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Common Run Commute Challenges

Common Run Commute Challenges

By: Matt Setlack

This article is the third and final article of a three part series regarding my experience with the run commute. The goal of this particular article is to outline some of the common challenges I face with run commuting and provide suggestions of how to overcome them.

The series was comprised of the following three parts:

  1. Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute? (previous article, please click here)
  2. Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute (previous article, please click here)
  3. Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges and How to Overcome Them (see below)


I have been run commuting to and from work practically every weekday for the past three years. I run all year around in temperatures as cold as -45C with the windchill in the winter and as warm as +35C in the summer. From mid-October to mid-February I run to and from work in the pitch dark. My run commute is approximately 10 miles round trip.

Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges

These are the biggest run commute challenges that I have had to overcome in the process of getting into a good run commuting routine. Once you overcome these challenges, your run commute will be much more enjoyable.


How Much Time is the Run Commute Going to Take? - This is the very first thing I wondered so I used Google Maps to map out my route. The first few times I run commuted, I didn’t know how long it would take so I started at work and ran home at the end of the day so I wouldn’t be late for work.

What to Wear? – It's fairly straightforward to dress for one temperature but the main challenge comes with regulating your temperature (thermoregulation) in conditions that are continually changing. I would estimate there is generally a 5C temperature swing during my typical one way run commute. 

I would err on the side of caution and bring an extra layer or two. If you start to feel too warm, even in the slightest, first take off your tuque and gloves or mitts and if that doesn’t help enough then take off one top layer. Remember that in the winter it is common for wind chill factor to easily drop the temperature 10C, just by turning into a stiff headwind. Bring a small light backpack that you can put your extra clothes in.

What to do with Work Clothes? – Leave them at work and only take them home when they need to be washed.

Having a Locker and Showers at Work - I am extremely lucky that the building I work in has locker rooms with showers as well as a fantastic gym. This makes a tremendous difference. If I didn’t have this setup, I would probably have to run to the 4 Wing Cold Lake JJ Parr gym first, change, shower and then walk 10 minutes to work. That would be a lot more hassle. Without showers at work, I suppose one could use wet-wipes or a camp shower on a balcony instead (like Calum Neff).

Working Regular/Consistent Hours - This makes getting into a routine much easier. It’s not impossible otherwise but it certainly helps.  


Mental Attitude - For some people, one hurtle to get over is the mental change that comes with doing something different. Sometimes it can be challenging to determine why you are run commuting to work when literally hundreds (or thousands?) of other people are drive commuting to work (in the same direction, at the same time, at the same speed, to the same location). Please don't fall into the trap of doing something just because everyone else is doing it and that's the way it has always been done.

Why Am I Doing This? - What motivates you to run commute? Perhaps you’re training for an upcoming race or you want to lose a bit of weight? Finding your WHY will help to get you out the door when it’s pitch black and -35C outside.

Goals - This is extremely important. Once you determine your why, make a list of the goals that you would like to accomplish. Write out these goals on a piece of paper and stick that piece of paper on the front door of your refrigerator or on your bathroom mirror. Include on this paper a list of your goals in addition to how you plan to achieve your goals. Maybe you want to run every day for the next 52 years? Having goals will give you a target to shoot for; otherwise you may end up drifting in an ocean of uncertainty with no direction not knowing where you are going.

Priority - How important is running and fitness in general in your life? Do you run consistently right now? Perhaps the run commute would force you to train more and get into shape or maintain your current level of fitness. Emily and I place a very high priority on running/fitness in our lives. While we are on vacation, for example, the first thing in the morning that we always think about is, “When and where are we going to run today?”. It is so engrained in our minds that everything else while on vacation takes a back seat. Our eating schedule revolves around running, the location of the accommodations we stay in a city/town is determined by if there is anywhere to run nearby (parks, nature trails, etc). I can’t tell you how many times we have changed into our running clothes while in the car. Running to us is like eating in that it is just something that we have to do to survive. Human beings were born to move, not to sit still.

An important point to remember is that to us, the things that we do are not sacrifices but instead, they are choices. The choices that we make help us to become healthier, fitter and ultimately lead a happier and more fulfilling life. Are the choices that you are making every day affecting you in a positive or negative way?


Running Route - I am very lucky to have a beautiful Millennium Path to run on that is separate from the road. It is a paved path about 2 meters wide. The path is cleared of snow usually within hours of the snowfall. The City of Cold Lake and 4 Wing Snow and Ice Clearing Team do a PHENOMENAL job clearing the snow. I am extremely appreciative for all the excellent work that these snow removal teams do and it makes a night and day difference to the run commute. Next time I see one of these members clearing the snow, I will buy them a coffee. If I didn't have a beautiful path to run on, it would be much more challenging to run commute.

Running Distance to Work - When I lived about 2km from work, I walked to work in my work clothes. When I moved to a new location about 5 miles from work, I first started riding my bicycle in the summer and then when the snow started to fly, I switched over to running instead. If you live too close to work, then I recommend walking to work. If you live far from work, then that doesn’t work either (unless you’re an ultramarathon runner lol). I would think it would be quite challenging for someone to try and run commute to work from Cold Lake North (about 14km each way) because they would be spending over an hour running each way and that’s quite challenging to maintain (but riding a bicycle would be very possible). The distance to work is one of the reasons Emily and I chose to live about 5 miles from work – not too close and not too far. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

I hope that you have found this article on run commute challenges helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments and I would be happy to answer them.

How to Run Commute

How to Run Commute

By: Matt Setlack

This article is the second in a three part series regarding my experience with the run commute. The goal of this article is to provide guidance on how to start run commuting and to provide a few tips on how to keep up the momentum with run commuting.

The series will be comprised of the following three parts:

  1. Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute? (to view this previous article, please click here)
  2. Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute (see below)
  3. Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges and How to Overcome Them (future article)


I have been run commuting to and from work practically every weekday for the past three years. I run all year around in temperatures as cold as -45C with the windchill in the winter and as warm as +35C in the summer. From mid-October to mid-February I run to and from work in the pitch dark. My run commute is approximately 10 miles round trip.

Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute

The bottom line is that if you want to run commute, just go for it. There is no magic formula or secret method to achieve success with the run commute BUT the tips and advice that I am about to offer in this article will likely make your journey a little smoother.

run commute cfb cold lake

A Day in the Life:

I always wake up at the very same time every morning. From the time I get up to the time I’m heading out the door, it is 35 minutes max. Sometimes I even set a second watch alarm 5 minutes before departure to ensure I will be on time. If it’s really cold outside, I like to have a warm cup of cocoa in the morning and put on a massive red North Face Himalayan parka (the ones people wear up Denali and Everest) and down slippers/booties around the house as I get ready – these things help warm up the core. Emily and I are quite "energy conscientious" and like to keep the temperature overnight cool. My run commute typically take 35-40 minutes each way. If I’m running through a foot of snow and snow drifts up to my knees, then it takes about 50-55 minutes each way. However, the city of Cold Lake and the 4 Wing Cold Lake Snow and Ice Clearing Team are phenomenal at clearing the Millennium Path quickly and efficiently. It’s the perfect setup; I couldn’t ask for anything better.


Routine is incredibly important for me. Getting into a routine makes run commuting A LOT easier. It is much more challenging to run commute (or even train consistently) when your schedule is all over the place (i.e. during vacations, courses, etc).

Breaking the Old Routine and Setting a New Routine – This is one of the first obstacles that you will have to overcome if you would like to run commute. Getting into run commuting can be challenging at first but once you get used to the new routine, it will feel natural to you and you won’t even think about it anymore. Friends often ask me if I ever think about not run commuting and the answer is: when I first started I considered it but now that I have run commuted so much, I don’t even think about it; it’s just what I do now. There’s not even a moment of indecisiveness.

Waking Up a Bit Earlier – To deal with this, I started going to bed at a fixed time every night like 10:00 or 10:30 pm so I wouldn’t be tired in the morning. Every morning (even weekends), my alarm goes off at the same time. I have done it so many times now that I tend to wake up at the same time every morning even without an alarm.

Going to Bed Late – If you stay up until 2 am and expect to wake up at 6 am to start the run commute, chances are you will be too tired to run commute and will fall back to your old ways of driving a vehicle to work.

Be Prepared – This is a big one. Physically lay out you running clothes next to your bed the night before so you will see them first thing in the morning. Jump out of bed and straight into your running clothes. Some people prepare their lunch the night before but I like to prepare it in the morning so that the vegetables are freshly sliced.


If you want to be successful with the run commute, I personally find that it’s much easier to just do it every day rather than starting then stopping then starting again. Remember Newton’s First Law, an object at rest tends to stay at rest and vice versa. 

However, if you are brand new to run commuting, consider the following options:

  1. I would strongly recommend that you start with bicycle commuting in the summer. It is faster, easier, and you can even wear your work clothes if you like as you probably won't break a sweat. Once you get comfortable bicycle commuting, then you could gradually transition into run commuting.
  2. If you decide to jump right into run commuting, then consider asking a friend/co-worker to drive you to work Monday morning with all your heavy work clothes in a bag and you wearing your running clothes. You can then run home Monday afternoon and to/from work every day. At the end of the week, ask your friend to pick you up on Friday afternoon.
  3. Consider alternating run commuting days with drive commuting days. That way you only need to run commute two or three times per week.


Thermoregulation - This is a big one. The weather in Cold Lake is constantly changing. It is not unusual for the temperature to be -10C in the morning and +10C in the afternoon. To deal with this, I check the Environment Canada website every morning (and evening) before I start running and dress accordingly. I always use the same website so it is consistent as different weather websites show different temperatures. Generally, I account for headwinds and tailwinds (wind chill factor can make a big difference in the winter).

Good Quality Running Clothing – If you buy quality running clothing once, you will have it for years; it is also good for the environment. Ronhill and Running Room make fantastic running clothes for running all year around.  Stay away from cotton! A few years ago, I did a complete cleaning of the house and I put all of my cotton clothing in a box and donated it to the Bee Hive Thrift Shop and Orbiting Trends second hand store. I NEVER wear cotton socks (that is asking for blisters) or any type of cotton clothing.


Carry as Little as Possible - I pack my Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L Vest running backpack in the morning and ensure it is as light as possible. The only thing I bring in it is my lunch for that day and a spare change of underwear and socks, identification, and an extra tuque and mitts. Depending on what the weather is like, I will bring a spare t-shirt or long sleeve shirt in case the weather warms up/cools off.


Leave Work Clothes at Work – This is another big one. Only bring your work clothes (not your footwear) home when the clothes need to be washed. You can even bring a few sets of work clothes to work at the start of the week. Lugging your work clothes and heavy steel toed work boots (aka: leg weights) to and from work every day will make you very discouraged very quickly. You are unnecessarily burdening yourself by carrying extra weight. Don’t punish yourself by doing this. Be as lightweight as possible. Light is Right!

Dry Your Running Clothes at Work – This is not essential because you could always bring a spare change of running clothes in your bag but it is really nice to have as you don’t have to carry unnecessary weight.

I hope you have found these guidelines for run commuting helpful. Run commuting is a very enjoyable activity. The hardest part is getting started and getting into a good routine. Once you have done that, then it becomes easier and easier every day. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – Common Run Commute Challenges