The beauty of a running song: What might be a running song for me might not be a running song to you. Vice versa. We are unique creatures, and different things move and inspire us. Some of these songs have nothing to do with running, but the point is, if they make you or me want to run or run faster, then well, yes they are running songs, even if they are running songs by accident.
This is Volume 2 of the Music of Running. Many topics will be covered: love, bad days, lungs, summer, Lightning McQueen, and even Mr. Spock. Also, I will discuss the slower song, and how it can be useful for runners.
Let’s begin with love…
“Always love, don’t wait til the finish line.” – Always Love by Nada Surf
Often, we find ourselves fixated on the negative, on the people or things that anger us. The theme here is to rise above it; to focus on the positives, to let go of resentment. Another underlying theme in this song is regret, and leaving things unsettled. If you apply this to running, it would be about leaving something out there during a workout or a race. For example, there is usually a moment in a race when we are tempted to either give up or to fight on. I’d like to think this song is about fighting on, and not leaving anything on the course.
It helps that this song also has such a beautiful sound; you’ll run a ½ mile during it and you won’t even realize you’ve run that far.
“Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks.” – Walls by Tom Petty
OK, this is NOT a running song, but the opening line of this tune is how I describe either a good run or a bad run. The days of the good runs are “diamonds” while the days of the bad runs are “rocks.” Some days you have it, and some days you don’t.
I have no idea if Tom Petty ever was/is a runner. Based on Mary Jane’s Last Dance, I will guess “no.” I also have no idea why I’m giving the above song more weight than some of his others. After all, running is such a theme in his music (and it might be by accident). He’s been Runnin’ Down a Dream, he has warned that he Won’t Back Down and he keeps “running for another place ..to find that Saving Grace.” However, Walls sticks with me for some reason. Why is a love song about waiting for someone inspirational to me? The truth is I have no idea. Maybe waiting for someone to reciprocate love involves mental endurance. I don’t know. Sometimes you just can’t explain why a song inspires you.
”One two three set ready set go,, may heaven help you if you’re slow.
We’re gonna run like bandits, wild flames are chasin’
Racin’ racin’ racin’ racin’, Oh I’m gonna race you back home.“ – Race You by Elizabeth & the Catapult
A perfect song for a summer run at dusk. It is a perky and quirky tune that will have you zooming home in time for a late dinner. There is nothing like a summer sweat, and this song is a good accompaniment. It also evokes a “Stand By Me” kind of nostalgic feeling of being outside all day, and then rushing home.
“...and when I go there, I go there with you, it’s all I can do.” – Where the Streets Have No Name by U2
When I get my monthly Runner’s World, there are two things I do immediately: 1) I check the back page to see who the famous “I’m a Runner” is, and 2) I check to see the location of the “Rave Run.” When I am staring at the beautiful locations of the Rave Runs, I envision running in these places while listening to this song. It is the perfect match for the epic landscapes of the Rave Run. This is one of the few songs that can actually give me goosebumps while running. Yes, another appearance by U2. Get used to it. They will most likely get mentioned in Volume 3 too.
“It’s funny how life turns out, the odds of faith in the face of doubt.
Camera One closes in, the soundtrack starts, the scene begins…You’re playing you now.” – Camera One by Josh Joplin Group
Camera One defies logic. Overall, the subject-matter in each verse is heavy; however, I’d like to think that the overall theme is about not giving up when faced with a difficult situation. There are moments during a race when doubt flows in and out of our consciousness. By doubt, I mean, the thought that we might not achieve our race goal on a particular day. Some days ‘doubt’ wins; however, on other days, we have the faith in ourselves and the ability to rise above the doubt. We truly have “faith in the face of doubt.”
When I run to Camera One, the opening guitar riffs make me keenly aware of my surroundings, as well as my stride. Also, because of the “movie” component of the song, the goofball in me likes to imagine that I am filming a scene in a movie: the song, in combination with the surroundings of my run, make for some fun cinematography.
“Come on and we’ll sing, like we were free. Push the pedal down watch the world around fly by us.” – Nothing Left to Lose by Matt Kearney
“Louder louder and we’ll run for our lives.” – Run by Snow Patrol
I decided to group these two songs together because they are slower songs, and it is time to give the slower song some props. Now, I know the importance of the faster, harder songs, especially for the more difficult workouts (tempo runs, track workouts). When running or workout songs are listed, the term BPM (Beats Per Minute) is sometimes emphasized. The more “Beats Per Minute,” the more intense the workout, etc.
However, I would like to discuss a different kind of BPM (Breaks Per Mile). I am saying that on certain days (or during certain portions of a run), we need to take a break from the intensity. Not every run should be at tempo or race pace. We need recovery days. These songs allow us to recover, even if it is during a cool down.
Don’t get me wrong, we need more Beats Per Minute during the tougher workouts; however, we don’t need to race along the Interstate everyday. Some days, we need to take that scenic route and slow down. I believe Lightning McQueen learned this when he visited Radiator Springs.
The two songs listed above are nice for recovery. I am working on a list of “Recovery Songs” and when it is ready, I will share it with you.
That being said, let’s get back to some speed…
“I got a landmine in my bloodline.
I’m not immune to getting blown apart.” – Time Bomb by Old 97’s
For those of you not familiar with Old 97s, I suggest you get familiar with them ASAP. Mix clever lyrics with punk and country, and you have one of the most incredible live acts around. There are so many Old 97s songs that are good for running, but Time Bomb is a good enough place to start. It is aptly named and is a “go to” song for the more intense workouts. I am sure Rhett Miller and the boys have no idea that their songs are great for working out. They can even get you running fast to a song called “Smokers,” and no it isn’t about running fast; it is exactly what you think it is about, but somehow it works.
“...not so beautiful when your lungs are caving in.” – Beautiful is Gone by The Ruse
Thank you ITunes for the “free weekly download.” Otherwise, I would never know about this song. It is the perfect accompaniment to a tempo run, fartlek or track workout. It will help you push yourself to the point where you might feel like your lungs could actually cave in, so be careful!
”Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me, cannot stop the battery.“ – Battery by Metallica
This song makes me think of Spock from Star Trek. “Why?” you ask me as if I have two heads. Because Spock didn’t care one way or the other about too much. It was almost as if he was a machine, powered by a battery. Cue Metallica.
During a long run with my wife, I tried to describe to her what it is like to run a marathon in an attempt to qualify for Boston. I did this because she was recently attempting to qualify for Boston herself. I told her that you can’t get too high or too low during the race. You can’t worry about the weather or your belly. You can’t retreat during the tough moments of the 26.2 mile stretch, and yes, expect there will be a few of those moments. I told her, you almost shouldn’t care one way or the other about a potential obstacle. Yes, I actually told my wife she needs to be like Mr. Spock. Highly Illogical? I think not. She qualified.
Now that you think I am crazy, let’s go to Boston…
“She said I think I’ll go to Boston…I think I’ll start a new life.” – Boston by Augustana
This is simply the Boston Qualifier Song (BQ Song). Boston is not overtly an actual running song, but it is your destination. If you are training 18 weeks for a marathon with the hopes of a BQ, then this song should be played weekly to keep you on point with your goal of being in Boston in April.
“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?” – Lose Yourself by Eminem
Say what you will about Eminem, but when those first few notes on the guitar are combined with Mr. Mathers’ opening question, your legs will answer him. The key to this song is strategic placement within your running Playlist. If you want a strong finish, I suggest placing it toward the end of your Playlist. Otherwise, you might burn yourself out too soon. It is that good.
That being said, we have come to the end of the Playlist for Volume 2. From “Love” to Eminem, we covered a lot of ground. I am tired. I need a recovery song now.
Don’t worry fans of instrumental songs, electronica or even podcasts. I will begin to cover that in Volume 3. Until then, “Live long and prosper.”