How Audiobooks Made Me a Runner

BookBar Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:05pm

AbbeyRuns (7 of 27)

We think we have the manual for ourselves memorized and in our back pockets. Two years ago, I would have recited the following about myself:

  1. I am not a runner because:

a. I get bored after a couple miles, and

b. I don’t like feeling like a have to do anything when I’m already busy.

  1. I do not listen to audiobooks because:

a. the readers sound like they’re trying too hard, and

b. I am a visual person that can’t read without the words in front of me.

Then my friend, a teacher and incredible overachiever, said, “Let’s run a marathon.” I said no and quoted 137 a. and b. from my above manual.

She said, “It’s all downhill.”

This and because I was feeling some late-twenties ennui may be why I replied, “Okay.”

So I began training for a marathon, fully expecting to quit of boredom or of my shins shredding like tissue paper after our first six-mile run.

Instead, I discovered the Future Home of the Living God audiobook written and narrated by Louise Erdrich. The up-close epistolary nature of the story dissipated any of the boredom I had prepared for and instead, lead me on in eery whispers. Erdrich's performance is believable and urgent in the voice of her main character, Cedar, as she navigates the dangers of being a woman in a world where evolution has begun working backwards.

It made me realize that a story in my ears gives my brain, tingling with energy, something to do while my body sort of suspends it with motion. For this reason, listening while I’m running make me engages me more deeply in the story than if I were doing something inert, like driving.

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Now, I’ll run stretches of my favorite trails and feel riffs of nostalgia for certain stories I’ve listened to there.  Turning that bend where I see the distanced mountain range for the first time calls up the tormented magic of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed as Anyanwu shape-shifts through time and establishes her maternal power.

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The loneliness of being on a bus and pregnant, fleeing the repression of growing up on the Irish countryside in the 1920’s from The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne returns to me every time I cross the footbridge over a certain creek.

Yet I wouldn’t call this transporting.

There is something about being among towering trees and waving fields while listening to stories about loss or hope that is grounding in a distinct way.

Running has become like taking a road trip. I strap on my silly fanny pack for my phone and headphones, douse myself in sunscreen, prepare water, and tuck my hair through a hat. Then I’m off with my audiobook, moving my body from one place to another among mountains and brooks and people with dogs. No one can reach me.

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I am away - taking a long break. It feels less like I’m checking out of life and more like I’m moving further into it, further into the world through story.

I am away - taking a long break. It feels less like I’m checking out of life and more like I’m moving further into it, further into the world through story.

I have plenty of audiobook recommendations for running, which I can detail elsewhere, but I will add that I believe in quitting Audible (Amazon is already getting enough money, no?) to support your local bookstore through Libro FM when you want to purchase a book. My $15 a month now goes to my favorite bookstore *cough* BookBar* cough* for the same services Audible provides, with the added value of investing in my community and getting excellent lists and recommendations from professional booksellers (not just algorithms). If you are cash strapped, consider leveraging your library’s audio collection with Libby.

And I have revised my manual to the following:

  1. I am a runner because:

a. It gets me outside.

b. It grounds me both physically and (because of audiobooks) mentally.

252. I love listening to audiobooks because:

a. It doubles my reading.

b. I can read while I do other things I enjoy  (beyond running, I also garden, clean and cook while listening to audiobooks).

Running for hours is not for everyone, but isn’t it nice to know the manuals we write for ourselves are living documents? I wonder if audiobooks could open up any old assumptions about yours.

- Abbey, Book Manager