Podcasts For The Long Run: History and Factoids

History Podcasts

I listen to a ton of podcasts while I run. For me, they are just the ticket to getting through those solo long runs. I started listening (so many years ago) when I finally accepted that my musical taste isn’t really runner friendly. Icelandic ambient post-rock doesn’t really mesh well with a strong 135 BMP running tempo.

Now I load up my little iPod Shuffle with podcasts and head out the door.

Sadly, Apple just announced they are going to stop making the Shuffle. Get one while you can – they are perfect for running! The Shuffle makes it really easy to fast forward through commercials.

Best Podcasts For The Long Run

I was originally going to put all my favorite podcasts into one post, but there were just too many.

So a series it is!

I broke my list down loosely into categories:

History Podcasts

History and Factoids

I am a lover of history, trivia, and factoids. There are few things I love more than any statement that will leave me thinking ‘Wow, I had no idea… fill in the blank’.

I’m the person who actually read those flyers you get when you go to a National Park. You never know when you might need a fact about big-horned sheep.

The Dollop

Comedy podcasts are a huge genre in podcasting, but I don’t listen to many comedy podcasts. I find many comedians painfully not funny.

One exception is The Dollop, which is more of a history podcast with comedians than a true comedy podcast.

The premise of The Dollop is that a comedian tells a story from American history to his friend (another comedian) who has no idea of what the story is.

There are always absurd and interesting corners of American history to uncover.

A love of puns helps considerably.

One new episode a week

No Such Thing As A Fish

An offshoot of the British TV show QI (which aired on BBC America for a brief while), No Such Thing As a Fish has four hosts who each share and discuss their ‘favorite facts from the last week.’

Each fact presented then spawns many side discussions with even more facts.

As a lover of factoids, it more than fits the bill every week.

One new episode per week

Hard Core History 

Dan Carlin’s Hard Core History podcasts don’t come out very often, but when they do, they are monsters.

Like 6+ hour episode monsters. Many of which are multi-part series. Now even his ‘blitz episodes’ which were designed to be short mini-episodes in-between core episodes are over 4 hours. I learned more about the nuclear era in his latest blitz episode than in all my history classes in school put together.

He often points out that he is just a guy who loves history, but he’s not a historian. For a non-historian, his research and presentation are remarkable.

Topics vary from Ancient Mesopotamia to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I’d highly recommend the six part series on World War I. Much like his show on nuclear weapons, I learned more about World War I over the course of his podcasts than I had in so many years of schooling.

Usually about four episodes a year (no set schedule)

99% Invisible

I included 99% Invisible, an architecture and design podcast, in the ‘history and factoid’ section because of their unofficial mottos: Read the Plaque.

You know those ubiquitous plaques that are on the sides of so many buildings and in city parks?

They encourage (and I wholeheartedly agree) that you should always read them. I do, and I very often learn something new and interesting from them.

I’m not a design nerd, but much like my love of Planet Money (economics) and Imaginary Worlds (Sci Fi), a love of a genre is not necessary to enjoy well-told stories.

One new episode a week

Part Time Genius

Part Time Genius is a fairly new podcast from the creators of Mental Floss Magazine (one of my favorite magazines back in the day). The hosts have a theme for each episode such as personality tests or why we are obsessed with world records and do a deep dive into that theme and its related history and facts

While they tried a little too hard to emulate Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (with the valueless valuable gifts and quizzing smart people on goofy irrelevant topics), any show where I can learn at least two new things per episode is worth listening to in my book.

Two new episodes a week


Sara is a runner, running coach, writer, blogger, and a lover of all things written.

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