I’ve discovered something, friends. Something important. Life-giving. The difference between running 7 miles and 30.
I love a good river trail run, noiseless except for the blades of grass whooshing around my shoes and the sound of the kissing river, nothing between the ears besides blanket gratitude for the perfection of a quiet morning.
I love a good podcast for a morning run; it engages the logical, the “left-side” of the mind, and I feel as if I were in a conversation. It helps to wake me up, it helps to get my mind started.
I love ending a good morning run with music; I feel myself shifting into the creative mind, the right-side. My arms swing in tune with the jazzy vibes of Coltrane and Simone, and I end strong and impassioned.
But when it comes to weekend long runs, when I am on the trails for 4-6 hours: silence can become oppressive, podcasts become redundant, music becomes mundane. It all lends to a segmented run; either I count the hours as the podcast episodes tick away, topic after topic, or I count the minutes as songs rise and fall.
While silence is ideal in racing—the pumping adrenalin, the presence of other runners, the aide-stations—I find it to not be ideal in training.
In the past I’ve tackled my long runs with a good smoothie of half-podcasts, half-music. But as stated above: it renders the run segmented.
Life changed for me two weekends ago:
It was my biggest training weekend to date: 20 miles on Saturday, 30 hilly Konza miles on Sunday.
Friday night, laying my head down to the pillow, slightly daunted by the adventure of running I would find upon waking the next morning, I decided to try out an audiobook for the morning.
I’ve been a die-hard fan of audiobooks since the beginning of car trips, when mom and dad would lay the CDs, one after another, in the CD player and let the words roll over the car for hours as we trekked out to the mountains, to Granny’s house, to the grocery store.
I’ve used some of them for runs in the past, but oftentimes for the shorter morning runs. An audiobook could take me an week or two of short runs to get through, and many times I find myself growing bored with the monotony of it, longing for a podcast.
I don’t know why it never occurred to me, honestly, to engage with an audiobook on a long interrupted run.
But it did on that Saturday, two weeks ago.
The run was captivating, with the aid of Gregory McGuire’s After Alice. Both my left- and right-sides were fully engaged, spinning images of chuckling Cheshires and grouchy roses, while at the same time participating in the conversation that takes place between the reader and the author.
Sunday was equally bewitching. This time I could see Alice scrambling over rock walls, I could feel the footsteps of Lidia searching for Ada. I was there, too–and soon I was not running anymore but sighing happily from my immersion in a a foaming bath of epsom salt and eucalyptus bubble bath.
So, I have an offering for you on this fine Thursday, whether or not you are gearing up for a long run come the weekend. Three of my favorite, right-left-engaging works of art.
If you are a patron of a Kansas Library, you can use your library card to access the hoards and hoards of free nearly unlimited audiobooks on Hoopla or Sunflower eLibrary.
There is also Audible ($14.95 / month with over 100,000 choices: not to mention a free 30-day trial) or All You Can Books (unlimited audiobooks with 30,000 choices, $19.99/month after a free 30-day trial).
But get yo’self a Kansas library card, and all this can be yours for naught the pretty penny.
Behold: my top three (3) recommendations for a brilliant captivating listen:
1. After Alice by Gregory McGuire (recommendation: the version read by Katherine Kellgren. I don’t usually prefer the female narrators–for some subconscious and troubling patriarchal reason—but she’s a masterpiece.) This one is available on Sunflower eLibrary.
2. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman. This one is also on Sunflower eLibrary, and read by the master storyweaver himself. A shorter listen (about an hour), but I listened to it twice in a row, so I figure it counts for this.
It’s essentially a modern-day more-fantastical Douglas Adams mind-movie.
3. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This one–albeit a smidge racist at times (written in 1912)–is a brilliant adventure story, a masterpiece of human progress and human strength. It’s especially perfect for exercise: as you huff and puff and feel sorry for yourself in the poor cold, you listen to the account of Tarzan strangling a gigantor Ape with naught but his bare arms. Motivating? Yessir.
It’s like listening to Unbroken (a bonus recommendation): you never want to complain ever again.
This one I acquired from the banks of Hoopla; narrated by the BRILLIANT Jeff Harding who can pull off the grunt-like Tarzan-talk, the breathy Jane dialogue, and the swirling French accent of the Captain.
This is no Disney movie, lads. It’s like Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (another serious recommendation! That’s FIVE for you!).
If you run alone like me and you need to tack on another reason to wake up screamingly early in the morning to pound your quads against slippery trails, take a listen and stop segmenting your run.
Peace and Blessings,