So, pop pickers. Can you name one thing that as athletes we are not allowed to do under race conditions? No. Not that. You’re being rude. No, not that either. Come on please, keep your mind out of the gutter for just five minutes… I am (of course) talking about listening to music.
Last year, at no point during the sporadic trots in the country that I called “popping out for a run”, did I listen to music when I ran. Not even occasionally. I was crystal clear in my belief that since you can’t race wearing earphones you shouldn’t train with them. To do so (I thought) was training your body to rely on things that just aren’t there on race day. I also completely understood the fact that no Race Director wants athletes squashed because they didn’t hear the lorry full of screeching howler monkeys in transit approaching rapidly from behind. There is very clearly a safety rationale for keeping the earphones out. But here’s the thing: last year my running was sporadic. I was not running regularly or with any specific goal in mind. I wasn’t even doing much in the way of road racing either so my outlook of “train like you are racing” could be considered as just a tiny bit odd.
The irony is that this year I’m actually training for a pretty big race and I’m out there running an awful lot more than I ever have before. A couple of weeks ago I found my old iPod in a cupboard and it’s become a valuable addition to my early morning runs. It’s much smaller than my iPhone so fits in my running jacket pocket without bouncing up and down like a kangaroo full of High 5 energy gel. Since finding it, I have marvelled at the oddities thrown up by the “shuffle songs” feature (whoever would have thought that Metallica, Calvin Harris, Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Chris Rea’s “Driving home for Christmas” would all have cropped up on the same run); I’ve raised eyebrows at stuff I swear I’ve never heard before coming through my ear buds (how on earth did Mousse T’s track “Horny” get on there?); I’ve even tried singing along as I run (No, not to “Horny” – that would be very inappropriate. It was a bit of Duran Duran and my enthusiastic crooning whilst running an interval set did not end well).
Music, I have found, helps me keep to a pace (sometimes) and keeps the boredom monster at bay on those long training runs. It helps to drown out the sound of the wheezing death rattle that is my respiratory system in overload and provides some light entertainment at the same time (Did I mention that I actually played air guitar in time to the music in the last mile of Sunday’s long run?).
The other thing I’ve found though is that running with music is pretty divisive. Some people I know love running with tunes. Others don’t. Some runners I have seen will run as pairs or groups whilst “tuned in” (that does strike me as somewhat bad mannered but who am I to judge). One running group I know sing to each other while running. How’s that for social!?
There are lots of different views on music as you run. You’ve heard some of mine. What are yours?
I’m running the Brighton Marathon and Holkham Outlaw Half raising funds for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. To donate, please visit my JustGiving page HERE