About three years ago, when I first decided to jog each morning, I coincidentally noticed an advertisement for Books on Tape (Box 7900, Newport Beach, California 92660). I sent for the literature and found that Books on Tape rents cassettes of unabridged readings of a large number of very fine books.
And so began a pleasant pastime of listening to literature while jogging.
My first selection was Walden by Thoreau. When I received the box of cassettes, I bought a Sony cassette recorder, TCM 600, which is easily held in the hand. I also bought a stethoscope-type earphone which is easy to wear and brings the sound in clearly. It also permits me to hear approaching traffic and other street noises.
Thoreau took me into the autumn of the year. Thoreau's comments about the sights and sounds of Walden Pond accompanied me as I ran along inspecting the browns and greens of the turning foliage. I can still recall quite vividly Thoreau's description of his Walden winter and the very heavy snowfall at the pond.
One day while running, I thought to myself how I had envied those who could afford to hire readers. I thought of Oliver Holmes whose law clerks read to him as he sat in a wicker chair listening to a bedtime mystery story.
The cassettes gave me something to look forward to each morning. Many times the recording is so interesting that I regret that my jog must come to an end.
After Walden, I undertook the auditing of the six volumes of Winston Churchill's The Second World War . It took five months to complete. I had read the books in the 1950s, but i now found the experience of listening to them much more rewarding. During most of a 12-mile race last year, I listened to a vivid description of the battles raging on the Russian front in 1943.
If one were to tire of books, there is an almost unlimited supply of educational materials now available on cassettes. I have tried a French language course. I must admit it was a little wearying to both jog and study irregular French verbs. But general vocabulary was not as burdensome.
Listening and running will not appeal to those who jog for speed. The two do not go together. A comfortable pace for listening is the nine- or 10-minute mile.
I hope that more people will take up listening and jogging. The greater the interest, the more books will become available. Maybe some day there will be a reading available of Gibbon's Decline and Fall to listen to while running the streets of Rome some fine spring day. And what about running along Swann's Way listening to one of Proust's mile-long sentences?