Running while Reading: an Experiment in 3 Parts. Part 1


There’s just something about running. Perhaps it is because it is an accomplishment so easily put into number-based goals (5 miles! Finish Line! 1 hour 15!). Or that it is the one time of day that I spend totally alone, where no one can get a hold of me and ask me a question (I get asked A LOT of questions these days…).

More specifically, I love distance running (not because I can run a long way, but because I run slowly. You need to run fast or you need to run far). This Fall, I’ll be training for my second half marathon, which I feel gives me the right to call myself “A Runner“. Which is awesome, because it comes with a community, and I LOVE being a part of a group (teams playing sports I’m no good at, Clubs fundraising for a cause I know little about, Herd Immunity, etc.) Part of being “A Runner“, is that you get to weigh in on “Runners’ Issues”. Thats right, runners have issues, fractions within the group, and it can get a little heated. For example:

  • The Barefoot running debate: Some suggest that running barefoot, like our ancestors, is better for form, posture, and prevents injuries. Apparently,it will make you a better runner. Kerry says: The only thing that running barefoot will make you is an unwilling participant in a game I like to call “HIV or HEP? A needle-based guessing game”.
  • The GPS watch debate: wearing a watch that tracks your whereabouts, sweat production, pace, calories burned and heart rate will make you go faster. If you don’t know where you are, turn around and go back where you came from. And unless you’re training for the olympics, you do not need to know that your last mile was a smidge over 9 minutes, you put out 3 oz of sweat, burned 96 calories and your heart rate was about 102% of the ideal for maximum cardio efficiency. Get over yourself and just go run. Spend your money on funny t-shirts.
  • Running nutrition: Blocks? Bars? Gel? Juice? Candy? It doesn’t matter. If you’re running over an hour, get some sugar in you. J ran the half marathon last year with a pocket full of sugar cubes, like a thoroughbred. I like Cliff chocolate gels, because it reminds me of eating an envelope full of frosting…not that I’ve ever done that.
  • Entertainment while running?

This one, I thought  had all figured out. I thought that my options were music or no music. I find that on short runs music is great. But on the long runs it messes with my pace, and I get frustrated, So I go with nothing but the sound of my own thoughts and belaboured breathing. This still isn’t fool-proof, because on those really challenging days, sometimes you get tired of your own monologue, and you can’t think of anything besides “I wish I was at home…I wish I brought more water…I’m going to eat so many hot dogs when I get home…Man, this proactive blemish treatment stings when it runs into your eyes!” 

Recently, a third option was brought to my attention: Audio books! Finally, a way to combine two things I love! But would this lead to the same non-productive distraction as music? Are audio books really as entertaining as paper/e-books? This calls for:

A (half-assed) Scientific Experiment!




1. Ask a Question/ Define the bounds of your experiment:

Question: Are audio books a good way to entertain myself on those long runs? Will it matter if the book is familiar to me or a previously unread book?

2. Do some background research:


3. Construct a Hypothesis

Honestly, I have the attention span of a gnat, especially while I am running. I would say I listen to about a third of any given song, and then I’m ready something new. I don’t think that the audiobooks are going to hold my attention. I think there is going to be a lot of “Wait..what? What did I miss?” *rewind*, which will be worse with an unfamiliar book. So, assuming 3 conditions (Current (no sound), New audiobook and Familiar audiobook), my hypothesis is this:

No Sound> Familiar Audiobook> New Audiobook

4. Design an experiment

3 conditions, 3 weeks of running. The following will be held as constant as possible:

  • Length of runs (12-16 km)
  • Time of day
  • Weather
  • Pre and during-run nutrition

The conditions:

0- No sound

A-Familiar. “Bossypants” by Tina Fey (a must read, if you have yet to do so!)

B- New. a New Release Audiobook, TBD.


Unfortunately, all measurement must be self-reported. Measures will include perceived levels of enjoyment, number of times frustration was experienced, perceived length of run and attention draw (positive and negative) as well as pace.

5. Results:

…To be continued!

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