Why don’t more people combine biking and running? It’s a lot of fun. Maybe that’s a lot to ask, considering how cyclists are often so tribal that an admission that you run (or, god forbid, even enjoy running) will get you banished to triathlete island (presumably one of the Hawaiian islands; I heard that’s where they do their weird little contests). First things first: I’m not a triathlete. Not by a long shot. I fucking hate swimming, even though I have enormous feet that have never helped me in life but could have helped me in a pool if swimming wasn’t miserable. And I wouldn’t call myself a duathlete (go to hell, Microsoft, it’s a word) in the competitive sense, although I did complete one duathlon a few years ago and it was kinda fun but also kinda full of douchey, the way most competitions involving people are.
I just like biking and running, especially trail running. Also, I hate driving cars. Living in an incredibly walkable city that contains a) your workplace, b) businesses that sell food and provide entertainment, and c) a great local bike shop will do that do you. I get behind the wheel of our minivan maybe once a month, and I feel like a 15-year-old with a learner’s permit every time.
This enjoyment–hatred has led me to the logical conclusion of biking to trailheads instead of driving to them. I bike somewhere, lock my bike, go for a run (or hike—this strategy works for hiking too), unlock my bike, and ride home.
This weekend I leveled up, adding a second trail run into the mix. I thought it would be cool to run to the top of Peter’s Mountain on the east side of the Susquehanna River (actually a ridge, but in Pennsylvania they call ridges mountains for some reason that has yet to be explained to me), then cross the river and summit the ridge on the other side, essentially looking across the gap at where I had just been.
- almost twisting my ankle hundreds of times. They (mainly tired AT thru-hikers) call Pennsylvania “Rocksylvania” because there are a shit-ton of rocks here, which is annoying for hiking and borderline suicidal for trail running. However, the focus and agility required to careen down a rock-studded trail without tripping can get you in a flow state like no other. It’s a version of real-life foot Tetris where losing could mean crushing your skull against a granite boulder. You know, “fun.”
- really nice views, especially from Hawk Rock
- shaded forests, thick and green with vegetation, looking prehistoric
- the constant temptation to walk instead of run uphill
- looks of surprise, awe, and incredulity from other trail users (Perry County residents, no doubt) who obviously don’t see trail runners very often and therefore couldn’t tell that I’m a pretty slow trail runner. I heard them mutter things like “He’s going to run the whole way?” and “He already made it to the top?” as I passed. In the parking lot a man said to his kids, “now that’s how you train.” I felt like Rocky. Hell, I felt like Jesus. I highly recommend running in Perry County if you ever want to boost your fragile ego with completely undeserved compliments.
All that’s to say, I think people (and by “people” I pretty much mean roadies) should get out of their tribal mindsets and run every once in a while. And instead of driving their cars to go run someplace, they should bike there. Why? Well, it’s a lot of fun, and it doesn’t add to the the environmental catastrophe we’re avoiding. Those are two pretty good reasons. If you aren’t convinced, then you probably can’t be convinced. But just in case, here are some other reasons:
- it’s like interval training, but not soul-suckingly boring and painful. The riding parts are like the warm-up/recovery/cool down and the trail running sections are like the intervals. When I did intervals on the bike, I always struggled to reach my max heart rate. It was like there was some internal governor, a level I couldn’t hit outside of competition. No struggle to blow myself up while running up a hill though (and not even running fast! just running!) And a quiet forest is a more enjoyable setting to suffer in than whatever stretch of road you do intervals on twice a week (or a fucking indoor trainer). But hey, just my opinion.
- “Variety is the spice of life”…is a thing I’ve heard people say, and it seems to apply here. It’s cool to explore new places and move your body in different ways.
- More time on trails means less time on roads, which means less time in which a distracted driver could kill you.
- It’s endlessly flexible. You can bike three miles and run one mile, or concoct some sadistic sixty-mile loop with multiple running sections of any distance. If you don’t feel like running much, you can add more bike miles, and vice-versa. You can gain no elevation or thousands of feet, on the bike part or the running part or both. You can run on trails or roads. You can bike on trails or roads. You can go fast or slow.
- Sometimes you don’t want to ride 70 miles. You want to ride 30 miles. But you also want to spend some quality time outside and get a nice workout in to justify your Netflix-watching and cookie-eating later in the day— a noble objective. A ride/run will burn plenty of calories, probably the equivalent of a significantly longer ride, so you won’t feel guilty when you’re stuffing your face while forcing yourself to watch House of Cards and secretly wondering what all the hype was about.
So, I’ve convinced you. You’re gonna try it out. What do you need?
- Shoes; and
- A bike.
Most any bike will do. You could use a bike with clipless pedals and bring your running shoes and shorts in a bag or backpack. Better yet, you could use a bike with flat pedals and wear your shoes—and running shorts instead of bibs—which allows you to travel light and not have to change. That’s what I do. You’ll be amazed at how you lose literally zero watts from not clipping in, and you’ll wonder why we even clip in at all. Honestly, it’s a good question. I’ll continue to clip in on my non-touring bikes, but it’s still a good question. I don’t have an answer.
Here are the Relive maps of my weekend jaunt. The bike part is missing—I must’ve deleted it by accident. But I promise I didn’t drive there.