For Josh Woiderski, it started as an experiment.

After his car was written off in an accident a few years ago, the long-time running enthusiast thought he’d forego buying a replacement by trying something new. He decided to run to work.

It not only saved him money, but it kept him out of traffic in Atlanta, home to some of the worst traffic in the United States. It boosted his training efforts. And it unexpectedly contributed to a global surge of interest in run commuting. 

Now untold numbers of people are running to work and back, some every day, others just part of the time. Most are in big cities. London has emerged as the estimated leader, and other spots have popped up across Australia and in the U.S. Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil, among others. The idea has gained traction in the press, as well, cited for its health benefits as well as sustainability and urban-life innovation.

“I love running and I hate driving,” says Woiderski, a 39-year-old father of three who runs to his job as a paralegal eight kilometres each way. “Run commuting allows you to get in a run while you’re going to work, instead of exercising in addition to commuting to work.”

Woiderski started a blog, The Run Commuter. It quickly took off, with sister sites popping up including Running to Work (UK), Running to Work (Spain), and Run Commuter (Netherlands).



Josh Woiderski
Josh Woiderski, a 39-year-old father of three, runs 8km each way to his paralegal job in Atlanta, U.S.A.


Personal Stories and Grassroots Growth

Julien Delange was not a runner growing up in France. Indeed, as a young adult he had become obese, with about 135 kilograms on his 6-foot frame. When he decided to change his life, he started by walking in Paris, eventually shedding pounds and starting to run. 

Three years ago, he moved to Pittsburgh, where he is a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. He found himself driving ten kilometres to work, then running at a nearby park, then showering at the office. It occurred to him to cut out that middle step, and now he runs the daily 19 kilometre round trip.

“I didn’t have to fight the traffic, I didn’t have to wake up early, and I save on petrol and parking,” Delange says.

Others in his running club have been inspired to try run commuting – or at least to ride a bike or take public transport sometimes. Now
a fit 77 kilograms, Delange will participate in his first 160-kilometre marathon in July.

London emerges as a leader

“There’s a lot happening in London – it may be the hot spot,” says Simon Cook, who completed his master’s thesis on run commuting and is now working on his PhD in human geography, which focuses on the relationship between people and places, regarding issues like transportation.

He admits most people see the idea as “a bit bizarre.” But when told of the possibility, they can see it as more attractive than a crowded train. As run commuting continues to catch on as a “deeply meaningful experience,” he looks forward to examining it as a potential transportation alternative.

“In the Western world, where it’s really growing, it’s more a sport and health practice than transport,” Cook says.

The practice has the most followers in big cities with bad traffic and enough large workplaces to offer showers and lockers. “The workplace is becoming such a key part of this,” which is especially noteworthy given run commuting’s grassroots.



Cathy Tyrell-Knights
Cathy Tyrell-Knights, a Coca-Cola employee in London, runs four miles to work some days.


On the first Thursday of each month, supporters promote #run2workday and are lobbying for more favourable tax breaks for run commuters. Cook himself is an avid runner, but has no need to include it in his commute: He works at home.

Cathy Tyrell-Knights is a Coca-Cola IT manager in London.  She became a part-time run commuter earlier this year, running the 6.5 kilometres to work some days and cycling or taking public transportation back home.

“I know a few people within the office that run, and a number that also cycle,” she says. “London is very pedestrian-friendly, so it supports the ability to run commute. There are wide walkways and, while there are a lot of people in the city, it is easy to take a few back roads to get to the office.



Run Commuting in Sydney — A Bit of Local Flavour


Dino Bozzone
Run commuting has been cited for its health benefits as well as sustainability and urban-life innovation. Coca-Cola Brand Manager, Dino Bozzone, frequently runs to work in Sydney.
Photo credit:
www.marathon-photos.com



Dino Bozzone, Brand Manager at Coca-Cola in Sydney, has always loved running from a very young age, but, he says: “Running has never come easy.”

 “I worked hard at it as a young kid, and ended up going to the U.S. on an athletic scholarship to run track and cross country. But I lost my motivation after college. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve got it back. I now run around 14km to work from Bondi Beach, through the city, past the Opera House and over the Harbour Bridge, about 3 times a week.

 These days, pretty much nothing stops Dino from getting up early to run to work. “Sydney’s cold winter doesn’t put me off, nor does running with the weight of a laptop in my bag,” he says.

 “The way I figure, it takes me about an hour to get to work by public transport and about the same time to run. So there’s the first win — I don’t waste time sitting in traffic, and I get my workout done, outdoors, before social or work engagements take priority.”

 He acknowledges that Coca-Cola makes it easy for their people to get active. “They organise our entry into a lot of the big running races like Blackmore’s Sydney Running Festival and City2Surf. I find that once you’ve committed to a marathon, you have to work towards it — it gets you motivated that’s for sure.”

 Kate Livett, also from Sydney, recently heard about run commuting and decided to give it a try. She’s also given up the stress of traffic for running through a national park of native forest with mini-waterfalls, unspoiled coastline and, yes, kangaroos.

 “When I’m run commuting, I’m actually excited to go to work,” she says. “Now I get cranky if I don’t get to run commute because I slept in.”

Showers and other practical concerns



Dino Bozzone from Coca-Cola South Pacific
Dino Bozzone from Coca-Cola South Pacific. Photo credit: www.marathon-photos.com


What about hygiene? Dressing appropriately? Carrying things to and from the office?

Tyrell-Knights enjoys showers and lockers at the London Coca-Cola office. So does Dino Bozzone at Coca-Cola Place, in North Sydney.

“Our company is very supporting and encouraging of an active lifestyle,” he says. “Running really helps me keep a balanced lifestyle. We all work so hard and often it’s difficult to find time in the day to get any exercise in. The days I run, it’s pretty clear I show up in a better mood, more energetic. It really helps give me a kick start to the day.”

To address these common questions and provide baseline guidance, Woiderski collaborated with Silvia Stuchi Cruz of the Corridaamiga (“running friends”) Network in Brazil. They produced Running as a Mode of Transportation: General Guidelines, in English and Portuguese and made it available online.



Kate Livett
Kate Livett of Sydney, runs to work four days a week.


“Through the Corridaamiga initiative, we wish more people would try other transportation alternatives, to see for themselves that it is possible to change their lives,” the guideline reads. “Since we started the network, we have had 80 volunteer runners (run commuters) spread in 15 different Brazilian cities, and around 85 people that requested Corridaamiga to help in their first routes, by designing the best commute and sharing instructions and information about how to run in the streets.”

Not all workplaces have showers, of course. Woiderski has used the “no shower” method of taking a shower at home before leaving in the morning, cooling down in front of a fan in your office after you arrive, using baby wipes to clean your head and body, dressing, and then washing your face and head in the bathroom. It’s a common approach for run commuting enthusiasts, who share their experiences, tips and photos on Twitter with the #runcommute hashtag. 

Run Commuter Survey Stats

The Run Commuter took a survey in the U.S. recently.

Among the highlights:

  • The average run commute is 5 to 11 kilometres.
  • Most run commuters keep hygiene items and extra work clothes at the office.
  • More than two-thirds have showers at work, but the same percentage says they’d do it anyway.
  • When not running, the preferred mode of transportation is bicycle at 55 percent.