A few years back, not long after I fell in love with running, I decided I was going to train for a half marathon. Never mind that I had never run anything longer than a 5k, this was just the new challenge I needed! If my stepdad could do it, certainly I could too… Fortunately, one of my cousins decided to get married the same weekend as the half marathon I had decided I was going to run. I had a handy excuse for changing my mind without waving a white flag. Because while my body was holding up to the challenge, my attention span was not. For shorter distances, my iPod and a running playlist were just what I needed to distract me from the distance ahead while motivating me to keep going. Trouble was, when I reached the point in my training where I was consistently running six or more miles, music just wasn’t cutting it anymore. While I’ve realized today that about 6-7 miles is my “happy place”, the point where I reach my runner’s high but don’t have a strong drive to keep going, this wasn’t the only time I found myself seeking something outside music to hold my attention.

Driving from western Wisconsin to the Twin Cities to Chicago and so on, the hours spent in my car have really piled up. I used to have satellite radio but found that, even without the dreaded commercial breaks, the music selection still tends to get repetitive after six-plus hours. You can only take so much of the same song, am I right?

Thank goodness for Adnan Syed and Serial, the podcast and court case that captured even the most casual podcast fan. If you’ve never heard of it, think “Making a Murderer” for your listening pleasure. As an avid watcher of Law and Order reruns and ID TV, it took little to no arm twisting from my friends to give it a try. I was hooked! Since then, whether behind the wheel or pounding the pavement, I’m constantly on the hunt for similar styles of podcasts to pass the time on the open road.

Here, for your binging pleasure, is a list of true crime podcasts I couldn’t turn off:

In the Dark

Growing up an hour from Minnesota, the weeks leading up to Halloween meant more than planning costumes and trick-or-treating. The abduction of then 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling on October 22nd of 1989 changed my childhood. It was the first time those of us who lived in midwestern small towns realized that maybe it wasn’t safe to ride our bikes in the dark and the “bad guys” could even be found in our own neighborhoods. It took 27 years to solve the mystery of what happened to Jacob and, coincidentally, happened during the making of this podcast. Digging into the investigation, this podcast leaves you inspired by Jacob’s mom Patty, frustrated by the seeming ineptitude of the sheriff’s department running the investigation, and horrified by facts and events that were never before connected to Jacob’s story.

Up and Vanished

Coincidentally, this podcast also centers around a person who went missing on October 22nd. Tara Grinstead was a high school teacher and former beauty queen who “up and vanished” from her Georgia home in 2005. Captivating from the very beginning, the podcast starts out with Payne Lindsey, the creator and narrator of the podcast, delving deeper into the original investigation and initial persons of interest. However, 6 months after the first episode aired, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is contacted with a tip about a never-before-looked-at suspect, leading the investigation and podcast in a whole new direction. Interesting connection: the best friend of Payne Lindsey’s grandmother was one of the last people to see Tara the night she disappeared.

Someone Knows Something

Contrary to the first two podcasts listed, Someone Knows Something has two seasons completed at the time of this post. The first centers around a young boy who went missing when he was out fishing with his dad and brothers. With no body having ever been recovered, one of the theories they look into is the possibility that he was kidnapped and is still alive today. The second season focuses on the disappearance of a young woman just days after she accepts a televised proposal from her boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. Her friends and family say she was not expecting the proposal and had told them in previous conversations that she wasn’t ready to marry her boyfriend, a jealous and controlling man with an unstable history.  Interviews with the families in both cases leave you empathizing with their hopefulness, helplessness, and hunger for answers.

Accused

Accused also has multiple seasons and, although I’m just a few episodes into the first, I’m just as addicted. While the previous podcasts look into the mysterious disappearance of missing persons, this one examines cold cases that remain unsolved. Season one tells the story of a young woman who had just graduated college and was getting ready to move out of her college apartment to a new city and a new job. When her boyfriend arrives at their shared apartment to help her pack, he finds her dead and eventually finds himself on trial for her murder. After the boyfriend is acquitted in both a criminal and civil case, the police quit investigating, convinced the boyfriend is guilty and they just failed in bringing the victim to justice.  Amber Hunt of the Cincinnati Enquirer uses her investigative skills to go on a search for the truth, if it can be found.

I’d love to hear from you!  What is your favorite genre of podcast?  Are there any you find yourself addicted to?