Reading While You Run!


reading-runnerI’ve always been a fast, hungry, eager reader. As a kid, making time for reading was easy since my only obligations were going to school and playing a couple sports. I devoured Harry Potter books within a few days, usually right after their release. If you know how long Harry Potter books are, you are totally wowed right now!

Now as an adult I still enjoy reading but, thanks to the corresponding adult obligations, I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like. I also need time to work, write, and, of course, run. I’ve figured out a way to kill two of my priority birds with one stone and now I read while I run!

Since I don’t always have time to read my favorite literature and log a solid training week, I began my relationship with audiobooks. I can even do it on the cheap! My local public library allows me to reserve and download audiobooks with my library card, and then I can listen to them on the device of my choice.

I use Overdrive, which is an audiobook app on my iPhone that doesn’t require WiFi or data. Here are the books I’ve tried; not all are conducive to running, though. I’ll explain.

The first book I tried was The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I listened to it on a couple long runs, and it was a terrible experience. I thought that since I loved The Great Gatsby, that I’d be wild about this too. No. I wasn’t into it, and the terrible narrator sealed the deal. A man narrated all the voices, including the female characters, and it sounded like a book full of drag queens. Don’t get me wrong, I love drag queens. But I couldn’t get past the bad narration. I didn’t even finish it. My new hobby made a bad first impression.

Takeaways #1 & #2: The book has to be interesting and the narrator(s) have to be excellent or you will want to throw your phone in the ditch.

The second book that became available was David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day. Even if you don’t love reading, you will love this book. An excellent storyteller and a hilarious narrator, Sedaris had me rolling on my runs; which wasn’t the greatest thanks to, oh you know, the need to breathe while running. I listened to him on the track and the trail, and I was cracking up often. I don’t suggest comedy for running! I imagine I looked pretty crazy running around the track, giggling. I do suggest this book for a long drive though!

Takeaway #3Leave hilarity for long car rides unless you want to look like a lunatic or don’t need to breathe on the run.

Listening to Wild while running took me there! Creative Commons image by Daveynin
Listening to Wild while running took me there! Creative Commons image by Daveynin

The third book, and a new favorite, is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I began listening to the book on a trail run. The book is a memoir about the time Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone and it just felt right to be listening to it out on the trail. The narrator’s soothing voice sounded so real and the story itself was inspiring, suspenseful, thrilling and raw. It is such a girl power book, seriously; read it if you can! I could have zoned out on the trails, keeping my eyes peeled for loose rocks and roots, and run for hours listening to it. Every time my Garmin reminded me that it was time to stop running, I was devastated because I didn’t want to stop the story either!

Takeaway #4: Thrilling suspense and girl power make for excellent audiobook listens on the run!

So far I’ve only “read” three books while running. Do you listen to books while you run? Which audiobooks are your favorite to run with?

I'm a student of law and life. A Jill of all trades, master of none. But I'm hoping to master something, sometime. ;) Preferably a sub-23 5k and a sub-4 marathon!

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  1. I’m slowly moving towards this, and away from music (I don’t race with music but I do train with it most of the time). I recently started listening to podcasts while on easy runs, because I found I relaxed more and actually ran slower (which can be hard, but so helpful and important to do on recovery days). Save the tunes for workouts or pre-race pump ups. I have been listening to some of the Runners Connect Podcasts and think I am going to try Serial that everyone keeps raving about. Maybe this winter I’ll find some good audiobooks for the endless treadmill miles.

    1. You must do Serial! And Season 2 is about to start (different story). Another similar podcast is AJC Breakdown, a seven part series about a court case in Atlanta.

  2. I recently listened to Amy Poehler’s and Mindy Kaling’s biographies. They are humorous, so they break that criteria! I also listened to “A Walk in the Woods” which was enjoyable. Listening to stories of lonely trail hikes seems to correspond nicely with lonely pre-dawn mornings on the road. When are we going to get a Salty podcast to play in our ears?

  3. I haven’t gotten into audiobooks (I find headphones annoying while I run), but I do read on my Kindle on the treadmill. There are times when I’m so into a book – or need to finish it for a book club – that I purposely go run on the treadmill just to get some reading time.

    1. How do you do this?! I cannot for the life of me physically read and run. I can’t do it while vigorously cross-training either. I have to walk, elliptical or bike at a turtle pace to be able to read.

  4. I have listened to a lot of audiobooks while running (as well as bicycling on a no-car trail, which is probably bad form but does consume a lot of hours). My favorite genres are running and cycling memoirs (also hiking and triathlon), plus light biographical memoirs. Some favorites in the sports genre: The Long Run by Matt Long; 14 Minutes by Alberto Salazar; The Extra Mile by Pam Reed; Ultramarathon Man; My Life on the Run by Bart Yasso; A Life Without Limits by Chrissy Wellington; Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald; Eat and Run by Scott Jurek; Finding Ultra by Rich Roll; Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn; A Race Like No Other by Liz Robbins; You are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg; Born to Run by Christopher MacDougall. In the memoir genre: Bossypants by Tina Fey; Born Standing Up by Steve Martin; Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen; I Feel Bad about My Neck by Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron; Yes Please by Amy Poehler; Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (especially if you grew up in the 80s and Rob Lowe is your “peer”); Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan; I See You Made an Effort by Annabelle Gurwitch, A Walk in the Woods (which is both “sports” sort of, and light memoir). I have a lot more in my Audible Library (including novels). I need to do more long bike rides because I have switched largely to podcasts for my runs (the approximately hour length works well).

  5. I love listening to books when I run. I mix it up with different things, a little dystopian young adult (like Red Rising & Golden Son by Pierce Brown — a-maz-ing), thrillers, some chick lit, Stephen King (although there have been moments when I was squealing “ewwwwwwww!” as I ran), and various other fiction. I’m not into listening to non-fiction much. A couple favorites were Night Film and a twisted book called “You” by Caroline Kepnes (which has a sequel coming out next year).

    I stopped listening to music when I realized it was messing up my cadence. With books, I’m able to let my body do what comes naturally. I don’t listen to anything when I race. I did for awhile, but then I realized I didn’t remember anything I’d heard during the race. Instead, I eavesdrop on other runner’s conversations 😉

    1. I completely understand the cadence thing! Once I figured out that “Hit the Road” by Ray Charles perfectly suited my natural cadence, haha! I’m such a nerd. But I find myself running to the beat, and that’s bad since I’m a runner, not a dancer. Thanks for the suggestions. I imagine I would be squealing while listening to Stephen King too!

  6. I finally downloaded Overdrive! So excited for books! Unfortunately I’m on a waiting list for the ones that interest me so I’m on the lookout for available titles.