Listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson on the run

There 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.