Running and cycling

I came to c25k as a cyclist who had become unfit. My body is comfortable cycling and although I didn't seem to have lost fitness in that area of my life, I was getting out of breath walking especially on hills and stairs. I think for me there are some fundamental differences between running and cycling, so I'd be interested in what other people think of this. Running feels much more like a discipline, and I think this means I need to be careful how I approach it considering I'm used to being a bit more gung-ho with my cycling. However, since becoming a runner, I am starting to see the similarities a lot more too, and there's definitely lots to learn from my new running discipline that I can apply to cycling now. All my similarities and differences are listed below, please let me know your thoughts. By the way, for me cycling is often combined with a purpose, i.e. it's transport to get somewhere and do something, whereas I realise for others it may be more purely a leisure or exercising activity. This may add an interesting angle to my differences and similarities...


Cycling - honestly I'll cycle in anything even barefoot. Been known to cycle in high heels even.

Running - after week 1 of c25k I bought proper Karrimor running shoes. I now wear double layer socks too.


Cycling - as long as I don't wear a rucksack or unnecessary layers then it's not a sweaty activity for me.

Running - I sweat even in winter - there's no way I could run over to a friend's house for tea, for example, they'd be horrified!

Carrying stuff:

Cycling - my pannier is king and contains all my wordly possessions. Extra things held on with bungees.

Running - carry as little as possible. My running belt just has my phone and keys.

Extra equipment:

Cycling - lots: glasses, helmet, high-vis belt, high-vis trouser clip, lights, locks, bungees, pannier, water bottle.

Running - minimal: shoes, running socks, running bra (but not essential) and running belt.


Cycling - I carry a water bottle, but otherwise there are no special requirements. Not unusual to cycle home after several pints of cider even...

Running - lots of water and avoid alcohol night before, more water when I wake before leaving, more water when I get home, then porridge/muesli and optionally banana afterwards, love my post run fuel rituals!


Cycling - once a month check tyres, brake pads, wash frame, oil chain.

Running - warm up, warm down, and stretches. Try to do core exercises between runs too.

Social life:

Cycling - my bike gets me to any number of fun things, and can also be a fun accessory to a day out with bf/friends

Running - the social bit is sort of more post-run, on here, or mentioning it to friends. Mostly it's more of a private activity for me. One day I aspire to being a more sociable parkrun type person though :)


Cycling - if I say to a friend I rode my bike 30 miles, however exhausting and exhilarating it was, most responses will be about depressing practicalities such as whether it was safe

Running - if I say to friends (haven't told many yet) that I can run 5k, they are gobsmacked :)


Cycling - I am very experienced and sensible regarding cycling in London, but it is just not safe. You are constantly on your guard and can get scared quite regularly (normally prompting pulling onto pavement and letting HGV/manic inter-city coach/insane car-driver just go past).

Running - I have my ICE number in my phone, and I run off-road (on canals) where there are enough people around if I needed any help. Feels completely safe.

Pushing my limits:

Cycling - a lot of it is about understanding the mechanics of the bike itself, as well as pacing yourself for a longer journey and carrying snacks (my ironman-competing friend swears by fig rolls which she carries in a pouch on the handlebars)

Running - my limits feel much less flexible. It takes hard work building up stamina, distance, as well as being really careful with my pacing to get to a longer distance or slightly faster pace, hence these are things I diligently record and monitor, and get excited about when they improve!


Cycling - I have a long history of going over the handlebars, resulting in various hand injuries, back strains, even a handlebar in my stomach at one point. Used to wear my scars with pride, now I'm just mortified to still be so clumsy. But try and find a cyclist who doesn't fall off from time to time - it just happens!

Running - apart from slipping on some ice and falling on my arse around week 4, I've been quite lucky. Despite a busy IC round here, it seems much less likely you'll get injured from running apart from those unlucky folk with muscular strains etc.


Cycling - if it's raining but you've got to be at work in half an hour, you just put on your waterproofs and go. Waterproof trousers especially. With spare dry socks in case! I love cycling in the rain as long as I've got my waterproofs :)

Running - if it's raining I check the weather and postpone my run to later/tomorrow when it clears up! How chicken is that. Most rain I've run in so far was a light mist!

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21 Replies

  • I have just got a new bike, haven't even taking it outside yet as it's been raining. Over the past few years my cycling has been limited to the odd summer outing with my son, but many years ago in Germany nearly all of your points applied (except it's fairly safe to cycle in Bonn as there are a lot of cycle paths and the traffic is very different from London.) These days I do sweat when cycling although I hope that this will improve as I improve my bike fitness. During the school holidays I am planning to try cycling to work and see how it goes. It's around 6km (have to take a side road as I am not going to cycle on the main road into Birmingham! ), so watch this space ...

  • Ah that reminds me to add weather to my list. I definitely feel I have a different approach to riding in the rain. It's not so great in the summer when waterproofs can make you overheat, but there is something quite brilliant about cycling in the rain if you've got the right gear (waterproof trousers are essential). I also have a lot of side routes I take to avoid the main roads in London. Sometimes you find yourself on them nevertheless because of where you have to get to. Re sweating, there are good base layers you can get which sort of wick the moisture from your skin, but I've never needed them. I definitely need something like this for running though! Def let us know when you get into your new cycling commuting routine :)

  • I got wet for the first time cycling home today....I really didn't like it! handle bars very slippery, clothes sticking to me (hadn't bothered taking proper waterproofs as I was hoping to avoid the rain) and glasses covered in raindrops and in danger of steaming up when waiting at traffic lights....I think I'll keep cycling for dry days (don't mind the cold) and take the bus when it's wet (actually missing my time reading on the bus :-) )

  • Hi RCR, can really recommend a running club. The social side is great as you get to run in groups and learn lots of great routes. Several of us go to parkruns, exploring all the local ones, cheering each other on. Lots of helpful advice too.

  • I think from my list, this stands out as one of the main missing pieces in the puzzle. I have a good sense of what other cyclists think about cycling, just from doing it for over 20 years, and also working in various bike shops or working with other people who cycle. I need to meet more runners I think, and do events where you really run together.

  • I've just contacted a local group called Run Club East. Hopefully that should be good :)

  • Fingers crossed! Hope you get as much from it as I do!

  • That was a very, very interesting post. I loved all the comparisons between all the different aspects of the two sports.

    Or rather, between the mode-of-transport called cycling and the sport called running, because, as you say, you do mainly use your bike the way it was invented to be used: as a means of getting around quicker, more conveniently and with less effort than if you had been running.

    Although i did start to cycle regularly earlier in the year, that has fallen completely by the wayside since then. So I can't really add much to your comparisons, other than to repeat that I enjoyed reading them.

  • I think running may have originally had a purpose too. I now feel if there was an emergency or something I could run for help or to get away from an attacker or something - a useful ability to have! I catch buses easier now too :) I think maintaining a cycling habit requires combining it with purpose, whereas running has more of a feeling of achievement on its own, unless you want to go the triathlon route...

  • Running does have a practical side. I saw a car at the side of the road the other day, in the bushes. Then I realised the lights were still on, so it had just happened and the occupant was probably still inside. I parked up and ran half a mile back up the hill to find a lady at the wheel. Fortunately she had called her husband and the police so everything was OK. I waited till the police arrived then left. Last year I would not have been able to run anywhere near that far, and certainly not uphill.

  • Very interesting post.

    I don't really cycle so I can't add much to the comparison, but I would add that it's very satisfying to use running as a mode of transport. It's amazing to feel that you can run somewhere that you only considered accessible by car.

    For example, my dad and brother are buried at a green burial ground about 5 miles from our house and one of my favourite runs is to go out and visit them. It's a lovely run on country roads and across a couple of fields and much nicer to do on foot.

    Similarly, this weekend I needed to drop off a car and get the train home so I went in my running things and got off two stops early to run the last 10 miles instead. It's a really satisfying way to incorporate a run into your day. Maybe sometime I'll run the whole way - but that's 22 miles and rather beyond my range at the moment!

  • That's so organised - of course running can be transport :) but it is less thought of as transport I think? I have a regular appointment early on Tuesday mornings and have thought about going there by bus and running home afterwards, as it's near the canal. I think running home would work for me, but not arriving somewhere looking worse for wear.

    I love that you are finding your dad's and brother's graves more accessible now because of running. People talk about getting fresh air and seeing green they wouldn't otherwise if they weren't running, but that's brilliant to be able to go somewhere with really personal meaning - thanks for sharing that! :)

  • A agree that it needs to be running home - you would not have wanted me arriving after running in the sun on Saturday! I had to go and stand in the shower room because I was literally dripping! Uck!

  • Hi ruth, I love the bike but there's a lot of faffing with kit and dirty chains etc and it certainly doesn't seem to get me as fit as the running. I can easily fit a 30 min run in , but a good 3 hour mountain bike session is a bit harder to squeeze in. However on the bike going down hill your legs get a wee break which you don't get so much running. It's nice to have tophe two things in my life but I definitely loose running fitness much quicker than bike fitness. Oh and I like running roads at the moment but prefer off road biking, cause I'm terrified of traffic, so you're much braver than me cycling round London!

  • If I'm just popping to a friends I swing my handbag across my back and just jump on my bike and go. Have been known to stick a hairclip in my skirt if it's getting too flyaway and inappropriate for cycling... a lot of adjusting tends to happen at traffic lights! Living in London, even though the main roads are hell, the high bus and tube fares are great incentive for just getting on a bike and cycling somewhere. You find back routes through parks, canals, and along the Thames. I'm in the docklands area so there are lots of back routes. My brother's the mountain biker. His kit really is a faff, but he explains you do have to keep your bike in top condition as a fall at high speed going down a mountain is slightly more life-threatening than flying over your handlebars at 15mph in the park :) He would also argue that while you're freewheeling down a hill you're still working hard bracing against the handlebars etc...

  • I recently got back in touch with someone I went to school with (47 years ago!). He was a keen cyclist then and still is now, out riding all year round and taking part in competitions.

    Main thing for me is I can put my running gear in my bag and do it anywhere!

  • Wow. Love this post! Very inspirational. 😄😃

  • It seems to me that you are not comparing like with like. Unless I have misunderstood, I would define your cycling as predominantly "utility cyclist" (i.e. you are a person on a bike, where the bike is a means of transport, rather than cycling as a specific sporting activity). However, your running is definitely a sport. Perhaps you should be comparing utility cycling to walking (something you do to get from A to B where the end result is the prime consideration, not the activity itself). I would then compare your running to cycle sport - not directly comparable to the TdF maybe, but certainly something along those lines.

    I don't mean to be picky, but there are many different types of cycling (how else can I justify the 5 bikes I own to my other half ;) ). I own a mountain bike, an audax (drop handlebar fast tourer), a recumbent, a folder and a tandem. They all have different uses (the number of bikes a cyclist needs = n + 1 where n is the amount they own). Perhaps I should compare them to the number of types of shoes I own - road shoes, trail shoes, cycling shoes, kayak shoes, general purpose trainers, hiking boots, work shoes... Each has a different purpose and while each are not essential they are certainly useful.

    I think cycling and running can be very similar, or very different. It just depends on your approach to each and what you want to get out of each.

  • I think the way I run and the way I cycle are definitely very different, although maybe for some both would be a 'sport' as you say. I like the term 'utility cyclist' - this describes me well! You don't sound picky - very clear and useful actually. Although I didn't really aim to compare in a like with like sort of way, more a two active things that I do sort of way. From my perspective, cycling has always been my main way of staying fit, and I maintained this illusion for several years after I really stopped being fit at all. There is an aspect of commuting by bike that IS more like a sport - I've been advised that after 20 minutes you are actually 'exercising' - as in your heart rate is raised etc. But predominantly the way I cycle is more to do with utility as you describe (and perhaps not to be confused with roadrace cycling and mountain biking etc). This list was my way of thinking this all through, and also making myself realise the discipline involved in running is definitely something new that I simply hadn't encountered before through cycling (despite the illusion I had of thinking it was keeping me fit :) ) Thinking about it perhaps I've been trying to be a 'utility runner' with my minimal running kit and casual approach - realising my new running habit is actually a disciplined sport is actually quite a big change for me to adapt to!

  • I love the way "work shoes" come a poor 7th in your list! Sounds about right!

  • Hi RCR, great post. I do both, and both for general fitness. I ride a mountain bike and live in south Oxfordshire so have many, many great rides both on quiet village roads and tracks and trails. Riding my bike was always my main means of keeping active but found it wasn't enough so started running 18 months ago, for me it's the ideal combination.

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