Thursday, October 8, 2009

When he says 'Gotta run,' he means it

Some people run for exercise. Some run for enjoyment. Plenty do it to relieve stress; lots do it to feed their competitive nature.

Then there are runners, like Chris Bradle, who do it for all of those reasons. But that's not what makes him unique. What makes him unique is that he also frequently runs because he's trying to get somewhere. Literally.

In fact, the 35-year-old husband and father of two is fast closing in on his initial goal of completing 50 days of commuting to and from his Charlotte design studio ... on foot. Depending on the route he takes, his round-trip run covers about 14 to 16 miles.

What exactly is he out to prove? Well, for one, he's trying to be eco-friendly, having been interested in the concept of "run-commuting" since the summer of 2008, when gas prices were skyrocketing. But he also uses the time to review "endurance products" -- blister-preventing socks, calf sleeves, fuel belts -- for his Web site, And he blogs and tweets about his experiences.

I recently caught up with Bradle to talk to him about the logistics of run-commuting, how it fits in with the rest of his training, and what his car thinks of all this.

Q. So you dabbled in this during the gas-price hike, and it just sort of took on a life of its own, huh?

Chris Bradle: Yes. At the time, I wasn’t as focused on making it part of my lifestyle, so I would only run home one evening and then run back the following morning. Not a big deal. But I was starting to train for a series of marathons. Running to and from work would allow me to get in mileage with the everyday action of commuting to work. Then at the Whitelake Half Ironman in May, where I was part of a relay doing the half marathon segment, I came up with the idea for EnduroBrand. Once the site was up, a friend convinced me to start a blog, and that’s when it all came together. I started blogging about run-commuting, and thought why not talk about my favorite products as well?

Q. How long do you plan to keep this up?

Bradle: My original goal was to make it to 50 days of run-commuting. Since I’m there on Monday of next week, I’ve changed the goal to 100 days. We’ll see what happens from there.

Q. OK, so explain the logistics of all this to me.

C.B.: I live near Cotswald Shopping Center and work in South End, near Chipotle on South Boulevard. Here’s my schedule: Drive to work on Monday morning -- with all my clothes for the week -- run home in the evening. Round trip Tuesday and Wednesday. Run to work on Thursday morning, and drive home in the evening. Work from home on Friday, a.k.a. my day of rest from the run-commute. Leaving the car at the office all week gives me access to a vehicle during the day for meetings, etc.

Q. How bad has the weather gotten?

The weather has gotten really hot. Some weeks were just tough to handle the level of dehydration and to manage the recovery. Without a strong recovery, work suffers. Ironically, I’ve been surprised by the number of people who’ve offered me a ride when it was raining. I love to run in the rain...

Q. What's your most memorable run-commuting horror story?

On my way in to work during early weeks of starting this, I lost my keys. I was really hurting in the shins and trying to cut back mileage to calm down the pains. This run in particular didn’t help. I was about 1.5 miles away from home when I realized the keys were gone. Since I didn’t have replacements for my office, I had to find them. So I walked the entire route back home scanning the ground. No luck. I sat at home for a couple minutes and just decided I’d have to figure it out in motion. My plan was to run to the office and along the way solve this problem somehow. When I got to the corner to start the run, I looked down and there were my keys. The result was a lot of relief, but it turned a planned low-mileage day into a 9-miler with a side of anxiety.

Q. Ever wake up and think to yourself, "Oh man. I just do NOT feel like running to and from work today"?

I might wake up tired or sore, but so far I haven’t had an “I’m so not into this day.”

Q. Have you  taken any breaks?

I had to hit the sidelines for two weeks with a lower back/upper hip joint sprain. Luckily, I’ve recovered well from that injury and only missed a couple weeks. So it’s taken me longer than planned to get through the first 50 days.

Q. Does your car ever feel neglected?

The car didn’t handle the change well in the beginning, expressing its emotions with a cracked windshield. All in jest, but even with a ton less miles in the car somehow I ended up replacing a windshield for the first time ever.

Q. Do your friends and coworkers think you're nuts?

Of course people around me think I’ve lost my mind, but they are crazy supportive which keeps this all fun. For our closest friends who really know me, this is just an extension of who I am and it makes perfect sense.

Q. Would you recommend this lifestyle to others?

I would absolutely recommend this lifestyle for others. Everyone has their own thing and their reasons for running. What I’ve learned is to start down the road instead of sitting around thinking about what you’d like to do in your lifetime. Ideas that stick with you need to be explored. Life really is short.

Q. How quickly do you burn through running shoes?

At the current mileage, my running shoes are only lasting about 7-8 weeks. They look near perfect, but you can feel the loss of support and bounce in the shoes. It’s critical to make sure the shoes stay fresh. I’m entertaining starting a shoe rotation with two pairs when I replace my current shoes.

Q. Are you training for any fall races?

I’m training for a series of races this fall: the LungStrong 15K, a 5K in Austin, Texas, the Dowd Y Half Marathon, a Turkey Trot 15K in Tallahassee, Fla., and the Kiawah Marathon.

Q. In addition to the run-commuting, how much other training do you do to stay fresh for all these races?

I run other training runs on the weekend. Mostly ranging from 10 to 30 miles over a weekend, depending on my training schedule. I’ve also started to incorporate speedwork/tempo runs into the commute running. That’s an adjustment, and it makes me really run easy on easy days.

Q. What have you learned about yourself through running?

Everything. It’s the most introspective time I have. Great ideas have come during runs. Some of the best experiences in my life have been racing. I know that I love running and enjoy the places it’s taken me.


Anonymous said...

Since you are getting new shoes every 7 - 8 weeks, what kind are you using? Are you running in one style of shoe for daily commute running and a different for weekend training runs and a different for races? Curious to see how different shoes work for different situations. I guess compared to an auto expense, the shoes are less expensive!

Anonymous said...

Great job, Chris. Very proud of you!

Anonymous said...

Where do you shower?

caitchris said...

Thanks for creating the Charlotte Running Club's logo Chris! it looks great!! Good luck with everything!

Chris Bradle said...

Thanks for the questions.

Right now I'm running in Asics Nimbus trainers. I run all my training runs in them. I switch between different styles of racing shoes depending on the distance, but don't where these shoes on many training runs. Shoes are much cheaper and are a little more tangible than a tank of gas.

My studio has a full bathroom with a shower. Although this makes it easier, you don't need a shower in your office to make this work. Shower at the Y... or think out other options. If you plan to commute it can be complicated to get a plan working, but it's worth the effort.

Glad you are liking the Running Club logo : )

aaron said...

Inspiring Chris! There a definitely days I don't feel like running so I admire your commitment.

Anonymous said...

While I find the idea of run-commuting interesting, I don't think you may necessarily save money.

Here is my example with just some rough estimates. Say you buy a pair of shoes for $100 and get about 300 miles out of them.

How much would it cost to drive that same 300 miles? Assume you have a car that gets 20 mpg and gas is $2.50 per gallon. You would spend $37.50 on gas. That's a lot less than the $100 for shoes! Of course, this doesn't take into account other maintenance on the car.

I am a big believer in conservation and I think run-commuting would be a great way to combine your commute and workout. My point is that its not an obvious money saver.

Chris Bradle said...

Either way you approach it, run-commuting by its nature accomplishes a myriad of goals.