Coasting through runs with podcasts

The spring marathon training has officially begun. This means hours and miles of running. For many this also means putting on the headphones and firing up those favorite tunes to get through the pain, and sometimes the less than ideal weather winter running brings.

But who says it all has to be music?

Why not mix up the playlist with something that might educate or entertain? There is a wide array of topical podcasts out there that many times do both.

Of course what you listen to on a 13-miler might differ from the running buddy next to you, but here are a few podcasts that come out with a relatively good frequency, with a decent play length so you don’t have to keep starting a new one mid-run.


Comedian-turned-podcast-producer Marc Maron is on fire right now, at least in terms of the success of his career and the podcast world.

marcmaronFor one hour segments released twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) Maron will interview in his house’s garage (yes garage) a wide array of celebs, from musicians to actors, but mostly focuses on comedians and comedic culture.

And yes, WTF stands for what you think it does, so be warned, there is some salty language involved.

Recent guests of WTF include Michael Keaton, Jacob Dylan, Jonathan Katz, and Jay Mohr (look the latter up and you’ll be like, ‘ah ha,’ I know that guy). Employing a very self-referential and at times awkward style of interviewing it is very easy to get lost in a Maron interview.

As Jay Caspian King of Grantland wrote while describing WTF in an article back in March, “I don’t know if it’s Maron’s voice — he sounds like Peter Vecsey after six Adderalls and a week with the most annoying works of Charles Bukowski — or if it’s the predictability of the show’s beats or if it’s Maron’s slow-bore drilling of his subjects, but there’s a hypnotic quality to WTF that can sometimes feel therapeutic.”

With over 300 episodes to download, you might find yourself thinking you know more about celebs, the world of comedy, and Maron himself than you had before. You also might find yourself laughing while running, and that can’t be too bad.

The Partially Examined Life

The premise of this podcast is built around  four guys who wanted to be philosophers but decided on other careers. To fill their thirst for knowledge they sit around and muse on philosophical writers, premises, and how those philosophical ideas play out in popular culture.

pelIf the concept sounds boring, the podcast should still be given a chance. Take a look at most pages on Facebook dealing with running and you’ll immediately get the feel most runners are deep people, either spiritually or intellectually. Or at the very least they find inspiration in things that scratch a little below the surface. P.E.L. offers an easy in to musing about the world at large, and the four podcasters are pretty entertaining for the subject. They also sometimes offer surprise guests such as Lucy Lawless (Xenia Warrior Princess for those of a certain age) who spoke about the nature of fame for an hour and a half.

Of course, if you do listen, and you still don’t like it, well, your mind is probably pretty numb to pain of your run by that point and you’ve sped through an hour and a half, the typical length for one of these podcasts that are released every two weeks or so.

This American Life

Not purely a podcast, but more of a radio news show aired on public radio and pushed out online once a week, This American Life, in the words of its own web page has “a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always.”  Shows usually last around an hour and can be downloaded once a week.

thisIronically the most recent episode is title “Self improvement kick.”

Lead by Ira Glass, This American Life always lead the pack when it comes to podcast downloads, and for good reason. With high production value and a smart staff Glass pulls off a show that is engrossing and easily followed if you are in motion with ear buds.

You may laugh, you may learn, or you may cry, and sometimes you’ll do all three in the same episode. Just tell everyone you are emotional because you had such a wonderful run in the 23 degree morning air.

Running with the Pack

Of course there are a ton of podcasts on running out there as well. Allan and Stevie discuss a range of running topics, from post-race blues to dealing with the aches and pains every runner encounters.

The chemistry of the blog is good, and informative.

Listening to discussions of running while running though may make your head spin, or perhaps you should lay off the pace a bit. Either way, if you are a runner starving for info on running, some of this might sink in a little deeper if you listen to it while on the road.


If there is a particular topic you’d rather listen too while running, there is probably a podcast to suit that taste while preparing for the next few months of daily running.

Don’t be afraid to explore in running or podcasts. As distance runners, there’s a lot of time to fill.

If none of the above podcasts suit you, here is a list from the AV Club of some of their favorite podcasts and another list of more high brow suggestions from the Atlantic.

Good listening and running.

Follow me on Twitter @runtherapy or like my page on Facebook at I want to run far and run fast.


3 thoughts on “Coasting through runs with podcasts

  1. Here’s my list:

    The New Yorker: The Political Scene
    The Memory Palace
    BBC: Best of Today
    BBC: Friday Night Comedy
    BBC: From Our Own Correspondent
    Guardian Focus Podcast
    BBC: In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg
    KCRW: Left, Right and Center
    MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show
    NPR: Car Talk
    NPR: Intelligence Squared
    NPR: It’s All Politics
    NPR: Planet Money
    Guardian Politics Weekly
    Slate’s Political Gabfest
    BBC: Start the Week with Andrew Marr
    This American Life
    WNYC’s Radiolab
    WTF with Marc Maron

    • That’s quite the slate of podcasts. I definitely need to dig a little deeper into the NPR/BBC offerings. My concern always is I will download so many of the ‘casts and then feel guilty for not listening to them. I swear I don’t know what I do with my time, but I never seem to have enough of it to do all the things I want (like read and listen to really smartly done stuff).

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