Call me crazy, but I don’t often run with music. Sure I’ll take some on the occasional fast track workout to get me pumped up, but I’ve never listened to music during a race, and very rarely have it on during a training run. My life as a high school teacher is so loud and exciting every single day that I head to the trails for moments of peace and quiet. I choose to focus instead on my breath, my steps, and the nature and sounds around me – unless, that is, I’m listening to a podcast.
A good, engaging podcast is the perfect compromise for me – I can keep one earbud in and still hear the birds chirping around me or the pack of angry dogs that’s about to pummel me from behind. A short hour or so episode still gives me quiet time on a long run, but fills up some of the monotony of a climb I’ve done umpteen times before and lets me zone out a little bit on something besides the thoughts in my head. That being said, it’s difficult to find a podcast that meets my desired criteria – short, concise episodes, an engaging storyline, and a bit of music to mix things up.
I do enjoy some of the big running ones (Trail Runner Nation, Ultra Runner Podcast, etc) especially after learning the trick of focusing on the female-centered episodes and videos (my wise friend once said “I don’t know, it seems like women always just have more intelligent things to say”), but am always looking to diversify. And so to help you, dear reader, not have to wade through all the garbage out there, I present to you – my top 5 all-time
running podcasts for running:
1. Serial – Season 1
2. S-town (Or since The Donald gave us permission, Shittown)
This one starts with an email with the subject line: “John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama”, and goes downhill from there. It’s an incredibly compelling mix of a somewhat mal-adjusted genius living in the very rural south, and what starts as an investigation into allegations of a murder takes a 180 degree turn early on and heads in directions that can’t really be predicted. I especially loved the imagery of this one, as I felt I could really picture exactly what John and his crew of Alabama rednecks were looking at and going through as the story unfolded – so much so that once I googled a few actual pictures of the story and its inhabitants and was disappointed, like when you see a bad movie made from an awesome book. It weaves a fascinating motif of time, antique clocks, and sundials throughout the story, as well as apocalyptic fears for the current state of the planet and global warming. Stick with it through the first two episodes before you decide it’s not for you, as it takes a while to really get spinning.
3. Snap Judgment
When I tell people I like listening to podcasts, at some point in the conversation they will ask if I like listening to The Moth. To which I can easily reply, sure, I like The Moth… but have you tried Snap Judgment?
Yeah, it’s another in the NPR family, but man it’s good. “Storytelling with a Snap” is their motto, and it’s generally true – they are 10-20 minute stories, usually revolving around a central theme, set to just enough music to keep you moving. Some of them are heavy, some of them are light, they all usually have some funny parts to them, and they all leave you thinking about what you heard for days to come. It’s incredibly consistent in my opinion – all the episodes are pretty darn good – but if you’re looking for some favorites to start with, I would recommend The Scientist and the Psychopath along with the entire Rose Colored Glasses episode.
4. Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lightly
As the series unfolds you start to question and wonder about his 2012 death that was portrayed as a suicide. And while he is not intending to solve a mystery, Serial style, the producer and narrator Reggie Ossé (aka Combat Jack) consistently raises the bar throughout the whole series and keeps you asking questions the whole time. Don’t sleep on this podcast – save it for your long ones and queue up a couple of episodes, because chances are you won’t want to go home!