Running to the Beat

Music often triggers anything but harmony among runners. The ongoing, heated debate about the pro’s and con’s of running with headphones could possibly drown out a heavy metal show.

Studies report that music can improve several performance measures during endurance exercise, including leg speed and motivation, and some runners swear music helps them go faster and longer. Others prefer to be quiet with their thoughts and run to the rhythm of their footfalls. Many runners resent competitors who sport earbuds in races, rightfully concerned that the plugged-in racers may be tuned out to the surroundings and rapidly changing events on a course.

I run to music every time I work out on a treadmill and often, carefully, on roads. On trails or during races I prefer to be in the environment and leave the mp3 player home. One of my hobbies is putting together playlists, so I decided to collect the songs that lately resonate loudest with me on the run.

Just as important to this amateur wordsmith are the verses that overlay a melody and beat. If I found lyrics or music online, I included a link. In addition, most of the songs can be searched for, viewed, or heard on YouTube or Songza.

Without further ado, here’s my current Top 10:

 “Please Come to Boston(Dave Loggins). I am training for the Boston Marathon in April. How could I resist a song that pleads “Please come to Boston in the springtime …”? No need to twist my arm!

Bigger Than My Body (John Mayer) The beat and energy are great for picking me up, and I appreciate the message of endeavoring to the edge of potential.

“Sometimes” and “Everybody Ona Move” (Michael Franti & Spearhead) Spearhead is a recent discovery, thanks to my yoga teacher Stephanie, and fast becoming a favorite artist, if not total obsession. The music is a joyful blend of hip-hop, folk, jazz, rock, reggae, and more, and the songs are all cleverly penned messages of peace, unity, love, and coexistence. Michael Franti, the group’s leader, regularly practices and presents at yoga conferences. I could add at least a dozen more Spearhead tracks to this list, but then it would be a Top 22! Power to the peaceful, y’all!

“Clumsy” (Fergie) A current radio hit that always seems to be playing in the gym, this song’s electronic blip sampling caught my ear in a not-so-pleasant way. When I could get past the beeps and squeaks, I realized the chorus is a cute reminder of my less than graceful trail running.

“Dig In” (Lenny Kravitz) Musical motivation. Sometimes I need a little push to start something, and as soon as I’m involved with it I’m having fun in the moment.

“Leave a Trail” and “Running” (Carlos Jones & the PLUS Band) The first title’s relaxed groove and simply true lyrics perfectly sum up what I attempt and hope to contribute wherever I am. The latter song captures the euphoric feeling of being out on a beautiful day with a favorite running partner.

“Runaway”(Jefferson Starship) This is basically the unintentional 1970s pop music version of Carlos Jones’ “Running.” Same joyful feel; different music and words.

“Time for me to Fly”(REO Speedwagon) During a miserable 20-mile long run in unseasonable 80+ steamy degrees last fall, this oldie came on the radio station I sometimes tune into on the run. I had heard it hundreds of times, but really heard the words for the first time on that inferno of a day. Receiving their message, I finally gave myself permission to act on a decision I’d been struggling with for months. I am so grateful for the turning point.

“Maniac”(Michael Sembello) Another 80s relic from the “Flashdance” soundtrack. Long before I was a runner I danced, and now running is my dance. I like how the perfect running beat and song’s tale of a dancer’s breakthrough blend these two pursuits.

So there you have it, a current snippet of an ever evolving line-up.

Another quasi-poll to any runners reading:Do you run to music and if so, when? Don’t be shy — share a favorite running song of yours! My ears are always open to new playlist additions.

5 Responses to “Running to the Beat”

  1. 1 Martin February 14, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I love listening to music when I run.

    I carefully select what will play on the iPod before I start. It’s a very important part of my running.

    Recent selections:
    Messiaen, Quartet for the End of Time
    Vivaldi, Flute Concerto
    Liszt, Piano Sonata
    Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Violin Concerto
    Chopin, Piano Preludes
    Bartok, Piano and Violin Sonata
    Beethoven, Piano Sonata
    Ravel, Ma Mère l’Oye
    Faure, Requiem
    Ravel, Rhapsodie Espagnole
    John Adams, Fearful Symmetries

  2. 2 Bug February 14, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    What?! No “Fat Bottomed Girls”. The girls of Snarr Hall are very disappointed. 🙂


  3. 3 kemibe February 18, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem

    “Connected” by Stereo MCs

    “Fly Like An Eagle” by Steve Miller (Neville Brothers version)

    “Kasparov’s Revenge” by the Lo-Fidelity Allstars

    “Steal My Sunshine” by Len

    “Join Together” by The Who

    “If Lovin’ You Is Wrong” by Faithless

    “Is This The Raal Thing?” by DJ Madson

    “Shaking The Tree” by Peter Gabriel

    “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth (With A Quarter In My Hand)” by Primitive Radio Gods

    I have some ’80s inclusions that rival “Maniac” on the cheese-whiz scale, but I won’t own up to their titles here.

  4. 4 Carla February 19, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    First of all, I can’t believe the Snarr Hall mention from Bug!

    Lately, I’ve been following a Couch to 5K program that I downloaded free from iTunes. A guy from California put together music (mostly techno) and prompts to work through the program. It is really fun to have someone telling you when to speed it up instead of watching the clock.

    I’ve also been big into Feist for music to move to lately…very cool tempos, upbeat, great lyrics.

  5. 5 Fergie MySpace Layout February 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    this is a great blog. thanks for posting!

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