Running Down London Laneways with Audiobooks

This is actually a story of how I got lost in London recently and how I blame audiobooks for the entire affair.

I’m a runner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Olympian and you’ll never see me win a race, but running helps me keep my head in the game. It gets me outside the house on even the coldest of days and keeps me fit despite my (proud) chocolate obsession.

During last summer I trained hard and found myself running 20-25 miles a week, more than I had been doing previously. Listening to the same music and over and over again started to bore me and running began to feel monotonous. Toward the end of my training regime, every mile felt like it lasted a lifetime. I like exercise and I love a challenge, but I also have a proclivity for making excuses. Motivating myself can be tricky if I’m not feeling 110%.

As autumn passed, I wasn’t feeling 110% and running was pushed to the backburner a little. I’m not proud of it, but I fell off the wagon for over a month and ran only sporadically in that time. I think it happens to everyone and I was willing to forgive myself, but I also knew I needed a kick to get moving again, but I was scared of being bored.

Late one evening I decided to sign up for an Audible trial. In my head I was thinking that I could maybe listen to audiobooks when the Tube is particularly busy, but a few days into my experiment I realised that I could easily listen to books while running.

On a normal day, I read really quickly, so it takes me much longer to get through an audiobook than it would the standard version of the story. Audiobooks give me more time to chew over a story, which is really enjoyable for someone who reads books at the fastest speed possible.

I was chuffed with myself because I had discovered how to read while exercising. I know I wasn’t the first to come up with this plan (in fact I’m very late to to the game) but I was all excited to get my feet into my running shoes and take to the streets! I was afraid that not having a constant beat or motivational pop music might make me flounder early in my runs and give up.

I’ve been living in London for almost two years and was a constant visitor for the seven years before that. I know the city quite well and my sense of direction here is pretty good. But I wouldn’t dare ask someone for directions and I try to avoid busy areas when running.

At the end of October,  I went for a particular run without making a plan. It’s possible that my own confidence caused what happened next. I usually map out my runs to meet specific distances but this time I just decided to go with the flow and see what happened. I was only recently back on the running wagon and I didn’t want to overdo it.

I was listening to Mara Wilson narrating her book, Where Am I Now?. I grew up watching Matilda, and Mara Wilson was roughly the same age as me. I loved her. I wanted to be her. Reading about her early life, struggles and experiences was really lovely and I was engrossed in her chapter about Robin Williams when I realised that I had absolutely no clue where I was. I had totally zoned out. Running had become the thing I was doing in the background, while the book stole all of my real attention.

Getting lost in London is an easy fix. I yanked my phone out of my pocket, opened Google Maps and I was on the way back home before I could even worry about it. I had missed a few seconds of the book so I rewound and got back into the rhythm. I was a bit embarrassed (reassuringly, I did not burst into noisy fits of tears) but I think that just made me run faster when I was on the way home!

Even appreciating that I got lost (and learned a vital lesson about planning my runs every time), listening to the book meant I wasn’t focused on a distance or a time. I wasn’t bored and there was no space for anything else in my head. Running became a pleasure again- and that’s a victory. Now I can read while I exercise, which is possibly the most motivating thing imaginable.

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