Some of the benefits of running to work are obvious. You get your exercise done while doing a journey that you’d need to do anyway, meaning you don’t have sacrifice any leisure time to fit in a spot of cardio. You also get some valuable time to yourself away from the irritations of a standard commute, whether that’s the crush of packed public transport or the stress of navigating traffic in a car, so you arrive at work or at home in the evening in a more peaceful state of mind.
Your journey is also free, which is a nice bonus, but the real cherry on top could be that it may actually be faster to run to work than it would be to drive or take the bus. Fitness app Strava has compared its data on 4.6 million run commutes logged on the app in 2018 with information on declining traffic speeds in cities to estimate that, if the trends continue, run commuting will be faster than using motor vehicles by 2020. Run commuters in London manage an average speed of 6.7mph (10.8km/h), which is still slower than the 7.7mph (12.4km/h) average speed of traffic, but the latter is declining and Strava projects it will fall below running speed by 2020.
Scoff if you will, but it’s not so outlandish given that Strava found that getting to work on two feet is already quicker than road transport in certain parts of the UK. For example, the number 11 bus in London from Fulham to Liverpool Street averages 5.4mph (8.7km/h) during peak times.
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Other cities in the UK where run commuting can be a faster option than taking the bus or driving include Aberdeen and Belfast. Congestion in those cities slows traffic to an average of just 4.8mph (7.7km/h) in Aberdeen and 3.3mph (5.3km/h) in Belfast in peak times.
Clearly whether run commuting is a valid option, let alone a faster one, depends on the commute in question. If you live in the countryside or your home and work are right by Tube stops on the same line in London, for example, then the odds are you’re not going to be faster (although very speedy types might disagree).
However, the Strava data does highlight the fact that run commuting might not add as much time to your trip to work as you might think, making it a great way for the time-starved to fit exercise into their day. Even if it takes 15 minutes longer to run, for example, you’re still ahead in the time stakes if you’d otherwise have to dedicate 30-45 minutes to a standalone workout later. It’s also worth considering running just part of your journey. If you start out in the suburbs but finish in the centre of a city, the later stages of your trip might be faster on foot. It certainly beats waiting to squash yourself into a packed bus.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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