Running with music

There was an interesting piece in The Guardian’s Running Blog yesterday about running with music. The post offered insights from two runners – a pro-music runner and a no-music runner – and it got me thinking about how my own stance has changed over the years. (Just as the no-music runners did, only in reverse.)

You see, I run with music. But that wasn’t always the case. No, I used to be staunchly no-music and I liked it that way. I was never a fan of wearing headphones – especially not earbuds! – because it took away from my ability to hear what was happening around me. I didn’t like the idea of not hearing someone coming up behind me; I didn’t like the idea of feeling disconnected from my surroundings.*

For me, running was always a time to enjoy my environment and a time to process thoughts in my mind. Running was a time to think and I didn’t want (or need) music to distract me from that thought process.

Of course, when Paul died, it meant that running became a painful time for me. I couldn’t run for the longest time because running gave me time to think and thinking meant that I was processing thoughts about Paul and widowhood and grief. And that meant that I would cry. And crying whilst running just leads to pained breathing and hyperventilating.

But eventually, I got myself an iPod Mini so that I could take music with me whilst I ran to help distract me from my own thoughts. And it worked. It really, really worked. It took some time to figure out what songs were the best for my running (it wasn’t always my favourite bands!) but I have learned what works and what doesn’t.

Now, I no longer need the music, but I find that I have to have the iPod with me to keep me calm. It’s loaded with songs that I enjoy and that seem to keep me motivated (and I delete songs that I find myself skipping over and over again).

Of course, now that my grief has shifted to a more manageable emotion, I have found that I don’t actually need to have music distracting me most of the time. In fact, quite often I tune out the music because I’m processing thoughts about this, that, or the next thing. And sometimes I even remove the headphones so that I can listen to nature. But I still have to have the iPod with me – just in case one of those crazy thought streams take me down an upsetting path and I need the musical distraction to keep me going.

So, do I need music to run? No, not anymore. But I do need the safety net of having it available to me. And maybe with time, I will be able to give up the safety net, too. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying having a little backing soundtrack to go along with my running. Something that I will be doing a lot more of in the next several weeks as I train for my next marathon …

* I don’t wear headphones when I’m walking or out in town. Other than running, I use them on airplanes for movies (and occasionally listening to music) and that’s it.

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