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Run With The Sound Of Music: Or Maybe Not

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

To run with music, or to run without music… that is the question. A surprisingly controversial question at that. While many runners are appropriately moderate in their stance about whether or not it is OK to block out the world with music during a run, there are those on both sides of the debate who can be astonishingly militant about their stance.

Those who are in favour of the tunes say that it counteracts the monotony of a long run, helps keep energy and motivation levels high, and simply offers the opportunity to enjoy some good music. They say the anti-music people are antisocial know-it-alls who think it’s OK to jostle a slower runner who happens to wearing earbuds.

Those against the music-and-running combination cite things like safety, being in tune with one’s body, and enjoyment of Mother Nature. They accuse the music-lovers of being antisocial plodders who cannot hear when they’re supposed to get out of the path of a faster runner coming from behind.

I am firmly in the middle of the road on this one. I listen to music on all of my training runs, but never on races.

I do my training on my own, partly by circumstance but largely by choice. I love the feeling of getting out on the open road early in the morning, when it’s just me. It allows me to escape from the “real world” of people and responsibilities, and to be beholden to no-one but myself.

Having said that, two hours can seem like a very long time when you don’t have the company of music. I never find running boring, but it can get lonely, and the music counteracts that. If I find songs with the right beat, it can also be a nifty training tool, and to be quite honest, it is refreshing to be able to listen to an entire song without hearing kids start World War III over a single piece of Lego.

I used to listen to music while racing as well, but the Energizer Night Race of 2011 cured me of that. I had no choice but to leave my music at home, because earbuds were banned from the course. A third of the way into the race I could understand why: the park that the race was run in was very, very dark, and although the headlights that came with the race kit helped light the way, all senses had to be on full alert.

The race went well – so well, in fact, that I started thinking that maybe the lack of music had been beneficial. I tested this theory in my next race two weeks later and set a new personal best time for the distance. And that was enough to convince me to run my races with nothing but the sound of the wind in my ears.

When I race, I’m not running to improve my form or experiment with speed. I’m not out there just for the joy of running. I’m running that race to get the best time I possibly can. I am racing – even though I have no hope of actually winning the race, I am trying to beat the most intense competition there is: myself.

While music is a pleasant distraction on training runs, I find it to be a hindrance on races. Without it, I can focus on paying attention to what my body is doing instead of trying to match my pace to the beat of the music. I can run according to how I feel, and for some strange reason, I am better able to manage my pacing to get a personal best time.

I have discovered that I don’t actually need the music when I’m racing. I get so buoyed up by the collective energy of the runners around me, and that is enough to keep me going. I enjoy engaging with spectators who cheer me on, and I like the feeling of getting pumped up by the entertainers along the course. Although I take my racing very seriously, leaving the music at home definitely helps me get more out of the experience and have fun.

In every single race I have run since I stopped racing with music, I have achieved a personal best time. There’s definitely something to that – at least, for me.

There is room for all runners on the road – the ones who listen to music and the ones who don’t. Watch this space next week for tips on how the two camps can coexist safely and peacefully.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karrienodalo/3227478067/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Comments

  1. Nice post! I’m visiting from the blogathon and must admit that I’m with the It isn’t safe camp as far as running with earphones. But hey, I don’t get to run anymore, which is probably much more dangerous for my health than blocking out ambient noise when jogging.

    • Thanks for the comment, and I’m sorry you’re no longer able to run! Safety is definitely an issue, and earphones can be worn safely but only if the wearer is sensible about it. I’ll be posting some tips about that next week!

  2. Hi Kirsten, Interesting post! I am not a runner, but I do walk my treadmill (which is safer than being on the road I guess) and I always have my earbuds in my ears. It helps keep me going and it makes the time pass quicker ~ at least for me it does… but then again, I’m not doing miles (kms) like you are, I’m good to hit a mile without my thighs bursting into flames! (yes, I’m THAT out of shape!) I do love my music though.
    Mimi

  3. I have friends that deal on a daily basis I only hope for the best :)

  4. I don’t run. Which solves the problem for me. :)
    Really, people are that beligerent about it?

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