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Run Commuting: Save Gas, Lose Weight, Get to Know Your Neighborhood

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 | 9 Comments

Today’s post is Kevin LaFleur’s first guest post here at BRU. This article is of particular interest to Shelly and I as we’ve been doing quite a bit of run commuting lately. I regularly walk to work and run to our gym, and can attest to the benefits Kevin discusses. Please share your run commuting experiences in the comments!


My love for commuting by my own power began in the 2nd grade. Per the Vermont norm, a wicked snow storm one night failed to close schools. Bus service to our hills, however, had been canceled and so my mom decided to skip work. I don’t remember whose bright idea it was, but we donned our cross country skis and made the deep powder trek into downtown Quechee in time for class. The thrill and beauty of this adventure has had its lasting effect. By my own tiny 8-yr old power, I could go where vehicles with their hundreds of horses could not go.

Today was my last day run commuting my job in Raleigh before moving to a new town next week. Running in our modern age has many impractical benefits, but many practical uses remain. Examples range from the ability to respond well in an emergency to clean, efficient transportation. Among the numerous benefits of commuting under your body’s own power we have pure joie de vivre, development and sustainment of general health, decreased stress, discovery of all that is off the beaten track, and the more measurable practicals such as dollars saved.

For those interested in numbers, here’s how the past few months figure (ignoring the [im]practicalities of each mode of transport). I had 34 recorded commutes since September for my part-time job. At a minimum, that’s $34 saved in bus expenses. These commutes equal about 243 miles. With a POV averaging 26mpg, the cost of this commute at today’s pump ($3.34) approximates: 9.35 gallons or $31.22. Throw in your usual POV expenses including insurance and maintenance, and the savings are dramatic if you never need a vehicle for anything other than a short commute. In a dense and expensive city like DC, I foot commuted more, and savings were even greater, both in dollars and sanity. Nothing inspires like the forlorn glazed gaze from drivers passed in mile after mile of gridlock.

If commuting under your own power is within your means, give it a shot and reap the rewards! The above aren’t huge savings, I understand. The significant benefits are found elsewhere. Explore and discover them.


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  1. Stefan
    February 1, 2013

    My commute distance is 50 miles. Therefore, I go by car first and the remainder by bike (20miles)or by running (7miles). I prefer the bike. Running 7 miles across the city is not really thrilling. And it takes too long in the morning.

    Considering how much money I spend on running shoes I actually don’t know if I save any money. Those 7 miles by running can’t be really significant.

  2. mark lofquist
    January 30, 2013

    the gov’t reimbursement rate for a vehicle traveling on the road is in $/mile. it’s more than gas, every vehicle’s traveled mile is 1/3000th of an oil change, + 1/10,000th of a brake job + …. all service items you can think of. That rate varies with fuel prices. I’ve seen it as low a $0.50/mile and as high as $0.70 per mile. THAT is what it takes to travel by car. Flicking a quarter out the window EVERY 0.4miles is the mindset you need to be in.

    every run i do to work $4 in my pocket, running home is another $4. I do also have public transpo’ options in the area I live. That is about 1/2 the expense of driving.

    I don’t do it for financial reasons. it’s more of a good way to schedule runs and still be at home for the baby :).

  3. Kevin
    January 29, 2013

    Ehd, what are the particular obstacles that make your route unsafe? Unsafe routes are what led to the foundation of BackOnMyFeet!

    Chris, that’s awesome. Time saving for me was one of the biggest advantages in last summer’s ultra-training, as I was logging 14-mile roundtrips to/from the office. I saw more people run commuting as the months passed–not sure who was inspiring who, but was glad to see it.

    Jason, thanks for the posting and glad this was a topic of interest!

    • Ehd
      January 30, 2013

      Kevin, my office is located on the edge of high crime area of town (a liquor store a couple blocks away was robbed at gunpoint two weeks ago) and about half my route would have to go through this area.

      • Jason
        January 30, 2013

        After our travels around the country, I’ve learned the relative danger of the “bad” areas of any given city are vastly overblown. When Shelly and I decided to settle for awhile in Southern California, we intentionally chose a ‘bad” neighborhood. The crime rate is higher than surrounding areas. A few days ago, we had a police chopper and swat team clearing the area due to a shooting. On my walk to work and runs to the gym, we pass prostitutes, drug dealers, homeless (both with obvious mental illnesses and without), and kids that seem to be street thugs. One of the “regulars” was shot by a police officer on my normal route.
        The key, as both Shelly and I found, is to see people not as “threats” but rather just people.
        Situational awareness helps, too, and should be practiced anywhere you run. Don’t wear earhones. Don’t obliviously stare at your cell phone. Be obviously aware of your surroundings. Make eye contact with everyone to acknowledge their presence. Don’t run right next to obvious blind corners or other hiding spots. Read the body language of others.
        All of these ideas can be combined to eliminate the fear of running through perceived “bad” areas.

        • Ehd
          January 31, 2013

          I understand what you are saying but my experience in living in various places is that “bad” areas of town typically earn their reputation. The area I’ve been referring to has a street that is so dangerous that the US Postal Service actually stopped delivering mail there for awhile citing safety concerns.
          Your safety advice is spot on but the first, best thing a runner can do to stay safe is not knowingly put themselves in a dangerous situation. I’m sure I could run many miles on the center line of the roads where I run and not get hit by a car but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve put myself at much greater risk of being hit by a car versus running on the sidewalk next to the road. Which is why you will usually find me running on the sidewalk next to the road. I make the same calculation about where I run/don’t run. I prefer not to be a victim of crime therefore I avoid running in areas of town known for high crime rates.
          That said, all this talk has me thinking about this and arguing with the sensible me, again. It’s been cold out, criminals hate the cold, right?

  4. Chris Hawson
    January 29, 2013

    I’ve run most of my commutes over the last 3 years or more, the cash savings of about $1000 a year are welcome, but the major advantage is in not having to carve out time for exercise!

    My 12 miles a day takes me about 95 minutes when the subway would take 60 – 65 so the net cost to the family is only about 30 minutes – not a lot to pay for mental clarity and reduced blood pressure!

    Living in NYC we get to walk to and from the grocery store.

  5. Bare Lee
    January 29, 2013

    Yah, I do this occasionally, or for running errands, or for picking up my kids at the end of a run. It works for a lot of things, but not grocery shopping.

  6. Ehd
    January 29, 2013

    This is something I seriously considered doing, at least occasionally, until I realized the only sensible route between my office and home would take me into areas of the city that would be unsafe to travel through by foot.