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Bookworm with a View

Reading My Way to an Ultramarathon

Reading While Running makes this runner happy!
Audio Books and Running
Published on March 24, 2010 : 12 comments

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Warmer weather is finally here to stay (Ed's note: Some of us are still skeptical. Don't jinx it, Mari!).

This weekend while running at Lake Zorinsky, I ran by several friendly faces—let me tell you, the runners are back! The runners at the lake are strangers to me, but we have one thing in common and that’s our love for running. We nod at each other as if to say, "it’s nice to see you again," or maybe, "I’m so happy to be running outside today."

With the invention of the iPod and mp3 players, you will see most runners wearing headphones. A betting man would say most of us are listening to music, the tempo keeps us running at a desired pace. I am training for a 50 mile run later this year, so you might not be surprised to learn that I have given up running to music.

Running Time Has Become Reading Time

Have you tried listening to audio books? The library has a large selection to choose from. Add Audible and iTunes into the mix, and there is a lifetime of listening available for each and every one of us.

I had listened to no more than five novels ‘on tape’ until discovering audio books last summer. Once I made the decision to run an ultra-marathon, my free time simply disappeared. Just this weekend, I was running around the lake, bundled up in winter gear, with my iPod playing The Gift of an Ordinary Day. A book will keep me company for several days of running (depending on the length).

I usually have about 5 books waiting for me to listen to at any given time. This allows me the freedom to pick a book based on what I feel like listening to that day (don’t fret…I do not jump from novel to novel). I get a sense of enjoyment in knowing I can ‘read’ a book in a few days time, and it’s important to me that I find time to read while accomplishing a life goal (the ultra-marathon).

Zorinsky Lake ParkZorinsky Lake ParkSome of my favorite books read last year were audio books: I loved Her Fearful Symmetry and Brooklyn: a novel. There is a point on the trail, at Lake Zurinsky, where the direction changes from heading westbound to southbound that always reminds me of a moment in Somebody Else’s Daughter. I was listening to this book for book club last fall and in the first part of the story the mother dies just as she is about to give her baby up for adoption. When I run by this corner, I always think about this part of the book. Wonderful writing makes listening to a story so much more enjoyable, but the voice of the person reading the book is also important.

Julie and JuliaJulie and JuliaAnother great book to listen to is Julie and Julia. Have you read it? If you have, try to imagine a vegetarian runner listening to the chapter on bone marrow! This moment will stay with me forever. I was running under the bridge crossing from the big lake to the small lake as Julie was trying to get the gooey substance to rise in the pot (yuck). This is one of the first books I listened to last summer; it was told with so much energy that I have been hooked on audio books ever since that warm summer morning last year.

The last audio experience I will share is also from last summer. While hiking the Flat Irons in Boulder, I listened to The Last Lecture (by Randy Pausch). This book is so inspiring that I could have climbed Mount Everest that day!

The Last LectureThe Last LectureI have also listened to The Help and Olive Kitteridge. I have thoroughly enjoyed every book I listened to at this point. If you haven’t tried Audible, they have some pretty generous deals for first time visitors. Signing up for a trial membership will get you two book downloads and two weeks worth of access to magazines and radio shows (just remember to cancel within 14 days or the "free" downloads will become anything but).

I know I have been going on and on about our public library recently, but I am challenging myself to use the library as much as possible this year. They have over 50 new audio book selections to choose from, and that's only what's new for this year. I am taking advantage of this, listening to memoirs, biographies, novels, and more. Next on my list is The Swan Thieves, which I picked up from the Omaha Public Library just yesterday.

Do you listen to audio books? Do you have suggestions for me to listen to as I train this summer? At the peak of my training I will easy listen to two books a week.

mpartykaHappy Reading, Mari


AnnDbugz says:

March 25, 2010 : 14 years 13 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hi Mari!
I am feeling a bit dense…. I work out every day at the gym and usually plug into the TV…. I never thought that people with their ipods might be listening to a book! I assumed it was music…

THANKS for the great ideas and your suggestions for reading. I had forgotten about “the Last Lecture” I am going to ‘read’ it ;-)

mpartyka says:

March 25, 2010 : 14 years 13 weeks ago

mpartyka's picture

Ann, Thanks for commenting. I haven’t listened to music on my ipod for months (I actually can’t remember the last time).

Having an ipod I do not have the option of listening to TV at the gym (our gym uses FM stations).

I love to listen while vacuuming, do yard work, go for a walk…

Have a great day! Mari

Lisa (not verified) says:

March 25, 2010 : 14 years 13 weeks ago

Lisa's picture

I love to listen to books while I’m working but I have to be very selective to read only “light” books or I’ll fall off task. I do need to get back into the habit of getting books to listen to from the library; I love the idea of being able to get through so many more books without having to find the time to sit down and read.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

March 25, 2010 : 14 years 13 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

Our family loves books, old and new, and we love libraries. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Public Library was a meeting place-a gathering place for friends and family. In our family photograph album there is this wonderful picture of your grandmother, Sara, sitting in front the library.

Beyond books, there is another dimension, the library building itself, the architecture. Old libraries are testament to great and not so great books and the artistry found in the architecture. Just check out the New York Public Library website for a peek at that wonderful building.

Thank you for great articles!

Emily Smith (not verified) says:

March 25, 2010 : 14 years 13 weeks ago

Emily Smith's picture

I love your description of bone marrow in Julie and Julia - hilarious! How long till you circumnavigate the globe with all the miles you’ve run?? :)

seejayess (not verified) says:

March 26, 2010 : 14 years 13 weeks ago

seejayess's picture

I’m marathon training myself, and am going to try and give a book a listen to on my next training run.

I NEVER even thought about that!! VERY good advice, thanks!

Jen D. (not verified) says:

March 26, 2010 : 14 years 13 weeks ago

Jen D.'s picture

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Time Traveler’s Wife. Thanks for the suggestions!

dr (not verified) says:

March 28, 2010 : 14 years 12 weeks ago

dr's picture

I thought I was the only one!
I created my own BPM-mix - a scale of 40 songs from 120 to 200 bpm which I can switch to to check or alter my pace with. Other than that is just me, the English countryside, and Jane Austen novels (a couple from librivox) on my £8 mp3 player - with an FM radio :)
Next up for me is Intelliquest’s The World’s 100 Greatest Books - great reviews of some 100 classics in 30 mins each, some Haruki Murakami, and some wonderful Teaching Company books: economics, finance, the solar system, civilization’s birth, language evolution. A few TED talks, 30 minute BBC comedy show (awesome) and slowly downloading an epic: The Story of Civilization - Will Durant. 11 books long! Shantaram, Atlas Shrugged and the Origin of Species also feature. I just wish A Suitable Boy was available as an audiobook!

Any other audiobook/podcast recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

dr (not verified) says:

March 28, 2010 : 14 years 12 weeks ago

dr's picture

My current iTunes list: Brave New World, Brief History of the World, Collapse - How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed, Guns, Germs and Steel, Discovery of Civilization, Free - The Future of a Radical Price, The Great Railway Bazaar, Human Prehistory, Jane Eyre, Peoples and Cultures of the World, Predictably Irrational, Superfreakonomics, Travels of Marco Polo, The God Delusion, 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense - plus a further 20 or so TTC lectures (average 30x30mins); I also find iTunesU a huge source of courses but I daren’t look properly until I’ve finished these! Some of these are ~50 hrs long and although audiobooks are slower than reading (unless I speed them up on my mp3 player) it’s a great way to enjoy then and long runs.

dr (not verified) says:

March 28, 2010 : 14 years 12 weeks ago

dr's picture

FINAL comment :) Born to Run is an essential audiobook for running :)

jordy says:

March 29, 2010 : 14 years 12 weeks ago

jordy's picture

I’m also a big fan of Audiobooks while running/biking/driving. Podcasts are great, too. I feel like many non-tech people would be surprised how easy it is to find interesting podcasts on almost any subject. Podcasts are really the highest form of radio in my mind, and if you listen just right, the miles start to slide on by…

cpooschke says:

April 1, 2010 : 14 years 12 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

Great idea! I LOVE multitasking :)