Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

“Tuning” Up For Kansas City

Do you remember when the Walkman came out? Can you believe it has been over 30 years? Odds are you are now having one of two conversations in your head. You are either a) making the “wow, I wasn’t even born yet!” comment or b) experiencing the “lord, I feel old!” internal monologue. Either way, I find it interesting and perhaps not surprising that the Walkman hit the market around the same time as running emerged as a popular recreational sport and running shoes found their way onto everyone’s feet. Thus, the marriage of music and running was born.

Did you own one? Do you still own one?

In the years that followed, portable music players found their way into seemingly every home in America and around the world, as mixed tapes (admit it, you still have one in a drawer somewhere, collecting dust) gave way to playlists. Although the technology has changed and advanced considerably since that first Walkman hit the scene in 1979, the desire for up-tempo music to work-out with and run with has remained strong. Whether you are more familiar with “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” or Zumba, there is no question that music is thoroughly entrenched in our exercise regimes. The result has been every type of exercise and running-themed music accessory imaginable. In fact, I’m sure many of you have piles of old music players and headphones you bought to use while you run or workout. Perhaps you used them a few times but they never felt right in your ears, or the weight of the device got in the way of your workout, or you just liked being on the cutting edge and you replaced your devices as fast as new devices were released (I hope you aren’t still doing that, or you have very deep pockets!).

No introduction needed?

The fascination with music as a distraction, a motivational trigger, or a tempo-counter has become quite intense in the running world, or so it seems. If the number of articles about running and ideal playlists at Runners World is any indication, then there is no question that everyone has the perfect solution. When I first started running, I was in the same boat. I used the “Couch to 5K” podcasts, and had plenty of other playlists to pump me up while I ran. However, for whatever reason, I never found a pair of headphones that fit my ears well and were comfortable. Thus, I’d end up taking them out mid-run, or they’d fall out. Eventually, I stopped running with any music at all. That’s when I felt my running really level up.

(As a Virginia Tech Alum, Enter Sandman truly is the ultimate intro song…for a crazy game @ Lane Stadium or a final psych-up before a marathon!)

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of having your favorite music playing as the miles fly by. However, when you unplug and take in everything around you, you gain a whole new perspective on that route you thought you knew like the back of your hand! As I have been squeezing in a few final runs before the Northface 50K this weekend, I’ve been thinking more about my overall routine. I still love some of my favorite songs for helping me gear up for a race, but I have no interest is plugging back in during the run itself. The crowds and the other runners are more than enough to keep me engaged and interested, and the miles still melt away. So, whether you unplug for a change, or unplug out of respect for the other runners on the course, I highly recommend giving it a try. Perhaps this will be the race you level up!

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4 thoughts on ““Tuning” Up For Kansas City

  1. Hey Adam. I loved the images. The ’80s were kind of wierd (except for Valerie Bertanelli). If you can manage it, long runs without music can be very empowering. Plus, I find part of the draw in running is its simplicity; music contraptions take some of that away I think. There is something zen about listening to nature, your breathing and your rythmic footfalls. Best of luck at North Face this weekend! I look forward to the race report.

  2. Christy L. on said:

    My hubby doesn’t like to run with headphones either. For me though, I can’t stand it on the rare occasion when I have to run without them! For long runs, I will listen to audiobooks sometimes, and I’ll listen to music on shorter ones. No question that I am faster on runs where I listen to music. I think maybe I haven’t become serious enough about it to want to do it without the music– I still need a distraction to make it tolerable. 🙂

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