What Do You Listen to While You Run?

A look into what runners listen to when they run and why.

By on April 5, 2023 | Comments

What do you listen to when you run? For me, the default is a good podcast, but a run over the weekend made me think about when and I why I listen to other things. Here’s a quick look at what one might listen to on a run and when I go to that option.

March 2023 - Kendall Mountains tracks

All photos: Bryon Powell/iRunFar of Silverton, Colorado, in March and April 2023.


As mentioned above, podcasts are my default option when it comes to listening to something while I run. When I run alone, which is the vast majority of the time, I probably spool up a podcast 90% of the time.

The upsides of podcasts include countless lifetimes worth of free listening across the entire gamut of topics. I tend to listen to history, design, economics, and personal finance podcasts, but one could just as easily listen to a mix of humor, gardening, religious, and mixed martial arts (MMA) podcasts. The podcast world is your oyster. At the same time, I find that at least for the podcasts I listen to, I can mentally tune in and, more importantly, tune out without ruining the experience. If I miss something, even in a sequential podcast series, no big deal.

March 2023 - Boulder Gulch


My revelation over the weekend (although it should come as no surprise) was that music can be an amazingly motivating running companion. I’m sure that once the iPod came out, music was my most frequent running companion for well over a decade.

I turned away from music as my default choice how various reasons, but I still tune in from time to time. Most often, it’s for the final few minutes of a run once a podcast has wrapped up and I won’t have enough time to finish another full podcast before I’m home. Yesterday was similar, but with more of my run remaining than usual. Over the final 15 minutes or so, I listened to four songs (while skipping twice as many) and those musical companions helped keep my heart pumping and my motivation flowing, leading to one of my best runs in what’s been a very long winter. There’s plenty of both scientific and anecdotal evidence that I’m not alone in finding music motivating while running. This reminds me of one of the reasons I turned away from listening to music while running: a conscious decision to not get too pumped up in the early goings of 100-mile races and multi-day outings.

Based on both this weekend and many past experiences, I’ll try to be quicker and more cognizant in turning to music when I want a little extra motivation on my runs.

March 2023 - Cement Creek and Kendall Mountain


Audiobooks tend to be my long-distance companion. Their length, five to 20-plus hours, means that I can put one on and keep rolling with it across an entire dawn-to-dusk effort and beyond. I had some great times running with audiobooks in Colorado’s Sawatch Mountains last year while training for the High Lonesome 100 Mile and, later, on some 50- to 75-mile solo run/fish outings. I best remember listening to a pair of SciFi books on those runs, but I’ve logged many a mile over the years listening to non-fiction from pop histories to personal finance. I can’t say that they make time fly by, but, perhaps, they help me get lost in wrinkle of time.

One’s Companions

It’s far too rare that I get to run with others, but what a treat it is when I do! I love catching up with friends on the run, whether it’s deep life conversations or just chatting away about nothing at all. Likewise, how fun is it to learn about someone new while stomping singletrack, pounding pavement, or many hours into a race? If I see a friend out running around my home in Silverton, Colorado, there’s a real chance that I’ll turn off my podcast and join them for some miles, so long as they’re willing. Thinking of my 6 a.m. morning runs with my buddy here in town, some group runs in Austin, Texas, during a trade show last year, and easy runs from home with my wife all bring a smile to my face.

March 2023 - Sultan and Turk

One’s Inner Voice

I can get caught up in my head, which is probably why I’ve defaulted to listening to something on my runs over the past few decades, but I still value listening to my thoughts when I run. I’ve never counted, but I’d guess that on most runs I pause whatever I’m listening to a couple times an hour to give space for my thoughts. Again, I don’t think I’d want to be stuck with my thoughts for the entirety of every run, but if a worthwhile thought comes up, I’ll pause external noise to give my internal noise some space.

One’s Surroundings

Plenty of people never or rarely listen to electronic audio on their runs and that’s wonderful. Taking in the world around you (and, likely, the world in your head) while running can be marvelous and it’s where it’s at for some people. I know I tend to intentionally listen to my surroundings more when my running and life are going well. The less mental effort I need to run, the more likely I am to turn away from piped audio. I just don’t need it as much.

Call for Comments

What do you tend to listen to when you run? Be as general or as specific as you like!

March 2023 - preggers elk

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.