A thought has been running through my head for a while, then, a few weeks ago, Scott Jurek tweeted a Running Times blog post by Anton Krupicka, posing questions about driving to a running route.  Essentially; is it wrong to do?  And is it selfish?

As you can see from the comments, people’s answers run gamut from “yes, it’s terrible; you should have ridden your bike or taken the bus” to “no, runners are good people and therefore not responsible for their individual decisions.”  (Yeah, really.)

As part of the twitter chat in response, @simpsoka shared an article she wrote in support of “destination runs” last January.  She sets herself a 40 mile limit and explores a new destination that she hasn’t been before.

Which got me thinking more.  And since tomorrow is National Trail Running Day (in the U.S., at least) and most of us don’t live at trail heads, it seems a good time to get this post published.

Driving Bad

My typical outlook is that I don’t like driving to somewhere to run.  It’s partially environmental hippy thinking; part of my universal attempts to drive less.  But mostly it’s pure convenience.  I don’t like to have to plan everything out in advance.

I like to be able to say “yeah, it looks nice out now.  I’ll go for a run.”  I like to be able to take off my shoes and grab some veggie juice in the same minute.  I like to be able to determine how much time I have before I need to get to work by simply adding ten minutes’ shower time on to my estimated time left in the run.

I don’t like having to fill bottles of something to drink post-run before I even step out the door.  I don’t like having to pace around the car until I cool down enough to not soak the driver’s seat with sweat.  I don’t like having to remember to bring a driver’s license with me and finding somewhere safe to stash it while running.  And I definitely don’t like wondering if it was okay to park where I parked and whether the car will be there when I return.

But that’s just me.  I definitely don’t begrudge people who prefer to drive somewhere more scenic and/or safe to run.  And I certainly understand the allure, especially in certain parts of the country.

RVing Bad / RVing Good

In the interest of full disclosure, both my lack of desire to drive to new runs and my general desire to drive less are tied to the fact that I live in an RV.

On the scenery side of things, I’m living somewhere new every few weeks and am constantly discovering new places to run right outside my front door.  Most people don’t have that luxury.  The neighborhood you live in is going to eventually get pretty routine.  I’m already sick of my parent’s neighborhood, and I didn’t start running until more than a decade after I moved out.

On the hippy side of things, the RV gets 8 miles per gallon.  Now, we don’t drive it nearly as much as most commuters drive their car in a year, but we put about 6000 miles on it each year, which is 750 gallons per year.  To balance this, we picked up a nice old Saturn as a towed vehicle, getting a nice stead 30+ mpg.  Still, I like to minimize how often we use it.  RV parks are rarely in the middle of all the exciting things to do, so “sightseeing” or whatever sort of cultural activities we partake in usually requires driving.  We try to do all our errands on one outing and walk or ride our bikes whenever it’s feasible.

Running Good

I get really grouchy when I have to drive to run.  When we were living near Louisville, the RV park was on a road with zero shoulder and no sidewalk.  I only had to drive a few blocks to get to the start of the sidewalk, but the fact that I had to do that not to get clipped by a truck was frustrating.  On the other hand, in Redding, CA, there were plenty of safe places to run near the RV park, but there were far more scenic trails down along the river, so more than once I’d ride my bike to the running trails, which somehow doesn’t anger me as much.

Some DailyMile friends in Minneapolis were looking for companions on a early morning long run around the lakes.  It was far too far to bike there and there was no bus route I could find that would do it, but I didn’t hesitate to drive to meet them.  And I had a great time.  Unless we were neighbors a few blocks apart, there’s no way we could have met up without driving.

And now I’m living in Golden, not far from Boulder, where Anton Krupicka’s moral dilemma began.  There’s tons of beautiful, awesome places to run, anywhere from five to thirty minutes away.  But there’s also a network of paved, off-road, multi-use trails that connect just about everything to everywhere, so there’s no need to drive.  I can run to the downtown trails in twenty-some-odd minutes.  And keep going on a different spur if I desire.  I can ride my bike to get there faster if I want.  Hell, I can actually ride my bike clear across Denver to use an actual office if I so desired – and only be on a road for about a half mile, total.

In other words, I totally understand the allure of driving to run.

Driving a “Sometimes Food”

Frankly, if you put it in context, driving to run is no different than driving to the gym.  Or driving to the amusement park.  Or driving to the trail head of a great hike.  Or driving to your favorite restaurant.  Or driving to your friend’s house.  Or driving to work.  Or the airport.  Or school.  You get the idea.  Environmentally, we should try to do all of these things less.  I could do better, but I make an effort.  (Another factor of moving all the time is rarely getting to understand the local transit system well enough to make effective use of it.)

To Anton’s points, is driving to run selfish?  Yes.  But it’s okay to be selfish at times, as long as we’re aware of it and don’t do it all the time.  Is it wrong or right to drive to run?  No.  It’s not either, but if there’s a viable alternative to driving it’s certainly worth pursuing.  To Kathy’s point, is it exciting to discover a new place to run, to mix up the routine and go somewhere scenic?  Hell yes.  Go somewhere new.  Run somewhere fun.

As with most things that people disagree about, the “good” answer is still in the middle.  All things in moderation, right?  Personally, I’m still going to shy away from frequent driving if I can help it.  (I haven’t even mentioned how evil traffic is!)  But I’m not going to make it a rule like I used to.  If we could get everywhere we wanted to without burning fossil fuels, that would be awesome.  But we’re not there yet (“we” as my wife and I, nor “we” as a culture).  As long as it’s the goal, we’re on the right track.  Trail.