‘Reading’ while running

  • This was printed in January of 2015 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 89th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

Some runners won’t head out the door without headphones blaring their

music playlist. Some prefer silence or the sounds of nature, their breathing

and their footsteps. I prefer conversation — the best way to catch up with a

friend is over a few shared miles.

However, on my rare long solo runs I take a Playaway audiobook to keep

my mind occupied as I traverse mile after lonely mile.

I just don’t like listening to the same songs over and over, and I don’t like

that my pace tends to match the beat of the music that I’m listening to,

which speeds me up and slows me down unnecessarily.

I also feel enriched when I listen to an audiobook. I can simultaneously

run, which is good for the body, and hear a story, which is good for the

mind and often the soul.

(I also choose books on CD over the radio during my commute. My

favorites are “The Help” by Kathryn Stockard and “SEAL Team Six:

Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper” by Howard Wasdin.)

The Playaway book is a genius invention. It’s a credit card sized, six-ounce

mp3 player preloaded with one of several thousand titles, including fiction

and nonfiction greats. All it needs is a AAA battery and a set of


Buttons on the player allow the listener to play, pause, stop, fast forward

and rewind stories, and adjust the volume. There’s no need to download

anything or own an mp3 player or other device.

There are nearly 1,200 Playaway titles available for free to borrow through

the San Joaquin Valley Library System. You can request these through the

Madera County Library online catalog. Once it arrives, pop in your own

battery and set of headphones and start running.

I enjoyed “The Life Of Pi” by Yann Martel. The 11-hour and 30-minute

audiobook lasted several runs, but during each run I was reluctant to stop

— I wanted to hear what happened next.

While listening to music, a runner or walker can stop mid-song or at the

end of a song easily when they’ve reached the end of their designated

number of miles. But a person listening to an audiobook might continue for

another mile or more just to come to a lull in the story.

They might even lace up their shoes more often, just to get to listen to the

rest of the book.

If you find yourself lacking motivation to exercise, order a Playaway

through the library and get moving.


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