Sunday, 8 January 2012

Janathon day 8: Run to no beat

When I started training for my first half marathon this time last year, I took my i-pod on every run and listened to the same compilation album on every run. The Mash up mix album played for just over an hour and I knew where every beat was and every high and low. Different tracks would let me know how far I had gone and others would give me just the boost I needed.
There have been several studies done that suggest music can really help to motivate you and there is no doubt, on certain days when I was close to giving up,  certain tracks would come on and I had a new lease of life. This time round you may be surprised to hear, I have chosen to train without music.
In March last year, I ran my first half marathon in Paris. I was aiming to complete it in less than 2 hours 10 minutes, so I knew that my trusty running album wasn’t going to be enough time-wise. I didn’t want to be interrupted when I was in the zone to re-start the album and I didn’t want to be without music. I opted to transfer my must-have playlist on to my i-phone, along with another album I sometimes listen to at the gym, Ministry of Sound Running Trax. I thought the easiest thing to do was to play the albums on shuffle so that I didn't have to play with my phone mid-run. Even though I’m really proud that I finished the run in 2 hours 11 minutes , I crossed the finish line a minute slower than I wanted to and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I think I would have done if my music had gone to plan.

Throughout the run, not one of my magical booster songs came on. I didn’t get a chance to have that goosebumpy moment where you hear the beats of your favourite tune and you have no choice but to move your arms and legs faster. Instead I found that lots of the tracks annoyed and aggravated me. One after the other, another banging dance track came on and with each I got more annoyed.  I was especially peeved that no sooner had I crossed the finish line, absolutely exhausted, one of all-time favourite tunes started to play.  It was the track I had been hoping for when I was really struggling through the last couple of kilometres. It came on as I walked to meet my boyfriend in a post-run haze. Don’t get me wrong, I was pleased to hear it but I couldn’t help thinking that if it had come on earlier, I may just have shaved another minute off my time. I know a minute is not but it would have meant so much to me.  

I didn’t want to make excuses for my time in Paris and for a first half mara I’m pretty pleased  with what I achieved but I vowed to myself that I didn’t want to have to rely on anything other than hard work and my determination in the future. When training for the Greenwich Run To The Beat half marathon in the summer, it was definitely a struggle at first to do it without music. I knew that on the day there would be music and atmosphere the whole way round to keep me going, it was the music marathon after all. However, this wasn’t strictly true! Thank goodness that the lovely @thrutheblue had advised that I keep my i-pod with me. The music was pretty non-existent, apart from a few burger vans blaring tunes along the way and the route was hot & hilly. If it wasn’t for that i-pod, I’m pretty convinced I wouldn’t have made it round. Melissa, thank you so much for your advice!
The music is making me happy at RTTB 2011

All of my runs in January have been with no music and I am finding it absolutely fine. It’s a little disconcerting to hear your heavy breathing initially but I think it has helped me to keep it under control and to steady my pace. Not to mention, there is a safety aspect to consider too. When running alone in the dark it is so important to be aware of what is going on around you. I’m not saying that I will not have my i-pod on the big day but I want to be sure that I can finish my half marathon in Berlin in less than two hours, music or no music!

I ran 10k today and I really enjoyed it. Running without headphones let me enjoy everything that was going on around me. I could hear the tweeting of the birds, the calling of the rowers on the river, families giggling and chatting on the towpath but it was not all nice, I could also hear my constant sniffling as I have a cold. I was planning to go out at 8:30 this morning but I was feeling really stuffed up so I had a little breakfast and waited until I was less congested before heading off. It’s great to arrive home after your run when most people are still snuggled up in bed and I felt brilliant. A fantastic way to start week 2 of Janathon!
This week I am going to concentrate on hydrating more before my runs, building up strength and stretching, especially my legs. I want to work hard but I also want to do everything possible to look after myself and avoid injury along the way.


  1. well done today. I've also relied on my music to get me through runs for the last 4 years!!! Just recently I've been running with a run buddy and we have opted to leave music at home - also as you say there is the safety aspect to take into account. I find it easier to run with music but I do need to stop using it - I want to do the Tempest 10miler at some point and earphones are banned!!!! Good luck with week 2

  2. Good on you for training without music - the thought terrifies me! The worst part for me is being able to hear myself pant, I'm convinced I'm the loudest breather ever whilst running!

  3. There's something 'Natural' for me about running without music. I can hear my footsteps on my surroundings and my breathing. I used to swear by my iPod but it broke and I had no choice last year but to run without it. I can't imagine going back to using it now!

  4. Running to music is definitely a personal preference, and I don't want to criticise anyone for their choices. Personally, when running outside, I never listen to music. This is for several reasons, I like to feel connected to the outdoors, especially in the countryside. One of the reasons I run is to appreciate the natural world around me. There is also the safety issues that you mention, like dodgy people, dogs, traffic etc. This is especially true during the darkness of #Janathon. Some organized races ban headsets (to avoid cheating using pacing apps) so if you are too used to running to music it can affect your performance (if you're looking for good times). I leave the music for gym work, which can get a bit boring. But hey, like I said, it's down to individuals to choose what works for them, I don't think there's ever going to be a 'right or wrong' on this issue.

  5. Thanks for all the comments guys. It's really interesting to hear how everybody else likes to do things.