Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Music makes the legs go one in front of the other

I've mentioned my playlist (not the quickie Sony W one but my actual training and race one) before but it was only while explaining it to someone the other day (and being called a bit of a geek at the time) that they mentioned I should do a full post explaining why and how it works for me. The actual choice of songs doesn't matter at this moment as there won't be a single person who would look at my playlist and say 'Wow! the boy's a genius, I will listen to only that and nothing else whenever I run from this point forward' so please stick with me. It's more about the placing and type of songs you use so this is just a post explaining a couple of my choices and how I did it.

The way it works is having a set distance to run to. Mine happens to be based on 6 miles and is pretty much 52:30 long exactly! So if I'm doing a 10k, it's almost perfect, if I'm doing an 8 miler I'll turn it on at 2 miles and so on and so forth. This means I don't have the constant music and therefore it doesn't become background music. It means when it starts, I know exactly where I am in the run, the distance to go and also, how long I have to get my arse home! See, I race the music home everytime. Mind you, racing it home is one thing, beating it home is a completely different matter. I think we're about level on results at the moment!!

The Starting Point
So, I had the total time. Now to find the tracks. I did a full search through my iTunes and also ended up buying a few bits of cheese from Amazon's MP3 store and gave myself a starting point. Strangely, this was at the 26:15 mark or 3 miles-to-go mark as I like to think of it! The reason for this was that I really wanted a big mental **HALF WAY THERE** in my ears and didn't want to think 'oh the halfway point is somewhere in the middle of this track'. This means I can check my pace in relation to where I am and in addition, the song was one of the big motivational clichés out there. Eminem: Lose yourself (minus the first 32 seconds of nothing obviously). Now this song has never been a favourite but was specifically purchased to become my motivational kick up the arse and dag nammit it works!!

The First Half
I then set about building 26:15 minutes of music up to that point. The idea of this first half of the playlist was about the beats, keeping the pace up but making sure I didn't revert to listening to music that I didn't like. Basically, that being what I class as 'dance' music! A couple of tracks that will be mentioned among others that won't be for potential embarrassment reasons are the starting track of Foo Fighters: Monkey Wrench and somewhere in the middle of this half is Arcade Fire: Keep the Car Running. Simple theory... music I like with a beat I could run to.

The Beginning of the End
After my Eminem motivational kick up the backside, I have a few tracks that keep not only the shouty motivation up but the beat and pace up too. The theory being that I'm getting knackered and just the beats aren't going to help as much on their own at this point but the shouty stuff does. Think teen pop!!! I'm saying no more than that. I have little street cred as it is, naming the actual tunes would just be hideous. Think of them as guilty pleasures.

The End
Now the beats matter even less. I've tried running to a set beat at the end of a run and for me, it doesn't work... at all! Now it's all about the motivation part. Making me smile as I head to the finish line. If I'm happy and have a rather embarrassing and stupid grin on my face then I'll be running a damn sight better than if I have boom, boom, boom going on in the background. So this is the point you need to find a couple of tracks that you can listen to and know you're having more fun than anyone else around you! Based on this, my penultimate track is Bellamy Brothers: Let your Love Flow and then the one that I'm always chasing home is Jackie Wilson: Higher and Higher. So much fun and I promise you it works!!

One last thing I must mention is once you've found these tracks, try not to listen to them day to day. Take them off your other music players and iTunes and your mind will start to automatically go into running mode when you hear them. All my tracks now have an immediate effect and when I'm having a slow day and I get to that 6 miles-to-go mark, it acts as a massive pick me up and gets me to the end every single time.


  1. One of my favorite running songs is also Arcade Fire's Keep the Car Running. I find it does wonders to keep me motivated.

  2. I just listen to the voices in my head...that seems to scare me along! Mind you, perhaps my leg will allow proper distances again soon and i'll return to Vincent De More's Fly Away. Ah, one day!

  3. I know what you mean about running and music. I won't go out of the door on my own without my ipod. What are your ultimate running power tracks? Pick 10.

  4. Ha! You succumbed! You told the whole internet! And you vowed you'd never do it! Still, only I know the "guilty pleasures" in the middle of your playlist but promise not to tell. Funny you should post this as I am trying to come up with a 10k playlist for the 2 races I have over the next couple of weeks. Maybe you've started a fad as I too may share my scarey music taste with the world...

  5. I told the whole internet about the one's I'm not completely embarrassed by. Some will go to my grave with me. You're still the only one that knows the full hideous extent!

  6. I'm always on the look-out for new running choons, and will be trying out some of the ones you mention. I really do think you should publish your "guilty secrets" - I'm guessing they're not any worse than Kenny Loggins and Girls Aloud.

  7. They're close tho...heheheh!

  8. Sorry but the guilty secrets will remain in a little box under lock and key and marked 'on tour' especially as they were conned/crafted/tricked/bullied out of me while I was drunk on sparkling water at 1am the day before the Prague Half!

  9. I'm trying to shed my addition to running with my ipod so I'll still be capable of running in marathons etc where headphones are banned...and it's mighty hard to keep positive without a good song in your ears. Best to keep your guilty secrets to yourself though if you ask me.