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The Appeal of the Run Commute

Run Commute by the Smithsonian

Because I have a fall running event coming up, I’ve inserted a couple of run commutes into my weekly commute diet. While cycling is my primary mode of commuting, mixing it up with run commuting has proven quite pleasant.

Not surprisingly, my running route to and from the office varies from my bike routine. First, I don’t run in the streets. HA! Second, I don’t run in the 15th Street bike lane. HA HA!

I’ve figured out a quiet, low-traffic, point-to-point run commute route. It takes me through one of the Smithsonian gardens and across the National Mall, both of which I find to be particularly peaceful in the morning.

The most direct path is 2.5 miles one way, and I can easily extend the mileage if I choose, basically by adding extra miles along the Mall. Who doesn’t like running on the Mall? The lack of cars (except at intersections), the hard packed surface that’s easy impact on the body, the striking memorials and monuments… I’ve been a D.C. resident since 2001 and I never tire of it.

Run commuting forces me to travel light, since everything I take to the office on my back, I have to haul back home on my back. On my run commute days, I minimize. There’s also no coasting (unlike cycling), though I will slow my pace to a walk if need be.

Perspective also shifts not only due to the distinct route, but also because I morph from cyclist to pedestrian. I watch tourists peruse maps and glance uncertainly at their surroundings. I see the inscrutable faces of people walking to work, and encounter the occasional work colleagues chatting and striding purposefully from the nearest Starbucks, cups in hand, ready to get their day under way.

I also spy other run commuters. While not plentiful, there are more than I thought when I first began to run commute. You can recognize them by their workout wear and backpacks. Oh, and the fact that they’re running, too!

Running and biking. Both great ways to get around they city, each with their own appeal. I’m happy to be changing up my routine this summer. Plus, running keeps my bikes clean.


  1. I remember the first time I saw a run commuter in the elevator 4 years ago. It was a completely novel concept for me. I’ve only done it a handful of times since, but it is thoroughly enjoyable, if logistically more involved.


  2. I don’t have a commute, but I do a lot of utility running. It actually works well with Galloway training plan I’m supposed to be following, which calls for intervals of running and walking — I have intervals of running and shopping.


  3. you are so rad. I am not a runner but have increased most of my travels around San Francisco on foot and after over a decade living within the bike lane, being almost a full time pedestrian has taught me many things, which I relate to your narrative here.

    “but also because I morph from cyclist to pedestrian” that is so important. Also has allowed me to see why it is so easy to create friction w/ each other, many bicyclists have pass me by like I’m an obstacle while I have the green light, and right of way. As an experienced urban cyclist myself, this has upset me but I can def. let it go as I personally know not all (cyclists or drivers) are the same. Anyways, keep the good posts coming.



    • I totally agree w/ you about seeing the potential for friction betw/ cyclists and runners. I get especially steamed when cyclists are riding down the sidewalk as though it is a street, treating the pedestrians on the sidewalk as though they are obstacles. It’s a sidewalk, sheesh! I thought I would have more empathy since I’m also a cyclist, but instead I find myself wanting to offer up a teachable moment. As you say, not all are like that, but those that are make me a little nutty.


  4. I’ve never run commuted, but I do run sometimes along the Mall in the fall when it’s too dark to go out by the time I get home. While I’m not a big runner, it’s a lot more fun to people-watch on the Mall than other locations.


  5. I’m planning to add more bike & run commuting into my life, and had been looking at backpacks. Yours looks great and nice sized. Do you know what model/volume Osprey it is?



    • Hi Debbie, this one is an Osprey Raptor. I’m happy with it. Not sure on the volume. I also use a Camelbak Blowfish and it has more carrying capacity than the Osprey, and also has an expandable pouch which has come in handy.


      • I used my REI rebate to get the Osprey, and have been using it for 2 weeks now. At 14L, it’s small enough that I don’t accidentally running to work with a zillion pounds strapped to my back, but it still fits breakfast, snacks and non-shoe clothes. Thanks for responding and perhaps we will meet on the trail


      • Awesome, I’m glad it worked out! I feel the same way about it– good capacity but small enough you cannot really overpack. Hope to see you out there!


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