Some point last year I went running with a couple of albums and really enjoyed the experience, so much so that I intended on starting a segment called Soundtrack to… where I would pair up albums with particular runs as if I were pairing an entrée with wine. This didn’t last long, mostly because soon after I started this little project I stopped running with music altogether. It began to feel like a distraction. I wasn’t fully focused on the music, or on the run, and in turn I enjoyed each thing slightly less than I would have enjoyed each thing on it’s own.
What the problem might have been was that I was really looking for “running music” – uptempo, exciting, 180bpm, you know the type, something to really get me going. But when I’m really going, I don’t want any music in my ears. I want music in my ears when I’m bobbing along at 7:30s or slower, when I’m out on the road for a solo hour, or rolling some steady hills, all in all: when I want to zone out, rather than zone in. The other time I definitely want some music is on the treadmill, and that’s the same deal. If I’m putting in some miles indoors then they are most likely going to be steady at fastest – just getting a good old sweat on, trying to find a nice natural rhythm.
Recently I’ve had a bit of a niggle, which has led me to refocus, and redouble, my efforts on making my miles easy – so I started running with music again, and most definitely not to what I would call running music. Phoebe Bridgers, Bill Callahan, Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, and Fleet Foxes probably aren’t turning up on too many Spotify workout playlists, but there is something to be said about getting out in the frigid January air with some spacious singer-songwriter melodies ringing in the vacuum between my ears. Pummeling bass boosted beats might work for pumping iron, but when I’m trying to stay relaxed and easy on frozen country roads? I think something a little low tempo works better.
In any case let’s call this a Soundtrack to running without “running” music: