1. Outrunning A Bus Is Easy
Commuting in and out of a busy town or city can be a grindingly slow, stop-starty process. According to the TUC, the average British worker spends 52.8 minutes crawling to and from work by bus, car or train.
Predictably, those commuting into overcrowded London have it even worse, with an average daily journey time of 75 minutes.
Looked at another way, that means that most commuters are spending in excess of five weeks of every year travelling to and from work, either crammed like cattle onto public transport, or shuffling along roads alongside the 57.7% of the UK’s working population who travel to work by car or van.
Little wonder that gliding along the pavements in your trainers – past the sweaty, gridlocked, fumin’ masses – really can get you home quicker of an evening.
And even if it doesn’t quite manage that, wouldn’t you rather spend five-plus weeks a year getting fit-as-a-fiddle rather than snails-pacing along in a metal box?
(Hopefully you’re nodding in firm agreement right now. You’re nodding, right? Cool.)
2. You’ll Be As Rich As Scrooge McDuck
Rising transport costs are far outstripping increases in pay, leaving more and more of us feeling squeezed in the wallet every time we head off to work. Season tickets for some popular commuter routes – such as Dover Priory to London – have now passed the £5,000-a-year mark, and lowest-paid workers can find themselves spending as much as £1 of every £5 they earn on getting to work.
“You really do save large sums of money running to and from work,” confirms run-commute evangelist Gordon Lott, who runs run2work. “Even if you get public transport part of the way and then run the rest, the savings will soon add up.”
For example, let’s say that one section of your commute is a short train journey that costs £3 either way. If you were to replace this (probably cramped, probably stinky) train journey with running, you’d save £1,518 a year. To repeat: one-and-a-half grand a year.
3. It’s Honestly Not That Far, Honestly
“Almost everyone who I speak to about running to work says, ‘Oh I couldn’t, it’s too far!’” says Gordon Lott of run2work. But you’ll be amazed how quickly you can get from A to B when you’re not being hindered by traffic, queues and weird, indirect, round-the-houses routes.
When people have used the run2work Route Planner and then tried that route, they’re always, every time, amazed
Google Maps will, of course, plan you on-foot routes from home to work and back again, while entering your start- and end-point postcodes into run2work’s Route Planner will tell you how long an as-the-crow-flies route will take you, depending on whether you run at an “easy jog”, “medium pace” or “faster pace”.
Says Gordon, “When people have used our Route Planner and then tried that route, they’re always, every time, amazed – ‘Oh, it really wasn’t that far at all!’”
That could be you. That’s what you’ll say!
4. It’ll Murder Your Work-Stress
A 2014 study by the Office For National Statistics found that, even if they’re paid more than people who don’t have to travel to work, commuters are more likely to feel “anxious, dissatisfied, and have the sense that their daily activities lack meaning”. Yeesh.
The study found that these negative feelings increased with each additional minute spent commuting, all the way up to the three-hour point (at which point these effects began tailing off). Perhaps unsurprisingly, commuters who travelled by train felt these underlying emotions most keenly. Anyone who’s ever done rush-hour by rail will feel their pain.
Conversely, running is an incredibly effective mood-lifter, thanks to the way it floods your brain with feel-good chemicals, leaving you happier, more awake and more energetic. In fact, numerous studies have shown regular running to be as effective as prescription drugs such as Zoloft when it comes to alleviating mild to moderate depression.
And if you’ve had a crappy, stressy afternoon at work, a run will reset your mood way better than a few moany boozes in the pub. Here comes the science…
“Chronic stress, as often experienced in the workplace, has a negative impact on almost every area of the body, from your skin to your reproductive organs,” neuroscientist Dr Nicola Ray tells Unbound. “Running is a highly effective means to counteract the impact of chronic stress: it causes the release of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides (such as dopamine and endorphins) in the brain, which enable you to more easily shrug the day off when you get home.
“But do be careful: running to alleviate acute stress, as experienced on particularly testing days, is associated with increased risk of injury. If you’re running after a particularly harsh day at work, it’s wise to keep it steady and moderate, even if you’re so fired-up you feel like you could sprint a marathon.”
5. You’ll Be Healthier (Stupidly So)
Okay, so this one is a bit “durr – obviously” – but you may be surprised at just how much healthier you’ll be.
According to NHS physical activity guidelines, anyone between the ages of 19 and 64 should be aiming to get either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (cycling or brisk walking, for example) every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise (i.e. running). So even if you only run for a 15-minute section of your daily journey to/from work, you’ll be in your doctor’s good books.
Regular running builds bone density, combats insomnia, sharpens the brain and prevents type-2 diabetes and high blood-pressure. But beyond the immediate impact run-commuting will have on your health, you’ll also be future-proofing yourself.
A study published in the respected Journal Of Nutrition found a direct correlation between making physical exercise a regular part of your routine and the prevention of certain kinds of cancer, while an epic 35-year study by Cardiff University found that exercise also helped safeguard against the onset of dementia.
“Its impact on the brain appears to be gigantic,” neuroscientist Dr Nicola Ray tells Unbound. “That recent study of 2,235 older men found that the risk of developing dementia was reduced by as much as 60% in those who’d followed a generally healthy lifestyle, with regular exercise, such as running, being the leading mitigating factor.”
Basically, if you want to be the sharpest and strongest biddy/codger down the local bowls club in 2050, it’s run-commuting FTW.
6. It’s Less Scary Than Cycling
“Cycle-to-work schemes have had an enormous amount of support, both from the government and in the media,” says Gordon Lott of run2work. “But there haven’t been any schemes – or tax breaks – encouraging people to run to work. Thing is, cycling’s not for everyone, and there are certain risks involved when you’re talking about cycling on busy roads.”
The biggest dangers you’ll face while running pavements are slow-moving schoolkids and mobility scooters
We’d never want to discourage anyone from commuting by bike – provided you take the necessary precautions, it can be a lot of fun – but if the thought of getting buffered between HGVs and number 73s fills you with the fear, rest assured that the biggest dangers you’ll face while running pavements are slow-moving packs of schoolkids and aggressively-driven mobility scooters.
7. You’ll Be Hot And Everyone Will Fancy You
Everything above is all very well, but it’s hard to beat that deliciously shallow thrill you get out of looking great (and people around you noticing that).
Provided your day-to-day diet is sensible (mostly, anyway…) then run-commuting will help you shed pounds and burn calories like few other activities. The exact amounts will vary depending on your weight, speed and the distances you run, but, as an example, a 160lb (11.4 stone) person running five miles in 45 minutes will burn more than 600 calories off.
Running uphill is particularly effective for shapin’ up your glutes (bumcheeks)
Obviously, running home from work isn’t going to buff you up like hitting the weights room in the gym every day, but it will tone you, particularly below-the-belt – your calves, shins, hamstrings and quads will all get tightened-up, while running uphill is particularly effective for shapin’ up your glutes (bumcheeks).
Basically, whit-woo at you.
5 Backpacks Worthy Of Your Run-Commute
BIG, BAD, WATERPROOF
1. dhb Waterproof Backpack 25l
Ruggedly constructed with welded seams and a secure roll-top closer, this backpack offers the level of protection-from-rain you need if you’re regularly running with laptops, tablets or luxurious angora sweaters in tow.
A chest strap, hip-belt and anatomically-shaped foam keep the bag firmly in place even when you’ve maxed-out its hefty 25-litre capacity, and it’s surprisingly light given its size and toughness.
And while it may appear to be voguishly all-black, there are reflective elements to help keep you safe on late-night runs.
£49.99, available at Wiggle.co.uk
Offers the protection-from-rain you need if you’re regularly running with laptops, tablets or luxurious angora sweaters
2. Karrimor X Lite Running Backpack
At this price you’re obviously not going to get bleeding-edge tech and materials, but unless you’ll be running with a heaving cargo, the X Lite could be all you need.
There are chest- and hip-straps, easy-to-access side pockets, and an internal hydration pocket that you can pop a water-bladder and straw into. And it’s barely-there light.
By the way, it is available in colours other than retina-melting pink, if that’s not your cup of tea…
£19.99, available at Sports Direct
BRIGHT ‘N’ LIGHT
3. Saucony Speed Of Lite Backpack
By far the lightest and brightest backpack here, this featherweight number from veteran US sportswear company Saucony keeps things pleasingly minimal.
What it does have is a chest-strap (no hip-strap – a bonus if you find them annoying); two mesh side-pockets big enough for bottles; and a removable foam backboard, if you want to really strip things down to the bare bones.
The Speed Of Lite may be ultra-thin, but it ain’t flimsy: it’s made of Ripstop, a hard-wearing fabric used in parachutes.
NO STRAPS REQUIRED
If you want to run unencumbered by a backpack – and you don’t have much to transport beyond a wallet, keys and a phone – a FlipBelt could be a godsend.
Essentially a belt crossed with a bumbag, you slide your belongings inside the FlipBelt through its small openings, before flipping it over to keep them firmly in place.
We’ve road-tested one for several weeks, and – surprisingly – it neither rides up nor slides down while you run, and can be trusted to keep objects as large and hefty as a Samsung Note phablet in place.
5. Osprey Tempest 9 Daypack
Many women, particularly those with smaller builds, can find that even smaller backpacks don’t hug their figure properly, causing them to jiggle about and chafe during running.
Osprey’s latest ‘daypack’ is custom-made for smaller frames, however, and its adjustability, quality materials and clever air-ventilation make this a solid bet if comfort is your number-one priority.
The nine-litre capacity is just enough to handle a netbook/tablet, shoes and maybe a couple of items of clothing. It’s not cheap, but it’s extremely well-made, and built to last you years.