June 4, 2014

10 Tips From A Commute Runner

Since about two years ago, I run to work two to three days a week. For me, it is a fast, healthy, efficient way to travel through busy Montreal and to steer clear from the cabin fever of public transport. It gives me about 30 minutes of physical activity two times per day and helps me draw the line between my work and my life. On my way to work this morning, I had the idea to write down a couple tips for those of you who would like to try the commute running lifestyle a try.

1. Focus
Running is fun and liberating, but commute running is a completely different animal. Put your game face on, you’re putting yourself through of a wild variety of moving objects and persons. A lot of people around you – drivers, walkers, commuters – are stressed out and may be distracted, anxious, aggressive or a dangerous mix of all that. This is no place to “zone out”; you need all your senses on high alert. Stay in the moment. That in itself isn’t incompatible with fun, it’s just a very different kind of running!

2. Your speed is weird
You are way faster than a walker, but significantly slower than most bikers. Yet, you are swifter than a kid on a skateboard… or a car in heavy traffic. You’re nimbler than most moving things around you, but your forward momentum prevents you from stopping instantaneously. In a nutshell, do not expect anyone to actually understand and compute your moving pattern. It is your responsibility to realize that you travel at a fringe speed. The sooner you come to grips with this, the safer you’ll be.

3. You are a vehicle
You are not a pedestrian. You are a self-propelled vehicle. You should signal your turn intentions, try not to sneak too close to people behind their backs (you don’t want them jolting or jumping in your way) and leave reasonable space for everyone and everything. Of course, if you’re commuting in a busy urban environment like I do, that’s not always possible. Therefore, tell people you’re coming, or “passing on your left”, or “coming through”. A little courtesy “Thank you” or “hello” never hurts, either.

4. Be aware. Be flashy. But forget about being seen.
Dress in ultra-bright running clothes. Favor anything that has reflective materials. Wear a strobe LED “tail light” or a flashing headlamp. Do everything you can to be seen. Look ahead. Constantly use your peripheral vision. And look back! However, as we said before, you can’t expect anyone to see you and understand what it is you’re doing. So don’t.

5. Leave the MP3 at home
We’ve said it; you need your senses, and all of them. I’ve avoided some potentially catastrophic situations by hearing an incoming engine, the clanking of a brand new construction site or a mother desperately yelling at her runaway kid. Part of your full awareness as a commute runner comes from paying attention to the sounds that surround you. With that said, long-time readers of FlintLand will notice that I do, sometimes, bring my music on commute runs. However, this is not something I recommend.

6. Get the fuck out of the way
Pre-emptively avoid any possible collision, whether with a stray walker, a speeding bike courier or anything else that pops around you. Don’t expect anything or anyone to yield the way or make space; because if they don’t, you’re the one in trouble. You’re out there to travel to work, not to make a point. Unless you see yourself as some sort of urban activist fighting for commute runners’ rights, make sure never to be in anyone’s way. That includes swerving off the sidewalk for a short segment to avoid a guy walking three dogs on leashes or cutting through a street between intersections when no cars are passing. That also includes staying off bike paths, busy walkways and places like high-traffic driveways where cars can unexpectedly come out. As much as humanly possible, you want to be moving alone.

7. Stop.
This is counter-intuitive to most runners, because we’re used to just go out and run consistently, whether on roads or trails. Commuting is different. When you get to a point where you can’t avoid crossing traffic or being around numerous other moving things, stop and wait for your turn. If you just can’t stand that, well, open Google Maps and get working on a route that avoids busy crossings. Busting through is simply not an option. Small city parks, backstreets, large parking lots and dirt paths are among some of the tricks I use.

8. Blind corners are your worst enemies
The most dangerous thing for a commute runner is cornering a street block without seeing if anyone or anything is coming. As much as I try to avoid this situation, it still happens every once in a while. There are two ways to go about this; either you stop or slow down enough to take a peak, or you make a wide-enough turn so that you can burst out of the way if something happens. Running straight ahead on a street with blind corners is as dangerous; leave as much space as you can between yourself and the walls, pay attention to how the people ahead of you react while crossing the dangerous spot and always be ready to jolt away.

9. Embrace the bulk
Commute running is a little more gear-intensive, unless you have the privilege to forgo the backpack and leave some clothes at work. Since you likely carry on your back all you need for your day, you’ll be tempted to go as light as possible. I actually stopped thinking like that and bring extra rain gear (although ultra-light), some post-run snacks and sometimes my tablet. The “luxury” is worth the extra weight, plus I see it as additional strength training :)

10. Enjoy!
My friend Jamil Coury once told me “Whenever you have a hard time in your run, lift your head up and look around. Remember where you are; and remember what you are doing.” Although his advice was aimed at helping me in my first ultra, this very much applies to commute running as well. While everyone else is crammed in a bus or swearing at the wheel of a car stuck in unending traffic, you are using your own body as a vehicle, you are washing away the stresses of a work day, you are giving yourself some healthy “me-time” and you are being awesome!

Courir au boulot, être son propre véhicule. Les dix trucs d'un coureur urbain; concentrez-vous, soyez conscient de votre étrange vitesse, réalisez que vous êtes un véhicule, soyez visible sans vous attendre à être vu, oubliez votre lecteur MP3, débarrassez le chemin, arrêtez, les angles morts sont vos pires ennemis, acceptez la surcharge et amusez-vous!

1 comment:

  1. My dear Blue Feather, may your joyful spirit forever dance, run, commute, and play happy and free in the Concrete Jungle. Viva La Vida! La Mariposa Encantadora