Random Thoughts on... Running to work

I’ve recently changed Jobs. One of the attractions of my new employer is the proximity - pretty much 2.5 miles door to door. A fairly flat route that passes loads of traffic during the busy rush-hour. I mention this because it’s important - firstly because the time spent running a few miles largely evens itself out when the alternative is to be stuck in the traffic, but also the slightly smug feeling of moving faster than the traffic.

One of my questions during the Interview was “do you have a shower”? This was met with “yes, and we have a blower too”. Wow, I thought - imagining one of those large enclosures with warm fans that you find at Center Parks (or dog groomers). Thhe "blower" turned out to be a hairdryer with a nozzle on the end of a tube - not great to stand there and dry yourself off in front of the mirror (not that that I’ve tried).

Provision of shower facilities shows a good understanding of modern active life. Employers encouraging people to cycle / run / walk to work where possible means that they appreciate having an active workforce, supporting health prevention as well as the classic health cure through private medical benefits. It’s a shame that there’s not a subsidised “Run To Work” trainer subsidy like the cyclists benefit from, but that’s OK.

Over the last few months, I’ve enjoyed slowly running to work at least once, if not twice a week. I’m on a strict Heart-Rate based training plan (self imposed, and to be documented soon), so I go slow, very slow.

My previous colleagues were kind enough to chip in for a leaving gift. I chose a nice quality rucksack, not a specific running rucksack but one with strong zips, plenty of padding and two straps, one at the top, one round my stomach. This weighs about 4 kg when laden with essentials - food, drink, book and clothes. As someone not used to carrying a bit of extra weight, I’ve taken this as a bonus - run happy with it on and I’ll run lighter when it counts.

From a running perspective, some people think 2.5 miles is too short a distance to make it worthwhile. That’s where you can get imaginative - the start and end points are fixed, but what happens in between is your own business. When trying new routes though, I suggest that you try them on the way home - I went a different way home, expecting another half a mile and it turned out to be one and a half - not so great when you need to be at your desk.

I quite enjoy listening to Podcasts during my commute - either work-related, running (Marathon Talk) or maybe “Stuff You Should Know”. Bluetooth headphones are a must, so much easier than dealing with cables. Mine allow me to pause and adjust volume just by tapping my ear. It’s all free learning time, although worryingly at some points the traffic is just too noisy to hear anything. Make sure that your headphones don’t block you off from the outside world though - I can hear just about everything going on outside too.

So, what are my thoughts and what have I learned so far about the run commute?

  • Be aware of other pavement users - if using earphones (as I do), make sure that they don’t block you off from the rest of the world. Be extra aware of the traffic and don’t take chances at lights.

  • Sort out your nutrition - I eat breakfast and shower before leaving the house. I’m only taking it easy, so very few lactic issues. At work, I’ll take some hydration salts, maybe half a Lucozade Sport or maybe a trip to the office canteen. No sympathy for falling asleep at the wheel after a tiring run in.

  • Realise that this is a privilege, not a right. Don’t expect to arrive at your normal start time and sit at your desk in all of your sweaty glory to start the day.

  • Give yourself sufficient time to shower and get changed at work.

  • Consider that someone else may have the audacity to use “your” shower at the time that you want to get changed.

  • It’s best to leave some shirts, trousers and shoes in the office rather than try to carry it all in.

  • Remember that you need a belt too - I was offered a length of CAT5 cable in lieu of the belt that I left behind.

  • Make sure that you take said trousers to the shower! One day, I came out to find that I’d left my trousers at my desk. Cue impromptu stroll back through the office in my t-shirt, shorts and Argyle socks.

  • Check and double check all of the clothes that you take in - realising that someone has mistakenly dropped your son’s underwear into your drawer is so much easier to deal with at home.

  • Ensure that you colour coordinate your trainers and t-shirt to achieve the respect of your colleagues (OK, so I made a bit of that up, but I do my best).

 

  • Understand that sweaty and or wet clothing removed in the morning will not dry itself out by the time that you leave at the end of the day.

  • Dyson drop-in hand dryers appear to be capable of drying shirts, though I only tried it once since I realised later that people might think that I dried the rest of my kit in there.

I normally like to include a picture or two in my writing. This time, I thought I’d use pictures of bells (or hooters (that was an interesting Google search!)) - that’s for my cyclist friends. I may have headphones on, but I can still hear a bell warning me that a cyclist is approaching. It’s certainly safer to know that someone’s coming past and always appreciated.

Happy running! Nigel.

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