Please please please, pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re out there. The dangers faced by runners outside, like cars and trucks, other (blind) runners, roaming dingos, impromptu Bollywood shows and the odd ice storm, should not be made more severe by cutting off one of your primary senses. And if you run with a book held out in front of you, then you are just begging to be nominated for a Darwin Award. With that said, if you the type of person who needs to be distracted from the running bit of running, then audiobooks (and podcast) are one way forward. You get to add a bit of narrative enjoyment to an otherwise dull activity. So…
Three reasons to run & listen:
It can distract you from the pain.
You are out of shape, didn’t eat sufficiently, or plain just not liking the running bit… Having a story can provide you with a focal point, a way of disassociating yourself from the on-going torment by focussing on something else. Over time (and with sufficient effort) the time spent running distracted could end up making you strong enough to enjoy it.
It allows you to read during a sweaty activity.
I like to fill my time with learning, so reading while running combines an investment in my health with an investment in my brain. And it stops me from getting icky salt stains on my precious paper relics. And whether the act of listening to a book constitutes reading or not is covered here. It helps fitting exercise into a busy schedule, so you can fit in reading the morning paper during your run to work or a text book for your studies on your way university.
It can help you build the habit
Associating the story with the workout can help you structure your work and build motivation (granted, this requires planning), and differs from the point above. A chapter or a set number of minutes can be used to count duration or turnaround time, while the anticipation of the story can help you run the next time. For bibliophiles this may sound like sacrilege, but you can choose to not read “just one more page”. Really… I tell myself that all the time.
Three reasons to run & not listen:
The noise can block out reality
The physical act of blasting any sound into your ears will dilute other more urgent audio cues, like screeching brakes, blaring sirens and cops yelling at you to get out of the way or worse “Stop!”. Paying attention has its pay off, as does silent running, so choose time and place carefully.
A great narrative is a great distraction.
It is somewhat scary to be accused of ignoring your co-worker’s wife on my run. Not that I ignore people (I do, but that’s usually a choice), but I hardly recall seeing anyone on my run. On the street, in a fairly well populated area. Apparently having Harry Dresden face off against some nameless horror from the underbelly of reality at a hotel buffet in my ears was quite the distraction. Hence you may miss stuff. Vice versa, having to navigate on roads, around people, donkeys and cars can and will have the opposite effect, distracting you from your narrative, resulting a lot of swearing, fumbling with devices, rewinding and replaying important story bits over and over again.
You are missing part of the experience
This is very much the purist view how running should be done, but there is something to be said it about actually experiencing the running bit of running. Running in a great forest, near the seaside or in mountains offers spectacles that are often forgotten or missed during our everyday scramble to be people and have jobs and responsibilities. The feeling of air on sweaty skin, thumping of your heartbeat, the sounds of rustling leaves and regular footfalls as you traverse the scenery, is amazing. It connects you to the world around you.
I very much struggle with balancing the running purist with the voracious reader in me. I love my running and the feeling of flowing through the world, but the also relish the experience of a skilled narrator pouring verbal love in my ears. If I were ever to feel both at the same time… Well, the thin veil of reality would probably fade away to reveal something more profound. Like why chocolate is so damn addictive.
But what do you think? Does listening to audiobooks enhance or subtract from the running experience? Should runners and book lovers leave their narrative pleasures at home or is the trail big enough for both? Let me know.
Next post will be up on Monday the 9th of February (around 16:00 GMT)