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)