Audiobooks and running

To run with headphones or not to run with headphones. That is the question. There are strong opinions on both sides of the debate (it’s brought up a LOT in Vassos Alexander’s book ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’).

I tend to fall somewhere in the somewhere in the grey area in the middle – although on my runs round Kathmandu at the moment I definitely go without any headphones. I need every single sense to make sure I don’t get run down by an errant taxi, scooter or cow!

While I don’t listen to music on the run, I’ll often have headphones in rocking out to a classic audiobook or podcast. I’ll cover off podcasts at some later point, but I find audiobooks a great way to get in the zone while running. There’s so change of tempo or desire to skip a shitty tune like there is with music, so you can just plug and play for as long as you like. It’s also a great way to carry on consuming books, particularly if you’re time poor.

I’ve had Audible (a monthly subscription service) for nigh on 5 years, so I’ve built up quite a collection!

So, here’s a quick rundown of some of my faves in no particular order…

Two Hours – Ed Caesar

What better way to train for a marathon than to discover more about the quest to run the mythical sub 2 hour marathon. It follows both the progress of current day elite runners, the preparation, the pain of racing, and also spans the history of the distance (who knew it used to be raced around rowdy arenas with bets being place and bands playing?!).

The Sports Gene – David Epstein

It’s something we’ve all thought about. How much of my running ability is defined by effort and training, and how much of it is already hardwired into my genes? This book fascinated me, mixing the science behind genetics with the intimate, personal stories of great athletes like Chrissie Wellington and Emil Zátopek (who turned up to the 1952 Olympics, decided last minute to enter the marathon, and then crushed the field).

Natural Born Heroes – Christopher McDougall

You’ve almost certainly heard of, if not read, ‘Born to Run’ by Chris McDougall. It started a whole host of trends, from barefoot running to consumption of chia seeds (the second of which I’m definitely onboard with). His follow up follows the same gonzo style, but melds the apparent disparate stories of British and Cretan resistance in WWII with parkour in a brutal assessment of our gym culture and modern perceptions of physical fitness.

Moneyball – Michael Lewis

Yes, there was the film adaptation with Brad Pitt. But this, along with Lewis’s other sports book-come-movie ‘The Blind Side’, are much more enjoyable in their original form. The economics and science of building a winning team, along with the brutal reality of running a sports team, is engrossing (at least for me, cos I’m a nerd). And don’t worry if, like me, you have zero knowledge about baseball. It’s just a fantastic, engrossing story.

Fibber in the Heat – Miles Jupp

This one is a little bit personal. It was while listening to this on a bike ride near Otley that I decide to book flights to India last year. I don’t know why though. All Miles Jupp (host of Radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz and formerly of Balamorey fame) does is complain about the heat, the transport, and the food poisoning. All of which are true! But the story of how he bluffed himself a press pass for England’s cricket tour of India, and the ensuing chaos, is funny, endearing, and something to which all cricket fans would relate. He reads it himself, which just adds to the dry wit.

Literally anything by Malcolm Gladwell

Seriously, anything. It’s impossible to listen to Malcolm Gladwell and not come away having learnt something profound, life-changing, or just generally useful to pepper into day-to-day conversation.

So, what about you? Are there any audiobooks to listen to while out on the trails (or good old fashioned paperbacks for the post run recovery session) that you’d recommend? I’d appreciate any more recommendations!


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