Process Running: Active Urban Transporters Make Fast Runners
March 15 2018 // On the Run
Active transportation is the source of my fitness based lifestyle. It starts and ends with my desire to transport myself in whatever geographic location I may be, with my own power. Little did I know that active transportation wasn’t just building a body to run, but also my mind. It’s made me fast too.
Let’s just operationally define fast. We are all fast. It’s relative, like hot and cold. I wear shorts in -9C with a long sleeve merino layer, light glove, with a Ciele cap and call that comfortable. That is hell on earth to many runners.
Fast is to you, what slow is to you. We all have our own range. When hanging out with sub-elite runners, 66 minute half marathons are fast. When talking with my pace group on the track, 1:30 half marathons are fast.
It’s all relative. I’m okay with what fast is to me.
And more to my point, active transportation has made fast, much faster for me — in a short period of time. More specifically, run-commuting. I’ve got places to be, and miles to log — let’s combine that business.
This all comes after spending a week in NYC following some runners around through their daily routines. There is always more to the story than just the training runs. It’s photographs like the one above. Matt, Vinnie, and Molly all heading off the subway on our way to rock climbing, after morning runs of varying capacity, with yoga in-between.
Sure, not everyday is like this, it’s fitness friday for this contingent of the Saucy AF crew.
But for the most part, they get up in the morning stupid early and their days are always on the move. Carrying mostly everything they need for the day with them. As fitness instructors and personal trainers, the schedule is fluid, but being in NYC, active transportation is the only option. This active urban lifestyle also makes them fast.
Everywhere you go on the subway is a bit of a core workout. You walk everywhere. Where you don’t walk you bike. Hanging out with friends literally means hanging out rock climbing. And practicing yoga. And crushing fitness classes. And running. With this group, a lot of running.
The same active lifestyle that Jen Elliot took up four years ago led to a 3:11 debut marathon in the 2017 NYC Marathon. Sure Jen didn’t get rid of a car and run-commute everywhere she goes, but simply made workouts part of her life with friends.
For Matt Setlack, however, who run commutes in an extremely cold climate where “the cold has an insidious effect; it makes your mind weak and saps your willpower”. Running in those conditions fortifies ones mind with the ability to deal with the mental battle of a hard run or race. Running faster is also about training our minds to accept the pain that running harder — for longer — demands.
It’s a combination of a number of things that makes you a faster runner, but alongside all of the running, comes cross fitness to build the body, and mental training that builds the mind to run faster for further. The active transportation urban lifestyle is the pattern in New York. It’s a grind. It’s not easy or for everyone. It’s the pattern I’ve built my life around. In Saskatoon,SK . In London, ON. In Edmonton, AB.
Have we ever had a conversation in a car? If so, how many times?
Most people I know can’t answer in the affirmative, and if they can, we are talking about low numbers. I’ve always ridden a bike for transportation — 18’ish years at least now. I still do, and likely always will, but running is now one of my transportation options.
Obviously not everyone can show up to a “business” meeting in 4″ Lululemon Surge shorts and a soaked through Tracksmith Brighton Baselayer or Mile 2 Marathon long sleeve, crew height Stance socks, with an all but dripping Ciele cap — brim flipped up. But I also have a different operational definition of a “business meeting” then you. It works for me, but if it didn’t, I would simply solve the problem with a change of clothes or riding the bike at a pace that allows me to show up somewhere, not a hot mess. Or public transport to the meeting and run home. Or find a better client. There are solutions to all problems.
I can travel with my running setup packed into a pocket of my run pack. It will allow me to run miles in a wide range of temperatures. Within half an hour after a run, I’m dry to the touch as well…and don’t stink. Okay, so the shorts might smell. Lululemon, anti-stink Surge’s. Yes please.
I run to and from most if not all lunches, coffee’s, or even meetings when in Vancouver and Edmonton. Runs can be combined with LRT/Sky Train or buses at times, but public transportation is the stop gap. Car shares come in handy at very specific times as well.
For the most part though, it’s a bike or putting one foot in front of the other that moves me around a city — NYC, Vancouver, Edmonton, or other.
In New York, it’s always the subway. If I don’t have a lot of gear, I can run sections, or all of my commute. If I have a lot of gear, it’s all subway. New York is unique though as the subway really is the only option. I still don’t understand how cars are even allowed in the city. They sure are fun to play amongst on runs though.
All year, 24/7, all weather. This is transportation to me. It’s pretty active.
I carry most everything I need for the entire day, and at times that can be a three bag load. I basically yard sale everywhere I go when I set my stuff down. It isn’t the easiest, or most convenient way to travel at times, but that’s the point.
— Convenience — Not Taking the Easy Route
We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest.
I’ve sought inconvenience for some time in my life. Swimming upstream. Going against the grain.
This article, Convenience — Not Taking the Easy Route by Tim Wu (Originally NYT Opinion Feb 16, 2018), really drives the point home of the value of inconvenience amongst a society that searches for further convenience.
At various points I’ve understood small aspects of the inconvenient life choices I make, but not until I started running did I put it all together. These inconvenient life choices — active transportation being one — have strengthened my mind and will. It’s built perseverance into my character to the point that running in sub-zero temperatures through winter storms of the car-centric city of Edmonton is all that makes sense to me.
It also feels fucking cool. I won’t lie. I mean look at me…I’m a god damn ninja.
When I started running a year ago, it really is no wonder that my fitness improved steadily, and quickly. After a lot of easy miles this winter, my fitness is at levels I don’t even understand. I’m giving a lot of the credit to my active transportation lifestyle, and a lot of my miles come on the commute.
A recent trip to Vancouver saw me on a near 30km day running from East Van to meetings in North Van, over to downtown, and back out to East Van. This is a bit of an extreme day, but I had 30km’s on my training schedule, and had to be all over hell’s half acre of Vancouver proper. This, in the middle of back to back 95km+ weeks.
I’ve put in a lot of time getting to the point of running near 100km weeks, and am sick while writing this out as a result of the high mileage. The point being, active transportation has afforded me a body, and more importantly a mind, willing to push limits. Test myself. Regularly. Daily.
The same way becoming a fast runner does. Whatever speed fast is to me at the time. Causational or correlational is irrelevant to me. Being an active urban transporter has made me a faster runner, and so many more than myself even faster.