Let’s be real: Long training runs can get boring. While crossing off mile after mile can certainly inspire a sense of achievement, sometimes putting one foot in front of the other can feel like a grueling chore. Recruiting a running buddy helps, but it might not always be possible. That’s why it’s necessary to occasionally call in some reinforcements to keep you entertained through all the miles. Enter: podcasts, a distance runner’s best friend.
As a runner myself, I’ve listened to plenty of podcasts on the road. But my favorite calls on a star who, when she talks, has me hanging on every word: Oprah Winfrey. Her podcast, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, basically sounds like her old talk show but in audio form and with more in-depth, uplifting, thought-provoking messages. She brings on a variety of people, from authors like Cheryl Strayed and singers like India Arie, to comedians like Jimmy Kimmel and thought leaders like vulnerability researcher Brené Brown. One of the most memorable episodes, for me, features a convo with Shonda Rhimes. The producer talks about her year of saying yes to everything, and Oprah, in typical Oprah form, asks great questions and provides relatable anecdotes. It’s inspiring, interesting, and entertaining all at once.
In general, I think the best thing about listening to podcasts while pounding the pavement is that you get so wrapped up in the hosts' and guests' words—and what their words make you think about—you almost forget how long you’ve been running.
To get you ready for your next high-mileage day, we asked 16 runners to reveal their favorite podcasts to plug into, plus their can’t-miss episodes. Read what they have to say, then download and tune in on your next training run for a very welcome distraction.
1. The runner: Gabrielle K
The podcast: The Guilty Feminist
“It’s a British podcast in which comedians discuss the hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies of modern feminism in a very humorous and relatable way,” says the Marathons and Macarons blogger. “It’s extremely entertaining and often laugh-out-loud funny (which can be problematic during a speed workout!) and really makes my runs fly by.”
Listen if: you want to hear about the news in a more light-hearted and easy-to-swallow way—and if you’re OK cracking up while crossing off miles.
Start here: Episode 86, “Suffragette Centenary Special," released on the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in England. (It’s a two-parter!)
Typical episode length: about an hour
2. The runner: Olivia Frempong
The podcast: Another Mother Runner
“Another Mother Runner speaks volumes to me as a wife and working mother of three young children. I have a 7-year-old and 6-year-old twins and it’s important for me to have mommy time and time for self-care, so I can be the best mother and wife I can be for my family,” Frempong says. “I have many other roles in my life and this podcast has so many topics that speak to my soul and help encourage me on my runs.” She says that running has become therapy for her, and this podcast helps to motivate her to stay strong and endure. “It has helped with empowering and reminding me that life isn't perfect, but we can shape our responses to life by staying active and taking good care of ourselves.”
Listen if: you’re a runner—whether a beginner or an elite champion—who’s looking for tips for fitting running into your busy life, and encouragement to just keep going.
Start here: Frempong suggests trying the episodes on weight-loss goals (episode 79) and finding balance (episode 5), and encourages you to seek out any topic that applies to your life.
Typical episode length: 1 to 1.5 hours
3. The runner: Tiffany Ayuda
The podcast: This American Life
“From the #MeToo movement to immigration to messy relationship situations, This American Life covers it all with real people at the center of their stories. Their episodes evoke every human emotion; you'll find yourself crying, laughing, and feeling angry all at the same time,” Ayuda says. “I'm always amazed at how in-depth their interviews are and how connected the journalists become to their subjects.”
Listen if: you love a good story that really captivates your attention.
Start here: Episode 639, "In Dog We Trust," with author David Sedaris, who talks about how his family once owned a Great Dane who became like another sibling to him and his sisters.
Typical episode length: about an hour
4. The runner: Monica Olivas
The podcast: Juicy Scoop With Heather McDonald
“I love it because she's funny and it's a light, easy breezy show about pop culture and celebrity gossip. Sometimes when I'm running I get lost in my thoughts a bit and it's hard to follow a book or podcast where you really have to pay close attention to follow the story,” says Olivas, a blogger who also has her own podcast about all things running, titled Run Eat Repeat. “I like hearing [McDonald’s] updates on all things pop culture and reality TV— it's a funny recap. Plus, it saves time and gives me entertainment on the run.”
Listen if: you love reality TV, but don’t always have time to watch it.
Start here: Episode 195, “Stassi Schroeder Revisited,” featuring a star from Vanderpump Rules. “Heather doesn't hold back on asking personal questions and I love that her guests seem super comfortable throwing it all out there and sharing a behind-the-scenes look,” Olivas says.
Typical episode length: 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes
5. The runner: Kelly Roberts
The podcast: Lovett Or Leave It
“I love this show because when I turn on a podcast when I’m running, it’s because I’m having a really, really bad run and I need a distraction,” says Roberts of Run Selfie Repeat, who’s also a podcast host herself. “Lovett or Leave It is hosted by a funny dude along with a panel of comedians and it never fails to make me laugh through a struggle run.”
Listen if: you have a not-so-favorable view on the current presidential administration and would like a good laugh about it.
Start here: April 28, 2018, "Fox and Friends with Benefits." "It was one of the funniest episodes—I had to stop to catch my breath I was laughing so hard," Roberts says.
Typical episode length: about an hour
6. The runner: Krystal Salvent
The podcast: The School of Greatness
“It offers nuggets of wisdom that help enhance one’s life. It reminds me that I live in a space of possibility and abundance, versus scarcity and fear,” she says. “It’s a fantastic way to start the morning, in my opinion, because of the positive outlook, even in the presence of challenges.” Even better: It helps her focus on the journey of her run. “I am more efficient and relaxed, which ultimately results in a better training session.”
Listen if: you need an uplifting message to kick off your day and keep your mood elevated.
Start here: Episode 635, “High Performance Habits from Master Coaches," episode 619, "Experience Your Ultimate Potential with Rich Roll," and episode 614, "Become a Master of Your Life,” are Salvent’s top three favorites.
Typical episode length: about 45 to 50 minutes
7. The runner: Mirna Valerio
The podcast: She Explores with Gale Straub
“Gale's show tells the stories of incredible women who have adventured in all different types of ways, and whose work affects their respective communities in incredible ways,” says ultramarathoner Valerio.
Listen if: you’re a woman (any age and any fitness level!), or you just love a good outdoor escape.
Start here: Episode 56, “Fifty Plus,” in which Straub celebrates women over 50 in the outdoor world. “It gives me a lot to look forward to,” Valerio says.
Typical episode length: about 30 to 60 minutes
8. The runner: Theodora Blanchfield
The podcast: Ali on the Run Show
“I love it so much, because I love Ali,” says the Preppy Runner blogger. “She’s smart, funny, and has an infectiously positive attitude. She has a background in journalism, so she asks well thought-out questions while also letting the conversation flow naturally. It’s nice to have career info thrown in [along with running talk], in a way that’s not dry, too.”
Listen if: you enjoy a good running-based interview, or you’d like some positive career advice.
Start here: Episode 74, with Sarah Clancy of Sara Marie Design Studio and Sally Bergesen, CEO and founder of Oiselle. “It’s inspiring to hear from women who have accomplished so much, who have these great attitudes,” Blanchfield says.
Typical episode length: about an hour
9. The runner: Latoya Shauntay Snell
The podcast: 300 Pounds and Running
Plus-size athlete Martinus Evans hosts this podcast, interviewing people about their lives before fitness and what it took for them to become athletes. “I love 300 Pounds and Running because it’s a good combination of highs, lows, and the realities of everyday people who are either searching for a way into an activity, are seeking motivation to continue their fitness journey, or seeking uncensored commentary about some of the questions they may not feel comfortable asking,” says Snell, blogger of Running Fat Chef and ultramarathoner, who has also been a guest on the podcast.
Listen if: you need serious inspiration to jumpstart a more active lifestyle.
Start here: “The Long Run 12: Depression,” which features Snell and Evans discussing mental health and its connection to fitness.
Typical episode length: 1 to 2 hours
10. The runner: Sarah Richmand
The podcast: WTF with Marc Maron
“Marc is a phenomenal interviewer,” says Richmand. “He’s able to go in-depth with interviewees about their careers, childhood, successes, and failures. The fact that it’s a podcast makes it feel more intimate—he’s literally in my ear as I run—and it definitely helps me finish my long runs.”
Listen if: you love a good laugh while you run—and a funny, candid celeb interview.
Start here: Robin Williams (episode 67), Barack Obama (episode 613), and Julia Louis Dreyfus (episode 700), just to name a few.
Typical episode length: an hour or a little longer
11. The runner: Laurel Leicht
The podcast: Dear Sugars
Hosted by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, who both used to write an advice column by a similar name, this advice podcast sounds like a newspaper column read out loud. “Strayed bestows all kinds of articulate, insightful life wisdoms that somehow seem applicable no matter your circumstances. She could be answering a letter from a gay man struggling after the death of his twin and I'll still find little nuggets of advice that really speak to me and help me get through the stresses of my day,” Leicht says. “I don't listen to this when I'm trying to have a speedy run, but it's great for zoning out during long runs or for an easy, contemplative few miles to get my day started.”
Listen if: you’ve been through a stressful or traumatic time, or if you just want to use your run to work through some things.
Start here: October 21, 2017, "You Must Change Your Life." Leicht suggests people scroll through and find some topics that really speak to them, "but I think this one is good and empowering,'' she says "It's about getting focused and geared up to go out and make your life what you want it to be and make your goals a reality."
Typical episode length: about 45 minutes
12. The runner: Amy Marturana
The podcast: Ted Radio Hour
“Each episode of TED Radio Hour explores a specific topic—like the meaning of work, how to refocus our attention in a world of digital distractions, and how to push outside our comfort zones—based on past TED talks,” says Marturana, SELF’s senior fitness editor. “Host Guy Raz (who also hosts one of my other favorite podcasts, How I Built This) asks each guest really compelling questions and does a great job of connecting each person’s story back to the bigger theme. I love listening in because it completely takes my mind off running. And it gives me a lot to think about even after I’m done.”
Listen if: you enjoy a good TED talk, or just welcome the chance to think about the world from new perspectives.
Start here: July 13, 2018, "Why We Hate." The episode explores the idea of whether hatred is learned or innate, and highlights the stories of remarkable people who have learned to rise above it in one way or another.
Typical episode length: an hour
13. The runner: Michele Gonzalez
The podcast: I’ll Have Another with Lindsey Hein
“It’s a (mostly) running-focused podcast that feels like it’s taking place in your living room between old friends,” says Gonzalez of @nycrunningmama. “The conversation is lively, laid back, and honest, and each week there is a new guest with a fun and interesting story.”
Listen if: you’re kind of obsessed with running culture and hearing from other mile chasers.
Start here: Episode 88 with Deena Kastor, a marathon record holder. “Deena shared such amazing tips about the mental aspect of racing—I’ve written several down and plan to use them when I race my next marathon,” Gonzalez says.
Typical episode length: 1 to 1.5 hours
14. The runner: Leah Tubbs
The podcast: Running on Om
This podcast features more than 200 interviews with innovators in the yoga, running, and wellness communities, says Tubbs, fitness instructor and founding artistic director of ModArts Dance Collective. “It’s extremely inspiring, which is especially helpful when doing long runs.”
Listen if: you’re looking for tips on personal growth and encouragement.
Start here: Episode 126, "Elinor Rish on Running as a Mindfulness Practice." “I think of running as a moving meditation, and I loved hearing that Elinor Fish altered her mindset to use running as a means to support healing,” Tubbs says.
Typical episode length: about 1.5 hours
15. The runner: Emily Abbate
The podcast: Short Story Long
“Chris ‘Drama’ Pfaff is the man. An entrepreneur and founder of clothing line Young & Reckless (also, cousin to Rob Dyrdek—you may have seen him on his old MTV show Rob & Big), he talks to other business owners, athletes, and A-listers about where they come from and how they built their brands,” says Abbate, a certified trainer, run coach, and creator and host of her own audio show, Hurdle Podcast. “What I love most, especially as a podcaster myself, is his interview style. Pfaff doesn’t just assume that his audience knows everything, and asks the questions that I often want to ask myself when listening to other podcasts. He’s relaxed, relatable, and easy to listen to.”
Listen if: you’re a sports fan and like a solid athlete interview, or you’re an entrepreneur.
Start here: Episode 60, featuring Kyrie Irving, an NBA player on the Boston Celtics
Typical episode length: anywhere from 50 minutes to 1.5 hours
16. The runner: Elizabeth Keating
The podcast: The Daily
“I normally listen to this if I’m fitting in a run before work, so I start my day with some news before I switch over to some tunes to finish the workout,” says Keating. “I like it so much that it motivates me to get out to run in the morning so I can tune in. It really jump starts my day by getting my mind thinking about a hot topic in the headlines as I cover my favorite routes in Jersey City.”
Listen if: you want to stay up-to-date on current events without actually reading the paper.
Start here: June 2, 2018, “The Caliphate.” It's part of a new mini-series spin-off that tells the story of an ISIS recruit.
Typical episode length: about 25 minutes