To Jam or Not To Jam: That is the Question.
By Christina Blaisdell
I remember the first time I really trained specifically for a 10k, it was my second 10k, the 2009 Cooper River Bridge Run. I used a training plan and followed it, pretty much to the letter. I even challenged myself with hilly routes because I’d heard it was tough getting over that bridge. As the race neared, I even got a new iPod and programmed my race playlist very carefully. I picked the songs I wanted and scheduled them where I thought I’d need them most – motivational tunes with fast beats to help me get over the bridge, something special for the final stretch. I used this same approach when building my playlist for the Peachtree Road Race a few months later. It’s interesting how that has changed so dramatically as my running has evolved.
I got to the point where I recycled a lot of playlists, totally fine. And for my first marathon, I just packed a playlist full of the goods and then set it to shuffle for some fun mid-race surprises. There are a few staples that appear on most, if not all, of my running playlists. And then some interesting things happened.
I was excited to return to the Cooper River Bridge Run this past spring of 2012, for the first time since 2009. The usually well-organized race had a few operational challenges and started an hour later than scheduled. I was equipped with the very same iPod that was new in 2009, and after surviving copious amounts of sweat and abuse from 20+ races and years of training, it died. Just before the race. I was a little psyched out, I’d never raced without music before. However, I found that it wasn’t an earth-shattering experience – my finish time was just where I thought it would be and I discovered a few merits in running sans-soundtrack. You’re able to take in a lot more of the scene and the course and focus more on your stride and form.
For these reasons, I started leaving my iPod/replacement music device at home for some of my training runs when I began training for the Chicago Marathon in June. In effect, it slowly weaned me away from music on my runs. And although I did still bring my music to the race, I ran without it for the first half so that I could really enjoy the race and feed on the monumental level of energy that comes with a race like that. The following month, I had planned to take the same approach when running the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon. And when I finally did crank up my playlist around mile 8 or 9, after about two miles, the training buddy who was pacing me suggested that I take out my head phones because it was negatively affecting my stride and rhythm, and so I did. It was quite the catalyst.
Now that I’m training for the 2013 Boston marathon, I’ve logged two 18+ mile runs and a 20-mile run totally music-free, and I must say that I quite enjoyed all of those runs and don’t really miss the background music. Funny since when I was training for my first marathon, I vividly remember thinking that I really respected people who went on 15-20 mile training runs before the days of portable music devices, what torture that must have been. It’s actually quite delightful, not to mention beneficial, I’d challenge anyone to embark on their next long run, sans-soundtrack.