Many runners have strong feelings about the use of music while running. Some runners won’t leave the house without their iPod, while others nix the idea of listening to tunes while running, arguing that it interrupts their ability to relax, to enjoy nature, or to stay in tune with their bodies.
In high school, I would do much of my summer training on the track after working at a summer camp hosted by my school all day. This was probably a terrible idea, as it was the hottest part of the day and there was no shade, and running ten miles on a track was about as boring a run as you can get. But I stuck it out, wanting to know how far I was going down to the meter in the age before GPS watches and smart phone apps were so prevalent. In order to distract myself and keep from quitting after two miles, I’d make long playlists full of pump-up songs and carry my iPod with me.
I never used it off the track then, but listening to music was an important pre-race ritual. My best friend and I would share a pair of headphones and listen to the same two songs before every meet on the bus trip there: the girl-power pump-up tune “Watch Me Shine,” embarrassingly enough from the Legally Blonde sound track and the humorous “Your Horoscope for Today” by Weird Al Yankovic, which could always be counted upon to lighten the mood.
Music has also been critical to me in my days of cross-training because I don’t really enjoy cross training. For me, it’s just a means to an end, a painful reminder that I’m not able to run, and so I use music to motivate myself through it. There are some songs that still bring me right back to up-tempos on the bike every time I hear them, and when they come on the radio, my heart starts beating faster in anticipation.
I’ve done regular runs with and without music, and while sometimes the music helps the time go by faster, I get more enjoyment and fulfillment from running without music because I listen to my body and enjoy the scenery.
It used to be that the USATF, the governing body of American road races, forbade running races with headphones in, but several years ago, they lifted the headphone ban for those of us not competing in a championship and left it at the discretion of the race director. Since then, I’ve raced a couple of my half marathons and marathons with headphones and several without them, and I honestly can’t decide which I like better.
It’s motivating to hear that pick-me-up in times when my energy is waning, but it also can be an encouragement to check out and ignore critical warning signs that I’m going too fast or that I’m feeling a pull somewhere. So tomorrow, I’ll be running the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon, which in either case has bands right along the course, and, while I’ve made a playlist for the occasion, I still haven’t decided for or against the use of music.
As far as my fellow road runners, let each run to the beat of his own drummer!