Less of a Runner?

21 Feb

This question comes up once in a while on Facebook or Twitter:

What is on your running playlist?

People join in with their choices, from Hip Hop to Heavy Metal, Electronica to Alternative, and yes, the Rocky theme. In addition, someone inevitably chimes in with:

DONT RUN WITH MUSIC!!!!!! You miss too much around you” or

You’re less of a runner if you listen to music while running.”

I laugh at the prospect that listening to music during runs makes someone less of a runner. If I wear Under Armour or gloves in the winter, am I less of a runner? Heck, if I wear running sneakers, am I relying on the cushioning too much? If I take “Gu” during a race, am I cheating?  Does a Garmin give someone an unfair advantage?

I respect those who don’t use music while running, but to insinuate that one is not a true runner if they use music is silly.  I understand that on social media platforms, this will usually be mentioned (just like “running is bad for your knees” usually gets mentioned. This was recently discussed in a Runner’s World piece).

Personally, I only run once per week to music.  Yes, sometimes the quiet is better. Sometimes the sounds of nature are a good soundtrack to our runs; however, if the mood is right, the combination of running with music can be very rewarding.

Some say there is the possibility of becoming “over-reliant” on using MP3 players, iPods, etc. Use of such devices is even banned from some races, despite the fact that many of these events boast of the number of live acts or bands along the race course. These same races have “pump up” music at the start and finish areas. Isn’t the most popular “brand’ of race “Rock n Roll?”

Others worry about safety (not hearing traffic, other runners or potential predators).  These are legitimate concerns, but, no, listening to music while running does not make us less pure as runners. 

At the end of the day, it’s about the run.  So, let’s lighten up and enjoy it (and enjoy the music if you choose to use it!)

Road Test: “Run Run Run” by The Explorers Club…

20 Feb

Run run run, do what I have to do…”

Runner’s World posed another question whether the following song could be a new tune to run to: “Run Run Run” by The Explorers Club.  After my “Road Test” this weekend, the answer is NO. To be fair, I’ll briefly describe the song, which is a perfectly nice, simple number.

If Tom Jones and The Beach Boys mated, “Run Run Run” would be the offspring. It is the perfect tune for a game show or a lounge act in Vegas, but it’s not perfect for a run.

The theme itself is inspiring: A person’s determination to get back together with a loved one. It’s about someone willing to travel far for another in an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” kind of way.

I’ll get across the distance somehow And I’ll run run run ‘til I get back to you.

Inspiring theme for the romantic, no?  However, its delivery projects an image of Wayne Newton singing, not of Cam Newton running. During my weekend long run, the song was playing as I was passing in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but it didn’t inspire me to run up the “Rocky” steps.

“Run Run Run” made me want to crank “Run Right Back” by The Black Keys, a song with a related theme (sort of), but one that will get you running faster.

Now, if you want a good chuckle while running (to test your breathing), then this is the tune for you!

GRADE: .5 WINGS (out of 5)

DISCLAIMER: I am only reviewing this song as a “Running Song,” not as a “good song.” I’ll leave the “good” part up to you.

Running With My Ears…

16 Feb

If I don’t shake your hand, it’s not because I’m rude, it’s because I probably can’t see your hand as you’re extending it.  If you try to hand me something, and I don’t take it, it’s not because I’m ignoring you, it’s because I can’t see that you are handing me something.

When I was younger, I was a klutz (still am), and, until a few years ago, I didn’t know why. At first, I thought it was because I’m left-handed. Lefties are notorious klutzes. However, here’s the real reason why: I have what is known as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which is a degeneration of the retina.

Symptoms of RP include tunnel vision, bad night vision and in some cases, poor “central” vision.   Long story short: My field of vision stinks.  I trip over EVERYTHING, especially small children in crowded places. I apologize to your kids ahead of time.

Being a runner (heck, even a walker), RP has posed some challenges. My shins are usually bruised or scabbed.  The most painful object I have run into so far has been a fire hydrant.  I did this during my first group run with a local running club (slightly embarrassing, but more painful than anything…OK, very embarrassing).

Many of you might have had someone accidentally bump into you during a race. Some do it because they are jockeying for position, being aggressive, impatient, etc.  I do it because I can’t always see that you are there (OK, sometimes I’m jockeying for position too).

Despite the added challenges, I have made it my mission not to let this “annoying” condition affect me, or any aspect of my running.  Well, it affects my running a little bit, but not enough to stop me.  I will say that I am most anxious about RP when a race is about to start (as if I’m not nervous enough for the race itself).  I worry about tripping and falling, but more so, I worry about tripping someone else.  Therefore, if it is crowded at the start, I will go out slightly slower than I used to, especially in longer races.

I have learned to live with RP. One of the techniques I have come to rely on is “scanning” which involves not only moving my eyes to see things, but moving my entire head with my eyes.  It’s often difficult to remember this trick, especially when running, so I utilize some of my other senses to assist me, especially my keen sense of hearing.

My ears help me when my eyes cannot.  For example,  I listen for the sound of another runner’s stride or their breathing to judge how far away they might be.  If I’m training on the road, I’ll listen for cars in addition to “scanning” for them.  It’s common sense, survival-type of stuff.

Thank goodness for my ears. This could explain my love for music; however, at the same time, I have had to limit the use of running with music, partially because of RP. As much as I love running to music, I need to concentrate on what’s around me.  This is ironic, given the name of my blog.

I have been fortunate that RP has not significantly affected my functioning or my racing yet.  The only time I noticed my limitations while racing has been during the Disney Marathon, in which a portion of the race is carried out in the dark.  Darkness is not kind to me.  For that race, my wife was my eyes (although darkness is darkness…and she struggled with that at Disney too!).

I’m fine with all of the above.  Thankfully, RP doesn’t affect my ability to do my job.  I count my blessings, and I understand many others have it MUCH worse than me.

I’ll keep running, but, as I mentioned, I am conservative at the start of a race.  Don’t feel sorry for me because I’ll eventually pass you (and I’ll try not to bump into you while doing so).

Top 10 Reasons I Love Running…

14 Feb

Here it goes…

I love running…

10. …because I’d rather spend $150 on race fees than for an hour with a therapist.

9.  …because nobody can get to me during a run.

8.  …so I can indulge on Philly pretzels once in a while.

7.  …because the “run” itself is so pure and fun.

6.  …to be around other runners, one of the friendliest collection of people in the world.

5.  …because it helps me with my confidence level, and carries over to the other things that I do.

4.  …because it helps me come out of my shell.

3.  …because I can.

2.  …because it brings me closer to my wife.

1.  …because I don’t need a reason to run.

I probably have 100 more reasons, but I will spare you.

rUnconscious…

3 Feb

(Normally, I’d reserve the term rUnconscious as the feeling of being “in the zone” during a run. The following could be an alternative situational definition):

I open Facebook.

I see a motivational running post from [Insert page of your choice here] – From one of the many motivational pages we all “Like” on Facebook/ or Follow on Twitter.

It says:

The feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.”

I think Good one.

I add to myself: A bad run is better wishing you were running too.

Then I think, Why the heck am I on Facebook?

I could be running right now.

(and the stream of consciousness goes on)…

Hmm, I guess talking about running is better than nothing?

Good Run>Bad run>Talking about running>Facebook/Twitter motivation>No Run

Then I think of the last part of the quote: “…wishing you were running.”

Hmm, what if you are injured or if it is rest day?  You might wish you were running then?

Good Run>Bad run>Talking about running>Rest Day>Facebook/Twitter motivation>Wishing-you-were-running>Injured Runner>Non-Runner

Injured runner?  What is good about that? Not much, but at least you’re a runner (just unable right now). You can do lots of things even if you’re injured.

Cross train? Not ideal, but it’s something.

What else?

Volunteer at a race?  Oh, I like doing that.

Good Run>Bad run>Cross Train>Race Volunteer>Talking about running>Rest Day>Facebook/Twitter motivation>Wishing-you-were-running>Injured Runner>Non-Runner

Then, I’m reminded that I’m sitting on my butt: writing, not running.

Hmm, Writing about thinking about talking about wishing I was running.

That is kind of confusing, and I’m not even drinking.  I could use a glass of wine.  I really need to run though.

Hmm…. Wine=Running?

Songs For Your Recovery Run…

31 Jan

(For the runs in which you leave your watch at home).

Here are 51 songs for a recovery run, a cool down or for after you’re done.  These songs will help you get lost in the moments of a relaxing run, or they will help you shed your intensity after a tough workout…

1.  Nothing Left to Lose by Matt Kearney

2.  In a Daydream by The Freddy Jones Band

3.  New Hampshire by Matt Pond PA

4.  See the World by Gomez

5.  Holocene by Bon Iver

6.  Kingdom of Rust by Doves

7.  Paradise Cove by Pete Yorn

8.  California Stars by Billy Bragg & Wilco

9.  Have a Nice Day by Stereophonics

10. Just Breathe by Pearl Jam

11. Run Run Run by Phoenix

12. Half Moon by Blind Pilot

13. Summer Skin by Death Cab for Cutie

14. Good to Sea by Pinback

15. Wonderful (The Way I Feel) by My Morning Jacket

16. Let Your Troubles Roll By by Carbon Leaf

17. Champagne Supernova by Oasis (See also Matt Pond PA)

18. Time Is A Runaway by The Alternate Routes

19. Concrete Sky by Beth Orten

20. Better Together by Jack Johnson

21. In the Morning of the Magicians by The Flaming Lips

22. On My Way Back Home by Band of Horses

23. Satellite by Guster

24. Valley Winter Song by Fountains of Wayne

25. Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby by Counting Crows

26. Fire Away by Dawes

27. Lost In My Mind by The Head and the Heart

28. Rise by Eddie Vedder

29. All My Days by Alexi Murdock

30. Nuclear by Ryan Adams

31. Middle Distance Runner by Seawolf

32. Life In A Northern Town by The Dream Academy

33. The Finish Line by Train

34. Lucky Man by The Verve

35. Eyes by Rogue Wave

36. Chicago by Sufjan Stevens

37. Head Home by Midlake

38. The Only Living Boy In New York by Simon & Garfunkle

39. I’m In Love by Francis Dunnery

40. Light & Day / Reach for the Sun by The Polyphonic Spree

41. Run by Snow Patrol

42. Sailing to Philadelphia by Mark Knopfler

43. Breathe by Wheat

44. Specks by Matt Pond PA

45. Pink Moon by Nick Drake

46. Peace Train by Cat Stevens

47. All Kinds of Time by Fountains of Wayne

48. Sail Away by David Gray

49. Windows Are Rolled Down by Amos Lee

50. Zig Zag by Ben Arnold

51. How to Save a Life by The Fray

Road Test: “Marathon Runner” by Yellow Ostrich…

30 Jan

“I run until I know what to believe.”

On Friday, Runner’s World posed the following question about a song called “Marathon Runner” by a band called Yellow Ostrich:

Is it worthy of your long-run playlist?

So, I decided to Road Test it this weekend.  Nice song with a great Indie sound.
After a few listens, I gathered the song is about a flawed person in search of purpose. He shoots down the dreams of others, perhaps because he’s yet to figure out his own dreams.

My initial thought was: I don’t like this guy, and I don’t know how I feel about this as a running song. However, something strange occurred. I happened to be running up a hill during part of the chorus:

“I am a marathon runner. My legs are sore, and I’m anxious to see what I’m running for…”

…and somehow, it assisted me in getting up that hill.  Then it hit me: the song is also about inner struggle. I think we can all relate to this as people and runners (We’ve all struggled up that hill).  The slow build into the thunderous chorus works really well too. If the protagonist in the song has a redeeming quality, it’s that he has some insight into his character flaws. He’s looking for something in which to believe.  Aren’t we all?

I recommend it for a longer run, but not a speed workout.

GRADE: 2.5 WINGS (out of 5)


8+ MPH

24 Jan

Sometimes a workout defies logic. Before a recent run, I didn’t eat well or prep well. It was slushy. It was rainy. My left foot had been bothering me. Yet, it felt effortless. It was one of those “Breakthrough Runs” I’ve written about in the past (see post from 11/1/11: The Breakthrough Run http://themusicofrunning.tumblr.com/post/12194208182/the-breakthrough-run ). I didn’t question it…I just decided to enjoy the moment.

I am starting to think I have turned a corner in the 14-month runner’s rut I’ve also posted about. The motivation is back.  The form is back. The desire to race (at my pace) is back.

Speaking of racing, last week I did the Icicle 10 Miler in Delaware. It was my first non-rabbiting race at that distance in over a year. I was not satisfied with my pace, but it was a decent pace for me in January.  However, I was not satisfied.  This is a key sign for me.

Those of you who know me know how I feel about contentment with running performance.  I’m rarely content with my own performance.  At times, I have not signed up for races because of this attitude.  However, after last week’s race, despite feeling a bit humbled, I’m ready for another one.  I am ready to push it again.  This is a good feeling.  This feeling has not surfaced in a while.

Look, I’m not an elite runner (few are).  Second, I’m not a “Back” or a “Middle” of the pack person either.  I am a “Closer-to-the-front” runner. This can be a wonderful but weird place to be: You don’t usually place or get medals (actually, when you turn 40, sometimes you place in your age group), yet you’re not there “just for the experience or the fun of it” either. You can usually detect such a runner because he or she has a certain intense look to them.

I’m one of those people. I generally run over 8 MPH during a typical training run.  In races, I’m usually in the top 5%. Good but not elite.  Good but not “just happy to be there.” Good but not content if it’s not a PR. It can sometimes be a tough place to be. At that pace, people don’t always look like they’re having fun.  Often, they appear to be dissatisfied.

I’ve run marathons at my slower-than-usual pace to help my wife or a friend achieve a goal.  I like doing this.  I tend to become more observant when I am running slower.  I’ve noticed that people at that different pace are often more talkative, and it seems like they smile more. It seems like most of them are having a blast.

I could be wrong. In fact, I’m sure people are intense and nervous no matter what the pace is, but, for me, I tend to have more vivid memories of the races in which I’ve slowed down my own pace.  Perhaps this is because I’m more relaxed at a slower speed?

Maybe others would have the same experience if they slowed down their own pace?

On the other hand, my memory is mush when I run faster.  When I am running my own pace, my wife will ask me afterward: “Did you see this or see that [famous landmark], etc?” and, to be honest, my answer is almost always “no.”  I usually have my blinders on, and I miss a lot of the scenery. This sometimes saddens me. Before you say: “Hey jerk, you expect me to feel sorry for you?”  No, I don’t expect that.  I’m just asking you to understand what goes through my head.

Why speed it up then?  Trust me, I am always tempted to run at that slower pace, but my competitiveness ultimately gets the better of me.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, but I think it’s because, despite the temptation to keep it slower, I’m ready to be faster again. I’m ready to go for it again. I’m ready for that “dissatisfied with my performance” attitude again. I think I’m moving out of Rutville.

Stay tuned.

#runchat Question 6 – 01/22/12

23 Jan

I loved all of the one word answers to tonight’s last question, so I tried to put them all together.  If I missed any, please let me know, and I will add to the list.

(from @RunningBecause): “One-word answer time: Give us one word to describe your state of running right now.”

Strong

Optimistic

Determined

Steady

Love

Calm

Fierce

Sidelined

Cautious

Recharged

Limitless

Recovery

Cold

Dedicated

Injured

Bipolar

Joyful

Adventurous

Rebuilding

Unpredictable

Improving

Hopeful

Strong

Maintaining

Commitment

Non-existant

Motivated

Learning

Kickass

Possible

Liberating

Comeback

Everlasting

Experimenting

Optimistic

Hopeful

Motivated

Progress

Excited

Ramping-up (one-ish)

The Next 101 Running Songs…

10 Jan

Thank you for your feedback.  I’ve added many of your suggested songs to my list, which is continued below.  Please note, even though the songs are numbered, it doesn’t mean they are ranked.  I number them just to keep track of them.  Enjoy the running, and enjoy the music!

102. Spirit of Radio (Live Version) by Rush

103. Unless It’s Kicks by Okkervil River

104. The Power by Snap!

105. Everything’s Magic by Angels & Airwaves

106. Rez by Underworld

107. Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5

108. Sabotage by Beastie Boys

109. Stand Up and Be Strong by Soul Asylum

110. Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds

111. The Pretender by Foo Fighters

112. I Predict a Riot by Kaiser Chiefs

113. Is There a Ghost by Band of Horses

114. Yeah by Usher

115. Four-Leaf Clover by Old 97s

116. Till I Collapse by Eminem

117. Help I’m Alive by Metric

118. Dakota by Stereophonics

119. Save Yourself by Stabbing Westward

120. The Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga

121. Given to Fly (Live Version) by Pearl Jam

122. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

123. Why Can’t I Be You?  by The Cure

124. Taking Control by Alberta Cross

125. Crackerman by Stone Temple Pilots

126. The Boys of Summer by The Ataris

127. Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees

128. Candy’s Room (Live) by Bruce Springsteen

129. Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie

130. Bullet With Butterfly Wings by Smashing Pumpkins

131. Time is Running Out (Live Version) by Muse

132. Lisztomania by Phoenix

133. The Trooper by Iron Maiden

134. Don’t Change by INXS

135. Next to You by The Police

136. Dog Days Are Over by Florence & The Machine

137. Beautiful Day by U2

138. Wherever I May Roam by Metallica

139. Rush by Big Audio Dynamite

140. Should I Stay or Should I go?  by The Clash

141. Love Removal Machine by The Cult

142. Blue Sky by Patty Griffin

143. Learn to Fly by Carbon Leaf

144. My Body by Young the Giant

145. Supersonic by Oasis

146. Rolling in the Deep by Adele

147. No Cars Go by Arcade Fire

148. The Funeral by Band of Horses

149. Satellite by Rise Against

150. Your Touch by The Black Keys

151. The Remedy by Jason Mraz

152. Let’s Get It Started by Black Eyed Peas

153. I Wanna Destroy You by Uncle Tupelo

154. A Shot In The Arm by Wilco

155. Best of You by Foo Fighters

156. Song 2 by Blur

157. Welcome To The Jungle by Guns n Roses

158. Unchained by Van Halen

159. Barrier Reef by Old 97s

160. Forgiven by Ben Harper

161. Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J

162. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

163. Never Let Me Down Again by Depeche Mode

164. Resignation Superman by Big Head Todd & the Monsters

165. Superhero by Garrison Starr

166. America Town by Five For Fighting

167. The Only One I Know by The Charlatans

168. Praise You by Fatboy Slim

169. Black Tambourine by Beck

170. Stay Positive by The Hold Steady

171. New York New York by Ryan Adams

172. Shake It Out by Florence & The Machine

173. The Rising by Bruce Springsteen

174. Heat of the Moment (LIVE Version) by Asia

175. Rebellion (Lies) by Arcade Fire

176. Sometimes In The Fall by Phoenix

177. Gonna Make You Sweat by C+C Music Factory

178. Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider

179. CrushCrushCrush by Paramore

180. In The Air Tonight by Nonpoint

181. You Could Be Mine by Guns n Roses

182. The Re-Arranger by Mates of State

183. Thnks Fr Th Mmrs by Fallout Boy

184. Island by The Starting Line

185. The Underdog by Spoon

186. A-Punk by Vampire Weekend

187. Take It On The Run by REO Speedwagon

188. Why Go by Pearl Jam

189. Rio by Duran Duran

190. Rubberneckin’ (Paul Oakenfold Remix) by Elvis

191. The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti & Spearhead

192. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve

193. I’m Gonna Win by Foreigner

194. Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne

195. All Night Long by Billy Squier

196. Won’t Be Home by Old 97s

197. Thunderstruck by AC/DC

198. Gold Guns Girls by Metric

199. Wolf Like Me by TV On The Radio

200. Gonna Fly Now (Rocky theme) by Bill Conti

201. Red Morning Light by Kings of Leon

202. Emblems by Matt Pond PA