My Errundonnee: Exploring Running as Transportation
After I rekindled my interest in running marathons, I began to seek out ways to incorporate additional mileage on my two feet. Since Felkerino and I spend much of our weekend time together on the bike, the long weekend run typical for many marathon runners was not a method that worked for me.
In 2013, I read an article by ultrarunner Geoff Roes about run commuting, and it introduced me to the idea of running as transportation. Since 2005, I have embraced active transportation, but primarily by bike, with some walking thrown in. Geoff Roes’s piece helped me see how I could benefit from the run commute.
The run commute was an efficient way for me to save time by taking my commute and extending it for the long run I needed to be marathon ready. I added run commuting into my daily routine.
During last year’s Errandonnee, Mark from a View from the Crosswalk, completed all categories by running. Over 12 days and 13 errrands, Mark ran 67 miles (!). He called it the Errundonnee. Mark’s Errundonnee further expanded my mindset about transportation running, broadening it beyond running to and from work.
Based on Mark’s posts and comments from a few readers, I added the run option as an official category to the Errandonnee challenge this year. Since I’m always curious to see if I can complete the challenges I’ve laid out on the blog, I committed to giving it a go myself, and below is the rundown (ha ha ha!) of my 12 days spent running errands for the Errandonnee.
March 4, Two Errands, 3 miles
Errandonnee 1: Store
Ran to Harris Teeter to grab dinner and a few other groceries, which ended up being a surprising number of chocolate bars. Chocolate bars are hardy travelers, though – at least in cooler weather – so can you blame me?
I used my trusty Camelbak Blowfish for my grocery shopping. It is not the ideal run transportation pack, as I don’t think the waist strap is robust enough and the material is heavy compared to some of the fabrics used in running packs these days.
However, the Camelbak gets big points with me for its expandable storage area. Depending on how much I’m carrying I can expand it or not, and this helps keep the pack appropriately placed along my back.
Errandonnee 2: Arts & Entertainment
En route to and from the store, I hopped by Intrude, an art installation going on at Yards Park. Frankly, I didn’t really understand this installation because I did not find these big bunnies cute or scary. Maybe I’ve become cynical because of all the blow-up holiday decorations people put in their yards these days.
March 7, One Errand, 4.5 miles
Errandonnee 3: Personal Business
With the D.C. Rock ‘n Roll Marathon happening, I sauntered out over lunch to keep the legs loose and put in a mellow 4.5-mile taper run at midday.
March 10, One Errand, 4 miles
Errandonnee 4: Personal Care
I teleworked this day, and forced myself out of the house in the morning to enjoy the sunshine and one of the first warm days of spring. Yes, this is supposed to be a winter challenge, but we had more than a few days that felt like springtime.
March 11, One Errand, 4.5 miles
Errandonnee 5: Social Call
My friend Kevin and I met up at lunch to chat our way around the National Mall. It was a gorgeous day, and we did a fair bit of tourist dodging. It wasn’t a big deal, though, because we’re now tourist-dodging experts.
March 12, Two Errands, 28.1 miles
Errandonnee 6: Wild Card
I ran to the marathon start, just over one mile from my house. Perfect warm-up!
Not much to report at that early hour, except that the construction workers were already out along Maine Avenue, continuing their work along the Southwest Waterfront. Oh, and some runners are definitely more into mornings than I am.
Errandonnee 7: Arts and Entertainment
The Rock ‘n Roll Marathon! I had a solid experience and wrote all about it here. Apparently, I was always a few minutes behind the wookie, and that is how Felkerino tracked me along the course. “Where’s Mary? Right behind the wookie.” Pretty impressive that somebody could run 26.2 miles in full wookie costume.
March 13, One Errand, 4 miles
Errandonnee 8: You Carried What on Your Bike (or Back)?!
I threw on my Camelbak and set off to meet Felkerino and his daughter for a coffee and a baked treat, including a sweet potato bar that made it home in surprisingly good shape. I meant to return home with more treats than I did, but my cookie didn’t survive the journey.
March 14, Three Errands, 4.4 miles
Errandonnnee 9: Work
I wanted to continue truly running my errands, but post-marathon fatigue and soreness made that mostly impossible. From this errand on, I primarily walked, with a little running to beat any critical stoplights.
For this particular commute into work, I passed through the lovely Enid Haupt Garden, where the magnolias were making their presence known.
Errandonnee 10: Personal Business
After leaving work for the day I stopped by the bank for some money. The bank didn’t let me down.
Errandonnee 11: Wild Card
After the bank, I needed to find a Bikeshare station to fit in a short ride for the local Freezing Saddles competition. Every person receives 10 points for riding at least one mile each day, plus one point for each additional mile. I had to do my part for the team.
Unfortunately, locating available Bikeshare bikes downtown during peak hours is still a challenge sometimes; I ended up walking further than I planned. More Errandonnee miles for me!
The dock where I intended to leave the bike was also full so instead of waiting and hoping for a dock to free up, I lengthened my bike ride as well. In the end, I enjoyed a nice multi-modal commute home via the scenic route.
March 15, One Errand, 6 miles
Errandonnee 12: Work
The final day of the Errandonnee, I “run”-commuted to work, meaning, I basically walked as fast as I could since my right quad was still not in agreement with the whole running thing.
My upper back also tightened up a lot post-marathon, and this has made running with my Camelbak uncomfortable. No big deal, but I notice it much more when I run. Next week I hope I’m back to a more normal version of myself!
My commute to and from the office was delightful. I encountered budding flowers, fellow BikeDC’ers, and sweet rays of sunshine – one of the only good things I’ve had to say this week about Daylight Savings Time.
Shoes: I used three different pairs of running shoes for my Errundonnee:
- Mizuno Wave Rider, a neutral cushioned shoe, and my current go-to long-distance running shoe
- Brooks Pure Flow, a lightweight neutral running shoe with a 4 mm heel-toe drop, and my favorites for shorter training runs.
- Brooks Glycerin, not exactly a maximalist shoe, but a lot of cushion and on the heavy side. These shoes run like cement blocks when they are wet, but they were my choice for the post-marathon run-walks because of their high cushion.
Pack: Camelbak Blowfish. As I noted, a bit flimsy on the waist strap, but a flexible pack because of the expandable compartment, which makes it good for run commuting (packing extra clothes and bringing in lunch). I’m still searching for a better transportation running pack.
The Running Dress: When I wasn’t carrying a pack, I liked using my Nuu-Muu running dress with the handy rear pockets (the Ruu version of the dress).
This durable fitness dress is incredibly practical, and the pockets are so well-placed and sized that my phone, keys, and identification sit easily on my back. Rear pockets are underrated and underused in clothing these days. Maybe clothing with rear pockets would become common if more people took up active transportation.
General Observations: I was down to the wire, but managed to complete the requisite miles, categories, and errands over the challenge’s 12 days without much stress. It was all a matter of planning, and I enjoyed that process more than I imagined.
I found that the key to transportation running – in addition to the most obvious, which is a good shoe – is to some extent the clothes and to a large extent the pack.
The clothes I used for transportation running easily go in and out of stores or other places, and don’t look particularly exclusive to running. However, they are comfortable running togs.
In addition, carrying a pack means that I can easily stop and pick up a few things while out and about. I can stash a jacket or cap to accomodate for varying temperatures, as well as my other essentials. My current pack, the Camelbak Blowfish, is not ideal in terms of its overall fit and feel, and the zippers don’t move as freely as I’d like, but it gets the job done. It is a really good size for commuting and transportation because it does expand, but doesn’t expand so much that I overfill it, and it is still narrow enough to not rub against my arms as they move to and fro.
Regarding the Errandonnee itself, I think broadening the categories over time has made it a creative, customizable, and manageable challenge. You don’t even have to assign an errand to a particular category until you’re wrapping up all your errands, since many errands fall into multiple possibilities.
The last couple of years have shown me that running does not have to be something we do only in the name of exercise. Running is an excellent active transportation choice, too. It’s fairly simple and inexpensive to implement, and I’ve found it rewarding to see all I can accomplish with a backpack and my two feet.