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Beat the Commute

by kirsty
Friday 31st October 2014

Run247 columnist Kirsty Reade discusses the pros and cons of swapping the tube journey for a run-commute

I’ve recently started working in London and this means I spend about three hours a day cooped up in various metal boxes – car, train, tube, then tube, train, car. For a large part of this time I could be pressed up against stinky strangers, assaulted by the smell of their burgers and fries and the noise of their loud phone conversations. It also means that I’m at the mercy of traffic, train and tube delays and there is often one thought that goes through my head: ‘I could run this quicker’. So, I thought I would.

Beat the Commute

Photo: Kirsty during the Country to Capital race last year, which finishes on the stretch of canal she run son

My first attempt at running to avoid the tube wasn’t very successful. I took the most direct route between Paddington and my workplace in Kings Cross, which was a very busy road. Sucking in all the fumes made me feel like I’d smoked a few fags, not been for a run, the pavements were hideously packed and it was only going to be a matter of time before I met an untimely demise on one of the many road crossings. So that route was out. But then I discovered that I could run along the canal all the way between work and the station.

It was four miles of running versus five tube stops, it was fresh air versus breathing in the atmosphere of a giant metal tube, it was freedom, self-sufficiency, exercise and most of all I was sticking it to my commute, turning a negative into a positive. I liked it. I could even run home after my train journey to make it into a longer run.

Run commuting is not without its drawbacks. The stretch of canal I run on goes through Camden and is a mecca for drunks, stoned teenagers and large groups of foreign tourists, all of whom tend not to notice a runner coming through. I’m pretty sure I would fail a drugs test with the amount of weed fumes I inhale running through there.

The canal rats can also be a bit confrontational but then I guess I am on their turf. I almost stepped on one the other day, so unbothered was it by my presence. I worry that one day they will gang up on me under a bridge and steal my lunch money. Lastly, I live in fear of tripping and falling in. Judging by some of the unsavoury items I see floating in the canal this would be a pretty unpleasant experience. With a heavy rucksack on, I might actually sink and drown.

The biggest challenge of run commuting is the logistics. Run to work and you need to take work clothes, purse, season ticket, pass to get in the building, phone, keys, towel, shower gel, deodorant; run home and you need most of the same stuff but don’t forget your car keys! All it takes to ruin your day is to forget one item (eg clean pants). And if your workplace doesn’t have showers you could ruin everybody else’s day.

The all-important item for run commuting is the backpack. It’s got to be big enough for all of the above, but not too big or it’ll jiggle around. The best one I’ve found for running anywhere you need to take a fair amount of kit is the Berghaus Vapour 15 (HERE). You can get loads of stuff in it, it fits very closely (even if you’re small, like me) and there are useful pockets on the belt (perfect for phone and season ticket) and at the sides.

Run commuting appeals to my practical nature. It’s a nice feeling that you’re getting some exercise in but also getting yourself to work and it’s brilliant to run along knowing that you’re avoiding being crammed into a tube carriage. When you sit down on the train if you’ve run to the station, or in your office chair if you’ve run into work, you instantly feel very virtuous. And, if you’ve run into work it’s the perfect opportunity for a second breakfast, one of my absolute favourite things about running.

So what was the verdict? Run commuting takes around 32 minutes, door-to-door station to work on the tube takes about 40 minutes in the morning and 30 in the evening. Running wins!


About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 


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