Listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson on the run

ImageThere is some disagreement among runners whether it is good to have music on headphones while running. The purists say that it takes away from the total experience, everyone else just likes their music. I generally fall into the latter category, but I run both with and without music. As a rule, I never run a race with headphones. Many races have course regulations prohibiting the use of headphones, though those rules are routinely ignored. Even if there were no rule about headphones, I would not and will not run a race with headphones on. The purists are right and if I’m going to pay an entrance fee to be part of an event, I won’t insulate myself from that even with precorded sounds that I could have listened to at home for free.

However, just going out in my own neighborhood I don’t have anything against putting the headphones on and heading out. Sometimes I’ll run without headphones, but for the most part I go with music.

Some runners claim that music makes them faster or allows them to control their pace. No doubt there’s some truth to that; music can be a natural mood enhancer and it makes sense that a constant rhythm would help regulate one’s cadence.

What I’ve never tried before today is listening to a talking podcast during my run. I’ve listened to audio podcasts and even books on tape in other contexts—at my drawing table for example—but never running.

On today’s four-miler, I listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 2007 talk for the Commonwealth Club. He spoke about the «planet-killing» asteroid Apophis, why Pluto isn’t classified as a planet any longer (and how much hate mail he’s gotten about that) and what happens when you fall into a black hole. It’s pop science kind of stuff, nothing too challenging, but enjoyable. Dr Tyson is a lively speaker and he’s fun to listen to even when he oversimplifies a subject to get a point across in a few short minutes.

The effect on my run? Well, as I ran at several points I noticed that I felt like I could keep going forever. The talk kept my mind occupied with sciencey stuff so that it didn’t have time to complain. As a result, I managed four miles without stopping to walk except once to take the picture. This year’s sporadic runs have all been shorter and have incorporated walk breaks. That sounds good until I look at my overall pace. Fourteen minutes per mile is slower than I’ve done my shorter runs this year, even including walk breaks.

The benefit therefore is that listening to the podcast took my mind off the run. That also seems to be the drawback.

For now, this is fine. If what it takes to get used to being on the road again, so be it. For a while now I’ve been putting the «slow» in «long slow distance» so if I just keep doing it slow, then I can get to a point where I can start to develop speed again. I can’t afford to be picky about performance, just get out there and do it.