Running With Music – Sound track to your life?

Before I started running, in the carefree days at university, there was nothing I liked better than going to gigs.  Before training schedules ruled my life, whether it was at stadiums or grubby little clubs, as long as there were live guitars I was there.  So when I started running, the choice wasn’t “will you run with music?” so as much “what will you listen to?”

My playlist has gone through many incarnations, as some of the old favourites turn out to not give the hoped for inspiration, or songs that hadn’t been given the attention they deserved suddenly changed my running world! For example although the beat is great, the (not so) subliminal messaging in Beck’s “Loser” won’t be the ideal boost 16 miles in to a wet and windy 20 miler. But the Harry J. All star’s version of “The Liquidator”, while on the slow side, can bring that little bit of Ska magic to any commute run home.

As a lone wolf runner when I started, I found that the music became important to me; it was my comfort and security over any run, certain songs always appearing to give me a jolt at an appropriate moment or that one song that means the home straight.  However, as I met friends to run with, or alongside, it became more important to connect with them. Sometimes I felt like listening to music actually cut me off from the experience of running with new people.

Many scientific studies have shown a positive link between exercise performance and music, and as someone who still enjoys an angry run with Jay-Z (did I mention that it’s an eclectic mix?), there is definitely an art to crafting a running playlist – the modern version of the mixed tape. Here are five of my favourites:

  • Dreadlock Holiday – 10CC : My music runs always start with this tune, it won’t let you start off too fast and with its Caribbean vibe it makes every run feel like it’s summer
  • Bonkers – Dizzee Rascal : when I ran my first marathon in London this came on as I crossed Tower Bridge. A special song that spoke to me at a special moment
  • 99 Problems – Jay-Z : sometimes you just need to run angry, and Jay is the way to go
  • Night Boat To Cairo – Madness : the reprise of the beat at the end will give you a good lift when you might be starting to need it
  • No One Knows – Queens of the Stone Age : the beat in this song allows me to maintain pace when all the world is falling down around my ears. My go to track for the tough times.

Most of the songs I pick are songs that I know well as I use them to move me on, pick me up or take me out of my zone in turn.  They are also songs I know and like so well that I can skip without hurting their feelings (don’t judge).

Although I couldn’t possibly comment on whether or not you should add music to your own running regime here are some things to consider when running with music:

Pro’s

  • Need a boost after a bad day? Whether is little Queen Bey, DeadMau5, or Queens of the Stone Age, listening to your favourite tunes can move your mindset from Work to Run.
  • Listening to music can help you push further – whether you keep going to the end of the song, or picking up the pace to match the beat of the middle eight.
  • Helps block the real world – create your own little running bubble and distract yourself from that pain in your foot or twinge in your hammies as you belt out your favourite tune

Con’s

  • Personal safety – listening to music dampens one of your senses, so you may not hear that car/person coming up behind you. Be aware of your surroundings, and keep the volume at a sensible level to negate any risk
  • Distraction – a slower song can affect your cadence, and therefore your pace, as you may not notice that you are slowing down to match the beat.
  • Moments – sometimes you need to appreciate the sunset in silence. The wrong song at the wrong moment can rob you of a moment that makes running special.

But remember no matter what you are training for you are going to be out there a long time over the course of your plan, its all a personal choice so find the tunes you love, the friends you love, or both, and as Kate Bush says “Keep Running Up That Hill”!

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Helen Wilkinson

Helen Wilkinson

Helen took up running in 2010 after having an epiphany watching the 2009 Great North Run. It turned out 13.1 miles was a lot further than it looked on the tv! But since then she has completed events from the Santa Dash 5k to the full 26.2 four times in some pretty cool cities. She is an average runner, who strives to do her best, beating her own PBs, even though Olympic Gold maybe just out of reach! She hopes her musings on everyday running are things that you will also feel about running, and will re-assure or inspire you to get out there and just run!

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