Sunday, 8 September 2013

Which is best, running or cycling?

I have been going through a funny phase lately and it has caused me to give some thought to the age old question of which is best, running or cycling?

Does this make any sense to you at all?  If like me, you enjoy both, do you ever find yourself asking that very question?  Almost as if to ask is it better to ditch one and try and concentrate on the other.  That then leads on to another question about how "good" I could be at running, if I just concentrated on running.  Same goes for cycling: how "good" could I become if I concentrated on simply cycling?

You might have clocked before that I go through phases where I run every day for a fortnight.  This I normally do for a specific reason such as burning off all those extra calories at Christmas time plus yearning for some daylight no matter how meagre it is.  There are some real benefits from this but I also find myself getting a bit obsessive about it as well.  I find myself plotting longer routes, perhaps tracks or roads I've never run along before.  These newly planned runs generally get longer and longer.

Then by contrast, I go through phases when I concentrate on cycling almost at the expense of running.  Again I find myself mapping out longer rides, sometimes tours.  I chew over the possibilities of cycling with some of my friends who also cycle as I'm sure we can get together to do something together.

The pros and cons of each
Recently I have found myself chewing over the advantages and disadvantages of both running and cycling.  Trouble is, I like them both but for different reasons but this is a blog post in its own right but for now the advantages of running seem to be:

  • seems to be much cheaper than cycling
  • burns more calories
  • more "bang for your bucks" i.e. an hours' run does me more good than an hour on the bike
  • less faffing around i.e. getting out for a run seems so simple compared to finding all my bits of clothing and putting them on, helmet, spare inner tube, unlocking the garage, getting the bike out and so on
And then the advantages of cycling seem to be:
  • fantastic way of seeing more of the countryside
  • I can cycle to work (20 - 28 miles each way) and this is too far to run
  • I love stomping up a hill and the thrill of whizzing down the other side
  • bicycles can be nice objects to enjoy owning and taking care of
The next challenge?
I got a real buzz from running a marathon earlier this year, coming in at a whisker under 4 hours.  I feel I have achieved some reasonable times (for an ordinary bloke in his 50s) in running races and I can savour these when I'm an older bloke in my 90s.  Physically and mentally running has had a profoundly positive effect.

So following on from that I am toying with the idea of cycling much more, I have only done 1200 miles in the last 8 months.  My friend Jeremy and I have toyed with the idea of doing a Coast to Coast event in June 2014: this is a 150 mile bike ride in one day (which also involves 4,500 ft climbing).  The way things we are right now probably going for this!  That'll mean plenty of training, which should be good.

Not sure about doing both
Yep, right now I am unsure whether I am getting the most out of running and cycling by doing both.  I feel faithful to both and yet disloyal to one if I favour the other.  I want to do well and accomplish things, to do my best and go to the limit - and yet I struggle to do this by doing both.

Does any of this make sense?
The best way I can rationalise this would be to think of it in different seasons.  Either calendar seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn) where I run mostly from October through to April, then spend the summer cycling.  Seasons can also mean seasons in life.  I could spend a couple of years running and getting a lot out of it, then take up cycling and concentrate on that for a couple of years.  

I do like the notion of seasons being broader than the calendar seasons.  Being me, I just wish I could always do both and get total satisfaction from doing both - having my cake and eating it!

My guess is a few people are going to say to me (either in person, or in comments below) not to worry and just enjoy doing both......


  1. Hi, Doug
    I fully understand you viewpoint re: cycling and share many of your thoughts. I naturally run more in the cold/cooler months and cycling more in the warmer ones.

    Cycling always feels like a 'treat', even after 35 years of doing it! But I need 2-3hours minimum to call it a ride.

    Running is more taxing on the body but an hour is normally plenty and I usually feel more of a 'high' after a hard run.

    However, cycling is getting expensive and in my opinion more dangerous on many roads.

    There are far more running events than cycling. I have seen the 150mile coast to coast ride, looks very good, it is far too expensive for me when I add everything together.

    Regards, Mark

  2. Hi Mark,

    Looks like we're on a similar wavelength and I wholeheartedly agree with you mentioning the need to have 2-3 hours in the saddle for it to qualify as a good ride. I know exactly what you mean about the 'high' after an hour's run. My trouble is that I still enjoy both running and cycling so much!

    This morning I went for a run, the first for about 2 weeks and I realised how much I missed it and how I have gone "off the boil" in terms of my running muscles but I know it won't take long to bounce back.

    But in the meantime I have thoroughly enjoyed cycling to work, including a couple of times this last week. Yesterday I got a puncture on my way into the office and coming home it poured with rain - but I absolutely loved it!

    The arguments in favour of running or cycling are both pretty strong and I'm still working it through!

    Regards, Doug.