Run-commuting! Is it possible for me?
September 2, 2014 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Would love to run instead of taking the bus to the train station for a thousand reasons, but the logistics of it are making me sweat! Most posts/websites on this topic deal with a simpler commute than what I have. Mine involves several legs (and my own legs would like to run whenever possible!). Could you help me, Mefites?

I currently have a 2 hour-ish commute to and from my university, about 3 days a week: home --> bus ride --> train ride --> subway ride --> walk --> university.

It looks bad, but actually once I'm on the train everything goes very smoothly, and I even enjoy it. It's the first leg, the bus to the train station, that's killing me. Depending on the day, I have to devote anywhere between 20-40 minutes as "buffer time" so as not to miss my train. Thanks, unpredictable local bus system! (And it gets even worse in winter...)

It has just recently occurred to me to look into run-commuting, since I run regularly anyway. The direct route is about 2.7 km.

The problem is the train-subway leg in the middle, totaling about 1 hour 10 minutes. As mentioned, this part is normally very relaxing for me.
This would no longer be the case if I entered the first train a sweaty, red-faced mess. Or at least, I don't think I mind how I look, but I'm very concerned about harassing my poor fellow commuters with stink, and/or getting cold.
There is a public bathroom at the station where I could wash up a bit and have a measure of privacy (the actual toilet stalls are pay-per-use, not a long-term solution).

Ideally though, I wouldn't have to change at all, since I have to walk 1+km anyway from the subway to campus. In fact, I could run directly into the university's gym and shower.

Assuming that this isn't a terrible unworkable idea (because Thing-I-Haven't-Thought-of-Yet), I have some more specific questions:

1. What kind of relatively low-cost sportswear might be good for this specific situation, i.e. reigning in possible sweat odors and regulating body temperature for 1+ hours? Until now I've just worn old cotton clothes while running, so I have no knowledge of high-tech sports gear, and even less money for it. But if it's really highly recommended for this particular dilemma, I might splurge a bit.

2. I've seen posts about running + backpacks, but I keep wondering about the wear and tear on my netbook, and sometimes a larger laptop. Has anyone had problems with their laptops/electronics specifically due to running with them regularly?

So I would love to hear feedback/ideas/anecdotes/etc.! Has anyone tried something like this before? How did it work out? Other thoughts? Hope I didn't forget any important details. Thanks for taking the time to read!
posted by Pieprz to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How much do *you* sweat when you run, and how smelly are you? It usually takes me a while to get really stinky. Like, the sweat has to fester for a bit (more than an hour) before it starts to smell bad. As far as getting cold goes, bring a sweater in your backpack. Without knowing where you are it's hard to recommend technical clothing - I buy mine at TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Old Navy but I don't think you're in the US.

Also what if you walked to the train and then ran from the subway to campus? YMMV, but if you're a slow runner like myself, you will only save a few minutes by running 2.7 km (I would guess that would take me around 25 minutes to walk and 20 minutes to run). Then on the way back you can walk to the subway and run home from the train station.

Do your computers have SSDs or old-fashioned hard drives? An SSD will be much less affected by jostling from running. Several of my coworkers jog to work, and their machines don't seem to be any worse off than mine (I bike commute over bumpy roads...).

I very very highly recommend a human-powered commute, as much as possible, especially in the winter! It gets you outside and gets you a bit of sunshine (however weak) that really makes a difference for me at least.
posted by mskyle at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2014

If running on the way there is problematic for whatever reason, on the way home, the last leg that is normally bus can be run instead.
posted by 724A at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a doctor once who drove to work on Monday and brought with him everything he needed for the week. Then he'd run 21 MILES home, run back and forth the rest of the week then drive home on Friday.

I think the key for him was being able to leave everything safely in his office and having a space to shower. If you can leave stuff somewhere and shower at the university you'll be almost there.

I would look into a good lightweight jacket or maybe track pants to throw on over your running pants to keep from getting cold.

Do you actually stink after running 3k? If you are clean already and you wear deodorant you probably don't, so I'd mostly worry about shaking those chills off and not stinking up the joint.
posted by stormygrey at 12:54 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd go with a folding bike or a kick scooter.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:45 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

How far is it from the ending train station to campus? Can you walk or scooter the train station, train, then run from the train to campus and shower there?
posted by foodmapper at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2014

What are you carrying to and from campus? One of the reasons I don't commit to a similar kind of running commute is that I need to schlep a lot of stuff and it would be horrible to try to my books/work back and forth every day. There are back packs that are made for runners' use, but they're usually quite narrow so as to keep the runners' arms able to swing freely.

I also tend to get very sweaty even on a short run, and have found that tech gear is actually really good for staying comfortable despite sweating buckets. Even though you might still look like a mess, tech clothes don't get all heavy and feel like they're sticking to you or saturated with sweat like cotton does, and they dry out fairly quickly. I also get them from Marshall's/TJMaxx/etc. Those are basically overstock stores -- there's probably a version of that where you live? I spend about $10 for a running tank, $10-20 for a running shell or sweater, and $10-20 for running pants. I also love sweat-wicking socks, as silly as that sounds -- I think I got my last pack of six pairs for about $8 (at BJ's, a wholesale-to-the-public store. Similar to Cosco, if that helps). Personally, my bottom layer is always a pair of compression pants and a tank, and then I'll add other layers (a shell, etc) as needed.

Personally, I would try using a bicycle with panniers of some kind (even a strapped-on milk crate would probably work) instead of running. If you're committed to running, then I think that finding a way to safely and comfortably carry what you need has to be a priority. The running gear is actually really wonderful in terms of comfort even for non-commuting-runs and well worth spending a few bucks on if you can, regardless, though.
posted by rue72 at 2:25 PM on September 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I will try not to threadsit, but just to answer a few questions...

About stink - you know, to be honest I'm not at all sure how stinky I get. Since I'm pretty new to the running thing as an adult, I just run around for a while (about 5 km average currently) and then come right home into the shower... no 'festering' time. Maybe I could test it out on my husband. ;-)
I do sweat a lot, but it's because I'm doing sprints, which I obviously can leave out when commuting.

About walking/scooting/biking - they are also good ideas, but I think I'm really interested in the running part, and running fast (at least, for my standards).
It feels awesome after sitting and studying for hours on end... or sitting in trains, for that matter.
This isn't about saving time (although it will save that too), but rather saving my sanity, some money, and getting more running into my life in general - a more human-powered commute, thanks for the new term mskyle!
I also like all the suggestions of how to break up the commute differently, I hadn't really thought of it, funnily enough.

About climate - northern Europe, so pretty mild to cold most of the year. From other AskMeFi posts I see that layers are the answer. By the way, we do have TK Maxx, which is exactly the same as TJ Maxx in the US as far as I can tell.

About schlepping - I do have a lot to schlep, but I'm planning on doing as stormeygrey recommends and finding a spot for stuff at university somehow. For those things that I simply have to carry though, I'll see if I can find a good backpack (thanks a lot for the specific gear tips, rue72!)

Appreciate everyone's input so far!
posted by Pieprz at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2014

I sweat pretty profusely, starting just a few minutes into any exercise, but I don't have problems with body odor. However, my running clothes (with technical fabric, which is mainly polyester) start to stink pretty bad, especially if I sit there and let it fester, as you might on the rest of your commute. Plus, the longer I have the clothing, the quicker it tends to start stinking once I start sweating.

I don't think that this is the cheapest option, but have you considered running clothes with wool? It doesn't stink like poly fabric, and it's good for breatheability and temperature regulation. It might even be more cost-effective because you don't have to throw it out due to stink like you may with poly stuff. (On a 5-day running/camping trip I went on a few years ago, a woman wore a single smartwool t-shirt for the entire trip, and we all wore running backpacks and were out there running for the entire day. At the end of the trip, she had everyone sniff her, and there was not a stink to be smelled!) Smartwool makes 'em, but other companies do too. Try googling "wool running shirts" if you're interested!
posted by sweetpotato at 4:16 PM on September 2, 2014

I sometimes run-commute, it's awesome!! I use my running hydration pack with the water pouch removed, and if I pack clothes strategically (thin dress + ballet flats) I can transport a change of clothes plus my wallet/phone/keys. The stretchy straps on the outside can be used to secure a non-bulky jacket or top.

I think it would be fairly uncomfortable to run with a regular large backpack, especially if carrying a laptop. Even just sprinting for the bus with my day-to-day backpack on is no fun, it jostles all over and running several miles with something like that would drive me crazy. My Macbook Air definitely won't fit in any running backpacks I've ever seen.

A quick way to clean off before the train: body wipes. I mostly use these for camping not run commuting, but they are useful. They may make you feel better about not being too gross on the train.

Running clothes: in addition to the running gear others have described, I'd suggest you get a NON-RUNNING jacket or top to keep you warm on the train. When I catch the subway at the end of my run I get cold so quickly! Having a thin fleece or shell from the hiking section of REI really helps. Buying a hot tea or coffee for the train ride also feels fantastic and warms you up.
posted by soleiluna at 4:44 PM on September 2, 2014

I sometimes run-commute too. I only ever do it every second day, though, so the day before I drop off all the things I will need for the following day at my office (maybe you can hire a locker at the gym?)

This means my clothes and shoes for the next day, a towel, my lunch, my laptop, and any work items I need. A hairdryer and shampoo and a bunch of make-up live in my office full time. Then when I run in I only have to carry water, my front door key, my phone and my work swipe-card. This way I don't need a backpack at all. The key and card fit in a little pocket in my running shorts, my phone lives in an armband, and I hold my waterbottle in my hand.

The only thing I haven't figured out is that I have to go up to my office all sweaty and gross in my running gear to fetch my shower stuff and clothes, so I dread running into important work people in that state. I wish I could figure out a way around this. But again, if you can keep your stuff in a locker at the gym, you solve that problem.
posted by lollusc at 7:53 PM on September 2, 2014

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