Matt’s Guest Blog: Change is Good…Sometimes

In order to keep up with the marathon training program, it seems maintaining a regular routine is just as important as training yourself to actually run 20+ miles. Up until the last couple of weeks, I’d say that I was doing pretty well at keeping up with my weekday runs. Between the injury and the inevitable onset of autumn, I’m finding that running consistency is a lot harder than it was 8 weeks ago.

I’m running out of daylight hours before and after work and loathe the idea having to run more than 4 miles on a treadmill. Forced into adapting my running around the sun, I’ve decided to try out some different types of nighttime runs starting from my office. Unfortunately, my office is only a few blocks north of the National Mall, so the routes really aren’t that different than what I’d normally run.

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It’s a beautiful time of year for running in DC. This was taken during the Federal shutdown on Madison Dr. NW. Since it’s on NPS property, it was “closed”, so runners and bikers took advantage of the car-free road.

Run Commuting

A major requirement with run commuting is storage space to transport your personal items to/from work. I did some backpack research and immediately decided I wasn’t willing to spend $90 on a new pack for this experiment. Luckily, some additional research made it sound like my small North Face Ion 20 pack might suffice for something like this. It didn’t sound ideal, but it could work. My Ion is from 2005 and the new ones look much better suited for run commuting. I was a little unsure of whether my retro Ion actually was a good substitute, but tried anyway.

The next morning I loaded my running gear into my backpack (planned to run home after work) and ran into my first problem. I wear a suit probably 4 days a week and refuse to simultaneously wear a backpack and a suit. Is this a personal style issue? Absolutely.

When running home, I encountered a few problems:

Way too much weight in the pack resulted in back-and-forth swing. The combined weight of my shoes, belt, wallet, clothes, etc. made the pack almost impossible to keep snug on my back. I read up on this after the run and apparently it’s avoidable if you have a highly efficient stride. It sounds like a skill that you really need to work on, which I don’t intend on doing.

To decrease backpack lateral sway, I had to literally hold the straps taught throughout the run. This meant that I couldn’t use my arms as a counter-weight and that really made it a much harder core workout.

Additionally, I wasn’t used to carrying this much additional weight while running. The only item that I generally run with is my water bottle, so I definitely felt the added weight.

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My 2005 The North Face Ion 20

Takeaways from run commuting:

Leave your shoes at work. For me, the problems stemmed from the weight in the backpack, not the design of the backpack itself.

Would I do it again? No – probably not.

Backpack-free Commuting

This is exactly as it sounds – I’ll run home without the annoyances of the backpack that I just described. The plan was to just leave my clothes and things at work and bring them home the next day.

When I was packing my running gear that morning, I overlooked one giant thing: I would need to run with at least my wallet, keys and phone. I typically don’t run with any of these things, so I’m not surprised I didn’t think of this. My SpiBelt would have fit all of those items, but I rarely use it and definitely didn’t think about bringing it to work. Luckily I happened to grab my only pair of running shorts with pockets large enough to hold my essentials.

For an array of reasons, I had a pretty awful backpack-free run. First, my Shuffle was dead and the headphones were too short to reach my iPhone (in my pocket). Also, I found that steak is awful “running fuel” for me. I had some of the worst stomach issues I’ve experienced in awhile. Lastly, I was having a problem with a very tight knee/hip. This is partially due to the difficulty of stretching in my office before the run.

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It’s hard not to stop and admire how pretty the Mall is during sunset. It’s a great time to be out and running.

Looped Run

This is a pack-free run starting and ending at my office. This was probably the best post-work alternative that I found because I only needed to carry my office keys on me. I didn’t have to worry about pockets, backpacks, etc. and it was great.

Problems:

– It was hot and they cut the AC in our office at 5:45, so a cooldown was really difficult, which leads to…

– Having to Metro home sweaty

I think I’m done experimenting with runs originating from my office. I didn’t really enjoy any of these options and they really caused me more stress than they were worth. I think I’m better off running on a treadmill until I get bored (3-4 miles).

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