Why Running to Work is the Best Commute Ever, and How To Do It

I will start by saying there is an entire blog devoted to this topic, and the blogger there covers this issue very, very well.  In fact, I read several of his posts before adopting the run commuter lifestyle.  So here you go:  The Run Commuter.

But I will add my few cents here.


I started running to work about six months ago when I changed jobs.  My new office is 2.5 miles from my home, and there is not a particularly direct way to get there using the public transportation options.  In fact, I am not even sure if I could save time by using public transportation.  And it would certainly cost more than running.  Biking was another option, but I am less comfortable with city biking, and I would have to lock up my bike in a dungeon each morning and unlock it each night.  That sounded like a lot of time taken up by logistics for such a short ride.

I figured that if it took me about 30 minute to run to my new job, that was a reasonable commute time–very similar to my walk to my old job, and about what many people drive or Metro from nearby suburbs.  And of course I knew I was physically capable run the 2.5 miles (whether I would WANT to would be another question…).  Here are the main benefits I’ve identified:

  1. I get a minimum workout each day.  Most days, I have a nice, quick jog for 2.5 miles to work, and then I walk home in the evening.  I burn close to 500 calories just getting to and from work.  I can extend my morning run if I want, but even the shorter run has impacted my fitness.  I can tell that my legs are looking more toned, and my race time is back under 4 hours.  I still try to do some other workout about 4 days a week, including a long run if I am in training, Pilates, yoga, lifting at the gym, or Orangetheory.
  2. Instead of causing me stress, my commute helps me mentally prepare for work in the morning and decompress at the end of the day.  I come home at night having left the stress on the sidewalk.
  3. Running saves a lot of money compared to taking a bus or Metro.  I’ve only had to take an Uber a few times, usually during serious evening rain storms this past summer or if I am stuck at work super late.  The only cost of running was the initial investment in the backpack, plus getting shoes slightly more often.
  4. Good for the environment.  Keep your Prius; I’ve got LEGS.

But there is some planning that goes into becoming a run commuter.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Path.

I suggest looking for a route that uses sidewalks or paths (as opposed to running in the street) as much as possible, is well-lit, has the fewest stop lights, and in DC especially, has the FEWEST GODAWFUL TRAFFIC CIRCLES.  But keep in mind that the most direct route might not actually be the quickest, or the most pleasant.  I changed my route after a week because the road I was taking was just too darn loud.  After a day at work, I want to enjoy my run home, not be bombarded by car horns and sirens.

Step 2: Figure Out Your Shower Plan.

Admittedly, I was very lucky that my office has accessible showers for me to use.  Otherwise, I would have had to stop at a gym to shower before work, which might have made things more logistically complicated.  Also consider whether your office has any rules or standards about walking through the lobby or main entrance sweaty and wearing Spandex.  Lucky again, mine is fine with it.  Finally, towels.  Does the office or gym provide towels to use?  Or do you need to bring one and store it in your office?  Or, hell, can’t you just air dry?

Step 3: Get Your Gear.

This was the most important and research-intensive portion of switching to run commuting.  How would I carry all the things I needed for work and showering and life and a round trip of running?  This is where I really relied on the The Run Commuter.  I took his suggestion to get an Osprey Stratos 24 backpack.  It is nearly perfect: it moves very little and feels secure, it has a rain cover for wet days, it provides good ventilation on my back during the summer months, and it fits everything I need–rarely reaching full capacity, especially in the summer, when I’m wearing less and my clothes aren’t taking up much space.   The pack might be too small to carry a large laptop (I haven’t tried), but it could easily fit an iPad.  There are nice mesh pockets on each side to hold water and/or a smoothie.  I usually don’t bring water with me, but I do bring my smoothie, which I drink when I’m showering and getting dressed.  I can reach the bottle in the pockets without having to take off the pack.

My only quibble with the Stratos 24 is that the zipper pocket on the waistband is just slightly too small to comfortably fit my iPhone 6.  I usually run with the corner of my phone poking out, and it’s stayed there during all my runs.  I just wish it fit in entirely and without me needing to wiggle it in so forcefully.  An iPhone 5 would be fine.  A 6 Plus would definitely not fit in this particular pocket.

Of course, I also wear my running shoes and normal running clothes.  As the days get shorter, I will try to wear brighter colors and maybe reflective gear.  However, my whole route is on sidewalk, so running at night should be less risky than if I needed to cross large roads or run on a shoulder.  I might also need to consider running with the headlamp if I discover spots that are poorly lit; a few of the sidewalks are not in the best shape, and I don’t want to fall on my face.

Step 4: Pack Your Bag

I like to pack my bag the night before work, except for my work clothes, which I put in just before I leave the house to prevent wrinkling.  These are the items I carry each day:

  • Work clothes (usually an easy dress)
  • Spare running clothes for running home
  • A plastic bag for sweaty clothes
  • A Vega smoothie
  • Lunch (most days; just packed in tupperware)
  • Deodorant, face lotion, shampoos, hair product, some basic makeup items
  • A hair brush
  • Headphones (which I don’t use on my commute, unless I am talking on the phone)
  • My phone
  • Chapstick
  • Shower shoes
  • My wallet

And these are the items I wear each day:

  • Running clothes
  • Running shoes
  • Running socks
  • Sunglasses
  • An Apple Watch with Strava

And these are the items I leave at work:

  • Work shoes
  • Snacks
  • A water bottle
  • Allergy medicine
  • A toothbrush
  • Extra hair ties
  • A light rain coat for running home if it is raining
  • A pullover for running home if it is cold
  • A cardigan to wear during the workday
  • A purse
  • As it gets colder, I will also probably bring a heavier nice jacket to keep in my office for when I need to leave mid-day for meetings or lunch.

Step 5: Run! 

Easy as that.  You’ll feel great, I promise.

Step 6: Have a Backup Plan.

It is nice knowing that if I have to work late, or if there is a torrential downpour, I can Uber home.

Anyone else tried running to work?  If not, what is holding you back?  

6 thoughts on “Why Running to Work is the Best Commute Ever, and How To Do It

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  6. Agree! I love the run commute! I split my commutes between running and riding, but both are great ways to get to the office, and you have some great tips in this post. When people talk to me about commuting by bike, I try to tell them about the importance of setting up a system like what you illustrate here. I have a system for both running and riding, and it works well most days.


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