Shortest Day, Longest Run Commute

45K in a Day...

I chose December 21 because it's the shortest day of the year - also I have a few crazy running friends that like to do long, long runs on Winter Solstice and this is my way of joining them from afar in their quirky observation of the shortest day. I like to think that if only for a day I have one of the longest run commutes of anyone in Dublin...

I must make clear this isn't representative length for my normal every day run commutes, and while some might call this crazy or insane, it's hard not to feel so alive running along the Irish Sea every morning. It forces one to think long-term and sharpens the mind and reactions to anticipate and visualize things around you. Being able to create and sandbox any size challenge you want on demand is something that run commuting (and ultra-running, but that's another post) can offer daily - and it's a huge advantage for nearly every aspect of work/life.

The Setup


It's amazing how a small route change can provide the catalyst for positive change in the rest of your day...


run commuting - preparation

I live approximately 22km away from my place of work in Eastpoint (Dublin)- normally I ride the train halfway and run in to work from Blackrock or Dun Laoghaire (8-12km respectively). In the evening I often run this route (or a variant) in reverse.

Preparation starts the night before... In my pack I carry my work clothes, towel, two phones, a small mirrorless camera, backup camera battery, backup gear (hat and gloves) for Ireland's notorious weather. A super tiny reusable shopping bag and a few sundry toiletries - all total anywhere from 3-4Kg (6-8lbs).

When you first start run commuting you will need to ease into it - a 3KG pack can wreck you if you put down major mileage right away.

Breakfast

Everyone is a little different in this department. I'm not going to preach a food methodology or fad - but my wife's whole wheat bread recipe  (shameless link here: http://aprettyhappyhome.com/2015/04/06/daves-killer-bread-updated-copycat-recipe) is out of this world delicious and part of my balanced morning diet. 

PROTIP: Don't skip it!

Stage 1: Shankill to Dublin

After breakfast, it's a quick check to make sure I have my keys, company security badge, Leap Card. One last click on my Apple Watch to check weather (I know... I'm about to step outside into this mess and I'm checking as if it is somehow going to be different...)

Then I fire up the Runmeter app on my watch - yeah gotta have my stats. Besides how am I going to know when I've gone far enough?

It's 6:26am and as I close the door behind me and start to cycle up my cadence I notice that once again the weather is super balmy. Gone are the near freezing temps of 2-5°C days we've experienced for the last few weeks and instead I'm surrounded in 13°C sub-tropic warmth... Can't beat running in a long sleeve T-shirt and shorts on the first day of winter!!!

run commute start - Shankill

A minute later and I'm cruising down main street of our quiet little town of Shankill. It's pretty much a ghost town at this hour - a  woman sits waiting in front of Mickey Byrnes for the Aircoach to the airport. I stop a little further up to take a picture looking back down the street.

The pavement is a bit wet - it doesn't appear to have rained as much as what appears to be condensation - Ireland is a damp place at times...

I make my way up through Ballybrack a few wet leaves underfoot - there is a slight downhill in parts which I know will be slight uphills on the way back - a bit like my own personal Heartbreak Hill at the end of the day's adventure...

Around kilometer 2.5 I begin my ascent of Killiney Hill - I must confess I do enjoy running hills. While they aren't always easy, conquering one is it's own reward. Also if you get too tired from running a hill you can always switch to speed-hiking mode - a perfectly legitimate ultra/trail race strategy and good practice. A little further along the way, I pass two early morning walkers also on their way up to the top of the hill. I stop and take a few

Killiney Hill Climb

more pictures of one of the many Martello towers along the route. Unfortunately it's still really dark and even with a fast lens and high-ISO camera, the combination of harsh streetlight and utter blackness yields mediocre images. So I continue my journey onward toward the top. After another 5-6 minutes and I finally make it up to the top of Killiney Village.

Killiney Village - early morning

Killiney Village

Taking a moment to snap a couple quick pics. Then I pull my phone out of my backpack and switch on the flashlight mode because there are no lights for the next 1/2 KM or so of trail in the park. Now that my lighting is sorted, I continue on up the steps into Killiney Hill Park... and you guessed it - a little bit more hill as the trail winds around the eastern slopes of Killiney hill.

I make my way around the park and see no one - usually I see a dog walker or two, but it appears I am on my own this morning. After crossing the parking lot car park I begin my descent down - stopping briefly to snap a shot of the lights from Dublin/Dun Laoghaire below - it really is beautiful from up here and I love running this route into work.

I spend a couple minutes because getting night shots without a tripod is tricky and doubly so when you're in the middle of a run. It's a combination of visualizing the shot before you get there, thinking about where you can place the camera and then waiting for 30-40 seconds to get exposure right and what elements you want in your scene - the usual photog stuff...

Running with a camera I find holding it in my hand to be the best method - always at the ready.

Photography on the Run

  • Pickup a light mirrorless camera with an interchangeable lens system
  • Pack an extra battery
  • Look for a Bluetooth/WiFi enabled camera to transfer pics to your phone

These days there are a number of great options for light (less than 1 pound) mirrorless cameras. I use an Olympus PEN series, but Fuji and Sony also have great systems:


Killiney Hill Park

I continue on down the hill and fork to the left down a side trail known as "Metals Way". This was a route used by the workers as they quarried rock from Dalkey Quarry to build the jetties around Dun Laoghaire harbor and no doubt much of the stone used for walls and buildings in the area. It is a mixed use trail (cycling/walking) and is one of the hidden treasures in the Dun Laoghaire/Dalkey area as it is separate from normal vehicular traffic.

Metals Wy

This trail is a couple kilometers long, but it goes fast as it is flat and easy running. You just have to pay attention to bikes approaching - they often ring their bell, but can sometimes sneak up on you.

I pass by several DART train stations: Glenageary, Sandycove, then People's Park and finally I am at the trail's end. 

I'm about 8km into my run commute at this point and feeling great. There's always plenty of time to either be alone in your thoughts  - something needed in this hyper-connected age.

I cross over the road to the sea side and stop to take another picture - this time of the southern jetty of Dun Laoghaire harbor.

Dun Laoghaire Harbor

I run on ahead and cross back over at the library thinking I might get a good shot of the clock in downtown Dun Laoghaire with the purple lights along the trail, but I just wasn't seeing my shot. I made my way to the intersection and decided to cross back over and run down along the sea. Sometimes you go out of your way for a shot or view that just doesn't materialize - there's always a another day... you just have to let these things go.

Dun Laoghaire Intersections
Dun Laoghaire Harbor
Salthill Beach

I run on up the coast ... at 11km along the beach at Seapoint another Martello Tower and then across the DART, into Blackrock past St John the Baptist Church for a shot of construction cranes lit up nicely for the Christmas season.

Seapoint Martello Tower
Seapoint stairs
St John The Baptist Church, Blackrock
Blackrock Construction

This is one of the few areas where I run along a somewhat major and certainly busy road. I stop a few times along this route to take in a few more sites including the DART at Booterstown. It looks really spectacular in the darkness - much nicer than a midday viewing experience.

Blackrock Park
Booterstown

Booterstown Dart

Remembering back to the water levels in Dun Laoghaire harbor, I decide to take the beach as the tide should be out far enough for a dry run along the beach. Now at kilometer 15, I make my way across the DART tracks and hang a hard right onto a concealed entrance to Sandymount Beach.

I run up the beach and decide to route around Ringsend to the port side. Stopping for a harbor photo op. 

Finally it's a quick dash along the port area in East Wall for one more photo of the new Port building crane (it's a non-functioning piece of art). Then around kilometer 21 I pass by the outdoor ping-pong table before arriving shortly at our office. Not a bad for a nice 2 hourish commute!

Sandymount Beach
Dublin Harbor Bridge
Enterprise Ireland Campus
Dublin Port Building

Stage 2: East Point to Shankill

As I could probably have predicted, by the time I got to work I was focused, alert and ready to go - running for me just amps my energy levels - even with only 8-10hrs rest between runs.

After work I changed back into my running gear - i should mention I dry it all out in the morning because there are few things worse than putting on wet, sweaty running gear... for both participant and observer.

On the run home I took a slightly less optimal route through East Wall pausing at the Liffey for a quick shot down the river and then across and along Grand Canal Dock into Ringsend:

Nighttime along the Liffey
Grand Canal Dock at Night

Then it was a peaceful jaunt back down Sandymount beach through Booterstown and down through Blackrock Park before the blitz through the narrow path alongside the Blackrock DART station:

Sandymount Beach at Night

Blackrock Park
Blackrock DART path

I thought about cutting back down to the sea at Seapoint but decided to go ahead and stay the course along the road into Monkstown. As I approached Dun Laoghaire I was coming up on kilometer 35 for the day. The lights at The Forty Foot beckoned with the memories of cheap, tasty English cask ales... but I soldiered on.

I paused two more times along the coastal walk in Dun Laoghaire to get a few more shots of the Dun Laoghaire night lights before continuing up toward Dalkey:

Dun Laoghaire Train Station
Dun Laoghaire Forty Foot Pub
Dun Laoghaire Pier
Dun Laoghaire at Night

I decided to take a little more circutuitous route home on Vico Road and made my way through Dalkey past the church, climbing up along the western edge of Killiney Hill before beginning my descent back into Killiney. Great vistas along this route looking out toward Bray and Shankill:

St Patricks Church, Dalkey
Vico Road Vistas
Vico Road at Night
Vico Rd Christmas

My last shot of the night was as I was running by one of the many gated driveways along Vico down into Killiney - it was spectacularly lit up for Christmas.

A few kilometers later I made my way through Shankill - stopping at Tesco for a couple cans of only the finest Polish lager. No better way to wind down a 45K day!


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