Runner Trains for Marathon by Running Errands


Dao Nguyen, who lives in Houston, is training for a marathon. But instead of running around in circles in Memorial Park, Houstons’s most popular running circuit, he has decided to run all of his errands instead...by foot...by running. This way, he is maximizing his time and caloric expenditure at the same time... to the tune of only 100 calories per mile, compared to the roughly 3000 calories a car needs to 'run' errands. Cars typically use about 30 times more energy to transport a person compared to that person traveling that same mile with their own feet, highly inefficient in comparison.

Read further for an interview with Dao Nguyen...I met Dao from a rideshare ad that I placed on Craigslist. He is a repeat passenger, as we have both had to make the same trek between Austin and Houston a few times recently. Dao doesn’t own a car, a rarity in Houston, TX. He does have a bicycle for more involved errands.

He also limits his possessions to 50 at a time, but that is another story.

Here is my interview with Dao:

TH: What inspired you to train for a marathon?

DAO: I have had lots and lots of projects that I have started and have not completed. I decided that this was due to a lack of discipline. I figured that if I trained and ran a full marathon, that I could train my mind to "keep pressing on...to keep pressing forward" despite pain and that this would translate to other goals I have for myself that are not physical/health goals...say for instance, to start a photography business. Yes, it first takes a dream, but to make that dream happen it's not all fun and games, so again, my belief was that if I could run a marathon, that would give me a reference point, an accomplishment to find confidence.

TH: What gave you the idea to combine running with doing your errands?

DAO: Purpose combined with fun gives me meaning in life.

TH: Are you able to find enough errands to do to reach your training goals?

DAO: As of right now I would say I run between 5-7 miles everyday with a pack. I'd like to think that this translates to about 10-12 regular weightless miles I have yet to work out errand distances to coincide with training.

TH: Do you find that your training is hindered by obstacles such as traffic, insufficient pedestrian infrastructure, etc?

DAO: No it's even MORE fun. I love bumpy sidewalks, narrow sidewalks, sidewalks under construction, taped off work areas (I leap over them), curbs, red lights, children (often smiling), etc. It all adds to the pleasure of running.

TH: How do you carry your items (groceries, etc) while you are running?

DAO: For lighter items, a running pack, like one of those polyester ones they pass out free at banks or college recruitments. It's the lightest pack i can find. For full grocery runs, I am presently using a travel backpack made by swiss gear, it feels very snug. But it's a bit heavy so I am on the lookout for another pack with an equally snug fit but lighter. In running errands, yes, it's all about weight.

TH: Do you ever feel indecent being in sweaty running shorts while at the grocery store, bank, etc?

DAO: Yes, I went to get my hair cut and the barber commented, "You ran here?!" My entire forehead was dripping. Well, i gave him a big tip. He was cool. I'd like to think that it's inspiring and that when people see a lunatic with an orange or pink running pack down Westheimer more than once, they will ask the question, "What is up with this guy? Why is he always running? And always with a bright colored pack?" I just smile. In moments like these I like being me and in this space I feel very happy and in tune with the adventure of being alive.

TH: Did you make this decision for environmental reasons, or for practical reasons, being that you don't own a car? That being asked, is your decision to be car-free an environmental decision, or a practical one or both?

DAO: It's funny you ask. because my brother has a car I can borrow, but I like the exercise and honestly running errands is my coffee. I don't like how coffee makes me feel. I like a natural heart rate boost, so running is the only thing I know to increase my heart rate. And again, it's productive, so I like it. It fits me.

Further Reading:

Combining Errands with your Exercise Routine
6 Tips to Make Your Bicycle an Errand-Making Machine
Car? What Car?. . . Hauling Furniture By Bicycle

Tags: Carbon Footprint | Car-Free