Miniature music players have taken over. The ipod, and a mass of ipod-like devices, have become a ubiquitous part of running culture – clothing manufacturers are even styling running clothes so that your ultra-hip little music player fits nicely into some funky ‘i-pocket’. (Take a chance, take a chance, take-a take-a chance-chance!) As a result, running with music has never been more popular, and runners the world over have their personal customised playlists to keep them trotting along. (Beat boy! Beat boy! hit that perfect beat, boy!)
When I started running, luxuries like ipods were still the subject of science fiction movies, so I had to amuse myself with playing my favourite songs in my mind as I ran along. And to this day, I still very much prefer my ‘virtual ipod’ to the real thing – for starters I have a more or less infinite selection of tunes to choose from, from early childhood memories through to my latest fave. And secondly I’m less cut off from reality, so at least I’m somewhat aware of approaching cars, angry dogs etc. And since Wouna and I always run together, going the earphone route is just plain bad manners. (It’s worse than typing SMS’s on a coffee date.)
However, getting back to the point: music is an integral part of running, whether you do the ipod thing, recall songs in your mind, or even go the exhibitionist route and sing heartily (in-between huffs and puffs) as you charge up the hill. (You can go your own way… go your own way!) And obviously we all have different tunes and styles of music that rev our motors. My good friend Niel would happily run to the end of the earth on a solid playlist of 80’s gold – Erasure, Eurythmics, Alphaville, Duran Duran… (Sweet dreams are made of this. Who am I to disagree?) And old Andy, always quite a sight with his ponytail and tie-dye bandana, is never happier than when the endorphins kicks in to a soundtrack of Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. (Summertime… And the living is easy…) I know a couple of people who believe nothing gives you a boost like a good dose of heavy metal (I’m on a highway to hell!), while bland, unobtrusive elevator music is just the thing others need to get them in the zone.
My personal taste in music runs pretty wide, and I like to believe that my virtual playlist won’t be found on many ipods around town. I can think of nothing better than some laid back 70s rock like Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken to get me relaxed early on in a race, while I have a tendency to call on some old-timey bluegrass (how about some Flatt & Scruggs, anyone?) if I need a bit of a boost to pick up the pace. And surely songs like The Avett Brothers’ Kick Drum Heart and The Clash’s Brand New Cadillac were written specifically to lift me up when I have to dig deep on a marathon somewhere between the 32km and 35km marks. When I’m in the groove, just jogging along happily, songs seem to wander into my mind from all over – anything from Walken by Wilco to Trigger Cut by Pavement to Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side by Magnetic Fields to some old blues standard like John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom or Buddy Guy’s version of Sweet Home Chicago.
And even on days that I really don’t feel like running, one quick listen to James Brown getting all sweaty on I Feel Good, or Jerry Lee Lewis bangin’ out Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On is usually enough to get me into my running shoes and out the door.
Whatever the situation, there’s always a song that seems to fit perfectly – I cannot imagine the world without it. And while I’m running and flicking through my mind-pod, something is sure to pop up that even suits the rhythm of my stride…
I’m curious – are you like me, with a soundtrack (real or virtual) accompanying every moment of your life, or do you prefer it peaceful and quiet. And if you do enjoy some tunes on the run, which are the big ones that you keep coming back to? Any specific tunes that you’ve discovered that give you that extra oomph? Please do share – I can always do with some new additions to my playlist!