Ah, the age-old runner’s debate: to run with music or without it? This spring I got into a heated discussion on the topic with my closest friend. I argued that runners should be present in the moment and appreciate the sounds of their bodies in motion—the cadence of their breath and rhythm of their feet on the ground below—or else they’re not truly enjoying the act of running, but rather drowning it out to make it more tolerable. Then she made a simple case that won me over. We’re both writers, and she said, “Some people write with music, some don’t. Some people run with music, some don’t.” People who run with music still enjoy running, but they do it best with their own soundtrack.
I never ran with music in cross country because I had my own pack of friends to keep me entertained, but I did take my iPod out on runs in college. It wasn’t until training for my first marathon that I went au natural again. To be honest, that was mostly because my iPod’s battery life was so short it couldn’t play for more than 20 minutes straight (I was late to the smartphone game.) I grew used to hearing my breath again, tuning in only to the sounds around me and the thoughts in my head. Only recently did I pull my old armband out of retirement.
Yesterday I went on my first 20-mile training run. I knew I’d be out for at least three hours, so I decided to start my run off with an episode of This American Life. It was a series of interviews with residents of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, and one of the best and most sensitive “10 years after Katrina” updates I’ve heard so far. The first eight miles breezed by, and I became one of those runners with headphones.
In case you’re wondering, the rest of the run went splendidly, too. Aside from some minor aches and pains, I felt stronger than I have in a few weeks and averaged just 15 seconds slower than my projected 9-minute-mile race pace—see, look!
In honor of my return to running with music—and other media—I’ll share a recent playlist I made that’s perfect for a 5- or 6-mile weekday run. It’s got some current artists I’m digging (looking at you, LION BABE) and some throwback jams just for fun (Ludacris, yes). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!