Somehow I got it into my head recently to start running to (and from) work. I guess I would have assumed that people do this on a regular basis throughout the world, but I really did think of it more or less on my own, during my own walks to work through center city, and partly inspired by reading Born To Run on the train. However, yesterday, as the urge grew so strong I knew I was actually going to do it, and as a result began researching running backpacks online, I discovered that commuting to work via running is possibly a movement.
So I want to be crystal clear from the outset, more for myself than anyone who might read this, that I am not doing this to join a movement. I am not exactly sure why I am doing it, but its not to identify myself with a group. If anything, it might be the polar opposite.
I am guessing this blog might be about trying to resolve this newly formed desire.
I have been fascinated by ultra-distance running for several years. I dabbled in running marathons, fisnished an iron-distance tri, and after a while felt kind of burned out on road running and retured to my running roots — the track. I have spent the last two years focused soley on the 400 meters and sprinting, which has been amazing, but a few months ago I began to feel a revived fascination with distance bubble back up to the surface. I decided at the end of this year’s outdoor track season to try moving up to the 800 meters, and still plan to do so, but I am also now running cross country (just like I did as a sprinter in high school) and the road miles feel great.
At the same time, I just keep trying to figure out how to make my commute more tolerable. I tried cycling when I first moved to the suburbs and began taking the train into town. That was one of the more stress-inducing activities I have ever tried, with people constantly yelling at me for following the rules of the road, or sneering at me for taking up space on the train. I ended up walking from the train instead of cycling or taking the subway when I discovered that it was only a 20-minute walk. But believe it or not, sometimes walking through center city is almost as stressful at cycling — people in cars can just be nasty, and too many people do not understand crosswalks and pedestrian right of way.
So, here I am, with a new idea on how to make the commute more enjoyable, and maybe even beneficial. Lately I have had more trouble getting my workouts in, mainly due to our toddler being joined by a newborn. Procreation can throw a major monkey wrench into one’s schedule. However, my commute by train and walking takes an hour one-way. The diatnce is just over 8 miles. I am a slow distance runner, so at this point it would take longer, but I am betting that over time I could coever the distance in the same time. Sixteen miles round trip. That’s eighty miles per week. I have never come close to that kind of mileage, and it excites me to imagine it. The only caveat to this is that the route will take me straight through Camden. Enough said. I am really unsure about running though Camden with a pack on my back every day, but then again, maybe that is just the paranoia that results from the lack of the actual experience. I remember riding my bike through Camden, and that didn’t feel safe, but I will have to try it on foot.
The plan is to ease into this. Today I took the train the 16th and Locust, then ran west to the Schyulkill Banks Trail, then north to Spring Garden Street and back east to work. Just over 3 miles. The direct route from the train station to work is just over a mile, which is a little pointless, so I added the arc out to the river. Part of my thinking is that if I travel for the same amount of time running in place of walking (and eventually riding the train) then I am not sacrificing any additional time to do this.
And there lies a big piece of my intrigue — running to and from work is brilliant, since we already have to make the commute. I already spend two hours each day traveling to and from work, and I currently log about forty minutes of brisk-pace walking in the process. Instead, maybe I can run the full distance and in the same amount of time log that eighty miles per week.
The next part of the plan is to do all this running in a way that feels as normal as walking. I am running slowly, thinking about efficiency first and foremost, and working to enjoy the activity in the same way I enjoy walking. If I try to take on too much too soon, I will kill the joy. So next week it will be two days, doing the three-mile arc route. The next week I will add a day, and maybe get off the train sooner and add some distance. Even if I never run the entire eight mile route from home, there are several options I can choose, including getting off the train at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge in Camden.
The more humorous part of all this is trying to figure out the logistics. I bought the bag yesterday afternoon, and now I have to coordinate what I store in my locker at work and what I wear during the day. Part of me just wants to work in my running clothes, but I think that would draw too much attention to myself.
Time to change and head home.