dark but noontime is bright.

While promoting running commute day, RRCA President Don Kardong heard from a young runner. "I would like to run to work but don't have a job. I am a student." Don responded that school is a job and the boy could run there as the Kenyans do.

This exchange brought to mind a Kenyan story. Wilson Kipketer, the world 800-meter record-holder, was asked if he once ran to school.

"I lived across the street from my school," he replied. "I walked there, very slowly."


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