Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Solo runs, podcasts, and damned lies...err statistics

We all have our preferences when it comes to what to listen to on the solo run: Some enjoy the solitude and the sound of their footstrikes; others engineer a playlist to mirror their expected run, ya know, start slow and easy, build to the big crescendo, and then take it down at the end with a nice easy cool down; and there is a group of people that like the spoken word, whether that is talk radio, an audiobook, or a podcast. I have had periods of satisfaction with all of the above. In fact I spent at least one year of serious running with no music at all, totally focused on the run itself, convinced that the focus would make me faster. I have spent many long Sunday runs switching between "Weekend All Things Considered" and ESPN's Football Pre-Game show. I engineered a long playlist for the Big Sur Marathon (I was a Rhapsody subscriber at the time and had a music selection that would make a DJ envious): I don't remember everything on there but I do know that Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend" was supposed to take me over that big hill (it did, but unfortunately I did not have anything on my playlist to accompany me for my ten minutes in the port-a-potty at mile 22 - suggestions?).

The Audiobook is an elusive prey. It is rare for me to find one that I can listen to for an hour straight during a run, perhaps because of the need for concentration on both sides (the run and the book). I have done well with light non-fiction: Freakonomics was by far my favorite; Game of Shadows was also very listenable. Mayflower worked surprisingly well, especially when training for a November race; lots of impressive facts that you can discuss at Thanksgiving. And one last book that will make you feel like - well - a big wimp during your long run is River of Doubt, a book about Teddy Roosevelt's mid-life crisis journey down one of Brazil's undiscovered rivers after losing his bid for a 3rd term (i think... I'll fact check that later maybe).

Ok, so that brings me to yesterday's run. These days I am listening to more podcasts and so I loaded up the music playing device with the year-end Phedippidations and the daily version of NPR's Marketplace (are the hyperlinks driving you crazy? They are me...). Phedippidations is a great running podcast, as the guy does much of the broadcast while on his long run (thanks Justine for turning me on to this). Unfortunately, it was too darn funny yesterday, and I could not run while belly-laughing, so I switched over to Marketplace where I came a cross the fact of the day: did you know that Americans go through 25 million plastic bottles everyday? That statistic took my breath away for a minute but got me thinking: 25 million bottles, 300 million Americans. So that means basically if we throw away or recycle one bottle each every twelve days, we are dead on average. To do our part to slow the rate, we'd have to get down to one bottle every two weeks, and maybe someday one per month. I thought I was doing OK, reducing my bottle consumption considerably, but I'm sure I'm above that number still. And apparently the need for recycled bottles is slowing so recycling doesn't even do much for the conscience these days. So I guess there is my take away from yesterday's run: 1 bottle a month people! Do your part, save the world from being overrun by little plastic bottles.

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