London’s streets are a distinctly different place this week. With tube strikes bringing the capital to a crawl, there’s a definite increase in the amount of lycra on show as commuters run or cycle to work to avoid the slow moving traffic and cramped buses. But why wait until now to feel the benefits of the run commute.
Wherever you live, with summer weeks away, there’s no better time to run to work. Here’s a starters guide to help you get from A to B in the most practical way possible.
A running rucksack
When it comes to gear, a rucksack designed for running is a must. Fit is everything and make sure you try before you buy, ideally by taking it out for a spin with some weight in it. Length is particularly important: if the pack sits too high you’ll end up craning your neck forwards or bending from the waist, which isn’t great for running form. Look for a well structured hip belt and a chest strap, which should feature a bit of stretch and be adjustable. Here are current our pick in the RW office:
Recommended by Joe Mackie, RW's Deputy Editor: Osprey, Talon 18, £70
"Comfy as a gentle hug, yet sticks like a limpet. Also, great attention to detail on the pockets and compartment options to accommodate all your daily essentials."
Recommended by Kerry McCarthy, RW's Senior Writer: Omm 25 litre classic, £63
"After five years of daily use and abuse my first version of this recently gave out on me. I immediately bought another one without even considering another brand. There's a light chassis down the back that moulds the pack to your spine, the pack can be made smaller or bigger according to load, by using a system of drawstrings and toggles; there are chest and waist harnesses to hold the pack securely in place when running and just in case the 25L capacity of the main chamber isn't enough, there are three other zip pockets for the overflow. Oh, and a whistle on the chest strap in case you get lost in the countryside while being chased by an axe murderer."
Recommended by Ben Hobson, RW's web editor: Berghaus Limpet 20, £55
"With over a year of running/cycling to work, my limpet is still going strong. The chest and waist straps are very robust, the fit limpet-like, there are side pockets with bungees to keep water bottles in place, attachment loops and velcro straps to hold all sorts and enough space inside for a change of clothes and shoes. There are some great design features too; the two bobbled padding columns down the back allow for the bag to fit nicely around the spine whilst aiding breathability and the bright coloured panels and zips add visibility to those darker runs. £55 might sound expensive, but if a single peak time tube journey costs £2.80 then after 20 uses the bag has already paid for itself so you'll getting fitter and saving money!"
Even with the lighter nights, a lightweight high-vis jacket or top will keep you safe and seen on the roads.
Puma Night Glow Jacket, £60
The hi-vis offering comes in two parts in Puma's running jacket: the check design is reflective, and the zips and logo glow in the dark, too. The fit is decent and breathability is good thanks to mesh panels under the arms and a ventilation strip across the back.
adidas SMT Jacket, £55
While at first glance the adidas SMT doesn’t look up to much, the check detail is reflective and the fit is brilliant and very comfortable to wear, with a low-cut collar beating irritation under the chin. Not so good for rainy days, but offers decent wind protection.
The Run Longer Light Series from Nathan Sports features a range of compact high-visibility clip on and strap on lighting. Check out the range here.
The lightspur that fits on the back of your trainers has been particularly effective for night runs after a long day at work.
A pollution-beating mask
If air quality is your greatest concern with run commuting, then the Respro Sportsta (£29.99, respro.com) features lightweight neoprene which offers maximum ventilation without compromising on comfort or filtration power. Upgrade the mask by adding techno filters (£16.99 for two) for superior air filtration.
The bigger picture
If you live in London, the service Home Run will transport your bags home for you, while you run with a group of fellow commuters. 2014 runs start soon - check out homerunlondon.com to register your interest.
It's an obvious risk when running in a city, but there some simple ways to avoid inhaling too much mucky air. According to a report by Government advisory body the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP), the health cost of air pollution in the UK is equivalent to every citizen dying six months early. While as runners we are fitter than the general population, we are more vulnerable to air pollution since we shift more air in and out of the lungs and so become exposed to a larger dose. How can we avoid the dangers?
- Avoid sunny days with no breeze – these conditions can lead to the formation of a toxic cocktail of pollutants that linger in the air.
- Use the website walkit.com to plan your journey and avoid routes with less pollution.
- Check air quality in your area on the website uk-air.defra.gov.uk and keep tabs on the Air Quality Network (londonair.org.uk), an up-to-the-minute ‘nowcast’ provided by King College London. It also offers a London Air iPhone app.
Rush hour city streets are a hazardous affair, and whether you’re crossing roads, running alongside them or running on them, keep your wits about you. Always:
- Use crossings. Five times as many pedestrians are killed by not using crossings compared with those using them. Make eye contact with the driver and don’t run red lights.
- Shorten your stride. You’ll be able to react more quickly if you suddenly need to stop or change direction. Adding some lateral moves and agility work to your training programme will help, too.
- Look where you’re going. Sounds obvious, but looking a few metres ahead will allow you to scan the ground for stones and dips in the road.
- Go loud. Wear high vis and bright clothing to ensure you’re seen.