Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Run Commuting

I ran to work yesterday! Well, ran + took the train + ran to work. 

Though I do technically live in Portland, which does have a decent public transportation system, it's not so decent in the suburbs. For example, there's one single bus line that goes by my work building, and it only runs during rush hour in the morning and evening, and only on week days, and only every 40 minutes. When you account for the time restrictions plus that it's running in traffic so not any faster than your own car, it's not even a remotely decent option. (When I lived south of work, I determined that it would take over an hour to ride it the 5 miles to work. From where I live now, I'd have to take the MAX east into downtown, in order to catch a bus back southwest to get to work, taking an hour and a half in total (versus just taking 9 miles of freeway straight down). No thanks!)

I use the MAX (light rail) to go into downtown, but the line that runs west of downtown just goes straight out west, nothing further down, such as south towards where I work. BUT, there's a newer train line, the WES (westside express service), that basically parallels the freeway I'd take south (and extends further south beyond that) (though only runs during rush hour, on weekdays, every 30 minutes). It was problematic, though, in not getting quite close enough to work - I'd have to walk or run or bike, and until last week I didn't think that was feasible, cause I didn't have anywhere to shower and get ready for work after an active commute. 

Then I found out that there's been a shower/locker room in my building the entire four years my firm has been there, I just hadn't registered that fact in my mind (wouldn't have considered running any distance to work at the time I once knew about it!). So I can run (in a season with less chance of rain, I might bike) to and from the train, and it saves me 5 miles of running, making the total distance feasible. The commute takes longer than driving, sure, but if I did the same mileage as a separate workout, my total time spent isn't any longer. (The train portion is 10 minutes - about the same as driving if there's no traffic, but there usually is traffic, and so even adding in cushion to arrive early for the train, it nets out pretty even.)

It's still not a totally direct set up and it's a bit more mileage than I'd prefer to have in one day, but it's doable, at least on occasion. I think I'm going to aim for once a week to start, and see about maybe adding in a second day sometimes. 

To prepare, I brought supplies for the run commute day to work the day before - breakfast and lunch, clothes and toiletries. On my run I wore my camelbak (sans water bladder), carrying my wallet, phone, and makeup (I might buy an extra set of makeup to keep at work if this does become routine, but didn't want to spend it right away). I wore my blinky reflective vest for the front, and clipped a bike light onto my camelbak (since it was covering the vest). I also brought a headlamp in my pack in case I needed it for the evening, but didn't end up using it.

My route ends up running 1.75 miles to the WES station near me, then taking the train to the station nearest my work. From there's it's another 2.6 miles of running. I have to go up to my office to grab my clothes and such, then use the locker room on the first floor to shower and get ready. I ended up ready and at my desk just under two hours from when I left the house - not too bad for getting in a solid workout and commute! 

On the way home, it's the 2.6 miles back to the train, train to the transit center, then I actually took the MAX home, leaving me only half a mile for my final leg from there. I could take the MAX in the morning, and only have one leg of running, but since the WES is only every half hour, the timing would have to be more carefully planned (if I miss a MAX, it could make me miss the WES entirely (or else build in a ridiculously large time cushion); but while running I plan it based on a slower pace, and if needed can just run faster). But no real time constraints coming home, plus the MAX runs more often, so it works out well (plus it removes a run portion that would be uphill on the way back!). 

How the morning went:

I realized when I got up and knew I had to get dressed and out the door pretty quickly, that there wasn't time for going to the bathroom #2. (To clarify, no in the sense of having time to do it, but that it takes a while of being awake for it to happen, so I think I've now met my oversharing blogging quota for the day.) On the rare occasions when I run in the morning on a weekday, it's short enough for that not to matter (by the end of a couple miles things have jiggled around enough inside that I'll be able to easily go by the time I get home, but not so much that I start needing to go during). This did start become an issue by the last mile or so of my run, which got slightly uncomfortable but fortunately nothing of an urgent situation.

How the evening went

This is my more typical running time, so running wise it felt more normal. I was able to leave a little on the early side, so it was light out when I left, just getting dusk when I was getting to the train station. By the time I transferred to the MAX it was fully dark, but my short bit home from there had enough light that I felt safe enough with my blinky lights, and didn't need any additional light to see. 

The WES train is pretty nice - the seats were larger and more like a charter bus, than the MAX or a city bus. There's even wi fi on the train, though I tried to connect and it was really slow so switched back over to cell coverage (nice in theory, at least). 

Having grown up in a more rural area, and then lived in various parts of the suburbs, I felt a bit like a kid playing at "office" thinking about how I had to leave in time to catch my train. Living and working where I do, a bit removed from the Portlandia culture, and being part of a conservative industry that places more value on prestigious cars and having the privilege to not rely no public transportation, than necessarily contributing to environmental goals, it just feels a bit out of place to have an alternate arrangement going on. But I'm glad to have an opportunity to reduce my driving fuel and carbon footprint at least one day a week, and fit in some extra exercise in the process. 


  1. Very interesting!! It does take you a lot of extra work but if it flows, it seems like a great solution. We do have a shower in other building here and I thought about trying it. My run is actually a very short distance but i have to cross a very busy road and it make me nervous.
    I am intrigued by this!

    1. Yeah definitely requires some planning (both stuff and timing), but I'm excited I figured out a way for it to happen!


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