My favorite running companions are people, of course. But since most of my friends have pretty busy lives, and because my cat doesn’t want to be put on a leash (I actually tried this once a long time ago), I have to do most of my runs solo. If you don’t already know, podcasts can be very entertaining and a great way to learn something new. Best of all, they’re free and download automatically on iPhones (I assume that other devices are capable of such wonders, but the iPhone is all I know).
I’ve been listening to podcasts for years, and have a list of favorites (see below*). However, I didn’t listen to my first running podcast until last year. Based on a recommendation, I started listening to Marathon Training Academy, which I really like except that they only have 2 episodes a month. So, facing over 600 miles of marathon training, I decided to invest some time into researching running podcasts. Here’s a list of the ones I’ve listened to, listed roughly in order of favorite to least favorite:
Host: Matt Johnson
Typical length: 1 hour.
Frequency: 1 episode every 1-2 weeks.
Target audience: Broad — from newbies to experienced runners, 5K to the marathon.
Format: Intro “shout-outs” to audience members, then cuts straight to the chase, which is usually an interview. Ends with a quick tip.
# of episodes I’ve listened to: between 5-10
Sound quality: Excellent.
What I like about it: Matt Johnson is a great interviewer. He asks really thoughtful questions and lets his interviewee speak, but also makes sure that he/she stays on target. He’s interviewed some big names in running, such as Bart Yasso, Tim Noakes, Greg MacMillan, and Matt Fitzgerald. I feel like I usually learn something.
What I don’t like about it: I have a very minor gripe with the “shout-out” section in the beginning. It’s annoying, but it’s usually short enough that I could just tune it out.
Marathon Training Academy
Host: Married couple Angie and Trevor Spencer
Typical length: 50 minutes.
Frequency: 2 episodes/month.
Target audience: Broad, with a slight focus on middle-of-the-pack runners.
Format: They’ll banter a little bit, read some emails from the audience, get to the main segment, then finish with a quick tip.
# of episodes I’ve listened to: 20+
Sound quality: Excellent.
What I like about it: Angie and Trevor are super likable and I find their banter to be quite charming. In most episodes, Angie presents research that she did on a particular topic, and I think her analysis is well-done. Sometimes, they’ll recap a race and keep it short and sweet. It’s also been cool to follow Trevor’s progression from a non-runner (when they first started the podcast) all the way to a marathoner. The theme song is cheesy but catchy.
What I don’t like about it: I wish that the episodes were posted more consistently. They try to get 2 episodes up per month, but because this is a side gig and they have 3 kids, the podcast isn’t always their number 1 priority (how dare they?!).
Trail Runner Nation
Hosts: Don Freeman, Faith Goss, and Scott Warr
Typical length: 70 minutes.
Frequency: Varies – 3-5 episodes per month.
Target audience: trail runners, more toward the ultramarathoner side of the spectrum.
Format: Recent episodes have started with a quick tip, followed by a discussion about night running (focusing on headlamps), and ending with the main segment. The episodes I’ve listened to featured stories on Western States 100 and being a crew member or pacer during an ultramarathon.
# of episodes I’ve listened to: 4-5
Sound quality: Mostly good, but sometimes spotty with the phone interviews.
What I like about it: The hosts have a good rapport with each other. Even though I don’t have any desire to run an ultramarathon, I enjoy listening to stories of people who do. Each episode features the first 20 seconds of “Welcome to the Jungle.” Sweet.
What I don’t like about it: It is a bit ultra-heavy at times for my interest level, and the episodes could be more tightly edited.
Hosts: Martin Yelling and Tom Williams
Typical length: 80+ minutes.
Frequency: 1 episode/week
Target audience: Marathon runners, with a geographical focus on Great Britain.
Format: This is a LONG podcast. They’ll talk about how their own training is going, and then discuss the racing calendar, various audience participation things (“rate your run”), and a semi-humorous segment called “Tony’s Trials.” The actual featured guest is only interviewed for about 20-30 minutes of the episode.
# of episodes I’ve listened to: 3-4
Sound quality: Good, but it’s hard for me to understand their accents sometimes.
What I like about it: I like British accents, and sometimes it’s just comforting to listen to them talk. They organize contests for the listening community, like “Jantastic” (a new year’s resolution goal) and “The Magic Mile“, which really seems to motivate people.
What I don’t like about it: It’s way too long and rambling, and it can be very Brit-centric at times. I wish there was a better way to skip to the different sections within each episode.
Another Mother Runner
Hosts: Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
Frequency: 1 episode/week.
Target audience: Moms who run. (I’m not a mom, obvs., but this podcast was recommended by Cathryn, who is!)
Format: They give updates of what’s been going on with their lives, training or otherwise, then get to the main segment.
# of episodes I’ve listened to: 2-3
Sound quality: Good.
What I liked about it: I really wanted to like this podcast, but I just didn’t connect with the hosts… and they are a huge part of the show. I guess that doesn’t really answer the question, does it?
What I didn’t like about it: I felt like they talked a lot about their kids (of course), which I couldn’t relate to (of course). Also, something about the way that Sarah came across really rubbed me the wrong way. I’m definitely Team Dimity…not that there’s a competition or anything. In case it’s not obvious, I’ve stopped listening to this podcast.
Host: Jeff Gaudette
Typical length: 1 hour.
Frequency: 2-4 episodes/month
Target audience: Broad, with slightly more focus on experienced runners.
# of episodes I’ve listened to: 2-3.
Sound quality: Poor.
What I liked about it: The first episode I listened to featured Lauren Fleshman. I thought it was okay so I gave the other episodes a try.
What I didn’t like about it: As I said above the sound quality is pretty bad. Also, in the few episodes I listened to, Jeff Gaudette often talked over his interviewee, interjecting his own anecdotes instead of letting them talk. I no longer subscribe to this podcast.
Hope you found this informative!
Do you listen to podcasts? Which ones would you recommend?
*My favorite non-running podcasts:
- This American Life: weekly stories based on a theme. Endlessly fascinating, though the audio can be hard to hear on occasion. Typical episode length: 1 hour.
- Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me: the NPR news quiz. A fun way to get your weekly news fix. Typical episode length: 45 min.
- Planet Money: a recent addition to my playlist, Planet Money is a collaboration between This American Life and Marketplace. It presents economic problems and news stories in a digestible and entertaining way. Typical episode length: 15-20 minutes.
- On the Media: a weekly show about journalism, but they often discuss other forms of media, such as books, movies, and music. Very thought-provoking. Typical episode length: 50 minutes.
- The Moth: true stories told without notes, in front of a live audience. It can be hit-or-miss; luckily, most stories are short enough that it’s not a big deal if you come across a dud. Typical episode length: 10-20 minutes.