In Review

Podcasts of the week: from running to demographics

Featuring Run to the Top, Room 5, Rethink Population and Hunting Ghislaine

Collection of podcasts

If you’ve decided this is the year you get properly fit and take running seriously, you may be overwhelmed by the choice of running podcasts, said Elle Hunt in The Guardian.

As a committed Parkrunner, my top tip for “beginners who are yet to make running a habit” is Run to the Top, hosted by Claire Bartholic. Unlike many, it doesn’t “rhapsodise about the joys of running, or debate which gels will fuel your best ever marathon”. Rather, it offers useful “need-to-know” advice and information, with episodes geared towards different running goals and levels of experience.

For novices, Couch to 5K (an NHS coaching plan downloadable as podcasts) is remarkably effective. Or, for experienced runners with long distance in mind, Marathon Training Academy comes “highly recommended” by those who have taken the plunge.

In 2019, Helena Merriman was in room 5 at her GP’s surgery when she was told that she has otosclerosis, a relatively rare – and in her case life-changing – condition in which the ossification of tiny bones in the ear causes gradual hearing loss.

On her terrific new Radio 4 (BBC Sounds) series, Room 5, Merriman – who made the widely praised Tunnel 29 investigative podcast about escapes from East Berlin – talks to people who have faced similar medical crises about what happens after the shock of the room 5 moment: “the medication, the rehabilitation, the strain”. The first episode, about a 20-year-old woman suffering from seizures and almost continual psychosis, is a “thoroughly absorbing” listen that reminded me of Oliver Sacks’s acclaimed The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Baby boomers are likely to feel more cheery than millennials listening to Amol Rajan’s “brilliant” new Radio 4 series Rethink Population, said James Marriott in The Times (all episodes available on BBC Sounds). It’s a lively, clever and thought-provoking look at the role of demography in shaping society and politics. As one of the guest interviewees, David Willetts, explains: “If you’re a large demographic in a modern consumer society, the market is shaped around your preferences” – and political power is yours too.

I also strongly recommend the superb Hunting Ghislaine, which has now rebranded as Hunting Ghislaine: The Trial to bring the story up to date. The show is a “little harder to ferret out” than some pods: it’s exclusive to a website called Global Player, though it is still free. If you are interested in the Maxwell saga it’s unmissable – and John Sweeney is a “natural podcaster: a charismatic talker, encyclopaedically well informed and full of thrilling moral indignation”.

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