(I was going to try and claim that one, but credit to George Elliot for the above)
I remember the days when I couldn’t run with music. My minidisc player (shut up – they could have been the future!) didn’t cope with all the jiggling about, no matter how tightly I clamped it to my waistband/shoved it in my pocket. It just whirled away making a horrible screeching noise like a dying Ewok, distracting me and nearly getting me run over while I huffed and puffed my way slowly around the edge of South East London.
It wasn’t until I entered the digital age and got a little mp3 player that suddenly I had music I could listen to, and actually hear, on the go. We take it for granted now (I think I’m getting old…) but it really is a bit of magic to have music at the touch of a button. Suddenly a slog out in the cold and rain you were dreading was a chance to listen to that new album you’d just got (illegally from a Russian site called Legal Sounds – ah, the irony!) or enjoy one of your old favourites that you hadn’t heard in ages. It added a whole new dimension to your run.
It isn’t a magic bullet; that perfect song isn’t going to see you sail past Mo or protect you little tootsies from blisters. But music does help get you in the fabled ‘Zone’ and it definitely motivates me to get out the door, which is sometimes half the battle. Like most people, I adjust my playlist to the run I’m doing. For a long or recovery run I prefer a more relaxed selection and maybe listen to whole albums. I’ve found orchestral based film soundtracks (like the recent Batman Trilogy or Tron) are good for this and keeping things mellow. For more intense runs, like intervals, I crank the ferocity up a bit and have a playlist of more high tempo stuff. Muse, Royal Blood, Gary Clark Jr. and John Newman are more recent favourites, but I also stick in some oldies but goodies from the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, The Who, Bowie, Rolling Stones… Whatever gets the adrenaline flowing, and distracts from the lactic build up, will get shoved on there.
It’s not just music you can listen to though – there’s audiobooks, stand-up, podcasts etc. I recently downloaded a free copy of ‘I, Partridge’ as an audiobook (and immediately cancelled my trial – Freebie!). I’ve already read the book a few times but having Steve Coogan actually speak as Alan Partridge makes it even funnier, in fact it is probably the funniest thing I have ever heard. The jokes, in his voice, are brilliant. I can only listen to about 15 minutes at a time, as my suppressed giggling causes quite a lot of consternation amongst my fellow train passengers (and Claire). I fear they may pull the emergency alarm and have me thrown from the service, which to be honest only makes the need to laugh more acute. I have to turn it off then and sit quietly until I’ve calmed down or I’ve been restrained and removed from the train, whatever comes first…
On second thoughts maybe don’t listen to ‘I, Partridge’ whilst running, as I can foresee some problems around running into things and involuntary defecation. But I would recommend audiobooks in general, and stand up as well (as long as you can control your laughter of course). I’ve got some Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor and Doug Stanhope I listen to and it works perfectly in taking my mind off the occasional unpleasantness of a run but leaves me free to still enjoy it. And I get to unnerve people by running past cackling wildly to myself.
Sometimes taking music can be a bit of a faff – some earphones do keep falling out, wires will occasionally try and garrotte you and batteries can run out half way through you power song leaving you feeling strangely deflated. You also need to be careful that what your listening to doesn’t block out too much sound and you run in front of a car, or over a little old lady trying to get to the shops. But on the whole a little effort (specifically, not using the crappy earphones the player came with, that leak sound all over the place creating the audio equivalent of projectile vomiting, and putting enough music together so you have more than 3 songs to choose from) reaps excellent rewards.
I don’t always run with music (I’m not a machine dammit!) and sometimes, especially on an early morning run, its nice to be out in the quiet. Along the Saxon Shore Way it’s lovely to hear the River Medway slipping by, or the local wildlife flying or scampering about. But sometimes, on a wet Wednesday in October say, its good to have some music waiting in your pocket to quicken your heart and raise your spirits. Especially when you have just been chucked off a train in the middle of the Kent countryside and need to jog home…
Thanks for listening, good running 🙂