Running With (no!) Music

When I ran cross country in high school, we weren’t allowed to run with music. This was not a problem considering that back in my day, if we wanted to run with music, we’d be hauling with us a portable cd player.

I discovered the iPod my freshman year of college when I moved to the city. I was gifted an iPod shuffle and thought it was a pretty nifty invention. Of course, I started using it to exercise and really never looked back.

If I forget or misplace my iPod, I run without listening to music; but, very rarely do I intentionally decide to go without it.

On Saturday it was cold and rainy—a rarity in Arizona. I met up with my run club shivering and anxious to get the show on the road. I stood clutching my iPod tightly, ready to hit play as soon as we started. We set off and I found myself running alongside Jim. He asked me how my legs were feeling and I told him that I had set up an appointment with a sports medicine doctor on Tuesday to get them looked at. We continued to chat and I could hear Kelly Clarkson tell me that what doesn’t kill makes her stronger faintly in the background, my earphones hanging around my neck. I lowered the volume.

After a while, I glanced at my watch and saw that a mile had gone by! I knew that I was running at a leisurely pace having talked to Jim the entire way, but I was surprised at how good I felt and how it seemed time had passed by without much preoccupation—I hadn’t checked my watch that entire mile. I started to pick up my pace and drift away from Jim. It was dark out still and I could hear the wind blowing through the trees and the rain hit the water in the canal beside me. I could also hear Jennifer Lopez tell me to get on the floor.

I unplugged my earphones and tucked them in my pocket and turned off my iPod. I decided I was running the rest of the way listening to nature instead.

The first mile had been a slow one but it served as a perfect warm-up as the rest of the run went by smoothly. I felt pretty darn good. I noticed that as I was listening to the sounds around me I was also more aware of what was around me. I noticed the horses in the backyards of houses, the bridge connecting the two sides of the canal at mile 4, and the height of some of the trees I passed. Things I probably would not have paid much attention to had I been listening to music. Sometimes, I become so entranced by a song that I have no idea where I’m at. Other times, I’m keenly aware of a song’s length and am so focused at how much song is left before the next one starts. I become pretty familiar with my playlists and get anxious to hear a certain song and want the current one to end.

I had no such worries that day.

If you noticed my splits on Saturday, you’d see that I picked up my pace as the run went on. Music did not help me do it. I did it. I was thinking about this after my run and wandered if maybe music was having too much control over my running. Was I being influenced by the pace of the song? Do I concentrate better without my iPod? Am I able to focus more on my running instead of the song lyrics?

Saturday’s run felt so great that I’ve decided to try a few more workouts without it. I might be on to something here.

–Do you listen to music when you run?

–Do you think music can have an influence on your pace?

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3 responses

  1. I have only run completely sans music once and that’s because my iPod died mid-run. It wasn’t too bad actually! So yes I do run with music, but I keep my volume very minimal, sometimes so low that I can barely hear it. I like to be aware of my surroundings too, especially when I’m out on the trail.

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