I used to think running was painful. I used to think it was hard and boring all at once. And then I discovered audiobooks.
After some prodding from a friend I tried listening to some podcasts and then audiobooks while running. I was reluctant at first--how could I motivate myself to run while listening to someone talk and how could I focus on what they were saying? But I gave it a try and fell in love.
Listening to an engaging audiobook while running is the most sure-fire way I know to get into an intense and prolonged state of flow. I now look forward to my 12 mile weekend runs and feel recharged and relaxed all at once when I am done.
But I warn the uninitiated. Not just any book is right for running. There are a large contingent of audiobook narrators who view their job as putting you to sleep. They must be avoided. These are the best running gems I have uncovered so far:
1) Beat the Reaper: A Novel by Josh Bazell--
This the most fast-paced audiobook I have listened to. The narrator is incredible. The book is a testosterone-laden medical mystery, mob story thriller. It's sort of campy but definitely smart (written by a young doctor). This book is probably not something I would sit down and take the time to read the old-fashioned way, but it made for some very fun runs actually made me run faster.
2) Born to Run by Christopher McDougall--
This book has an interesting story plus insights into running (it's largely behind the spread of the barefoot running trend). It might sound like a bit much to listen to a book about running while running, but I also listen to the Food Network while eating. Plus, this book gets into why humans enjoy running. It's good to be reminded while running that you are enjoying it.
3) The Big Short by Michael Lewis--
Somehow Michael Lewis can make financial reporting wildly entertaining. This book is basically a character study of a number of players that made out well in the recent financial crisis. It's a great read and educational.
4) When you are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris--
Sedaris might be the funniest person alive. If you don't mind running around your neighborhood with earbuds in and laughing hysterically as you go, this collection of short stories is not to be missed. Sedaris narrates his own book and his delivery is perfect especially in the stories that were recorded in front of a live audience.
5) Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell--
Malcolm Gladwell (also the author of The Tipping Point and Blink) has a very definite formula for making a point--create a straw man argument and tear it down. I don't always agree with him or his arguments, but he is a phenomenal storyteller. He also narrates the book himself and his enthusiasm the sense of wonder he expresses for his topics are contagious.
6) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger--
This is the finest of chick lit. It's a very smart and engaging story and will get your ovaries tingling even if you don't have any. The audiobook is narrated by a male actor and a female actor and each does a wonderful job.
7) Into Thin Air by John Krakauer--
This is a memoir chronicling a deadly Everest expedition. It's exciting and informative and makes you feel that as hard as your run is, things could be a lot worse.