Run With or Without Music?

To Run With or Without Music, That Is the Question

Running is music, if you’re patient enough to hear it.
Ask Miles, Runner’s World, Jan. 2013

That quote is one of the best I’ve ever heard and perfectly sums up my thoughts on music and running. To run with or without music is constantly debated and there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. You’re either for it or against it. Some races now even try to ban headphones on the race course citing safety reasons. I used to run with music, but now I don’t at all. Why the change of heart? Let me tell you.

Starting to Run With Music

When I seriously started running about three years ago, the only piece of gear I had that could track my run was an iPhone. I started using the free RunKeeper app and that worked for awhile, but I found the distance inaccurate compared to the GPS watches in my running group. I spent a dollar on the Nike+ GPS app and I liked that a lot better. I found it more accurate, plus it gave me the option to listen to my iTunes in the background. To be able to run with music was great, but I found I was more interested in hearing the vocal cues (ie. pace and distance alerts.) When I went out with my running group I always kept the volume low and even pulled out one earphone so I didn’t feel so antisocial.

Don’t Make Me Chase You Down

Even though most people had their volume under control, there were always people in the group who had their music cranked. They were tuned out and totally unaware of what was going on around them. When they went off course, or made a wrong turn, guess who had to chase them down because they couldn’t hear me yelling at them?

Things like this made me start turning off the music totally and just listening for the cues. I used this system for my first two half marathons and it worked well, but when time came to teach my first half marathon clinic I went out and bought a GPS watch. There was just no way I could pace people with an iPhone, not to mention I’d look totally ridiculous. Once I started running with an actual GPS watch, the iPhone only came along for emergencies (and post-run Starbucks!) Plus, thanks to some new townhouse developments in the area, traffic got a lot busier and I just felt it was safer to run unplugged.

Enjoy the Silence

Speaking of unplugging… how many hours a day do you spend sitting in front of a screen? Too many I bet. Be it at home, the office, or waiting in line at the grocery store, our lives seem to revolve around a screen of some sorts. The last thing I want to do when I come home is sit in front of the computer or television. The first thing I want to do however is run. Going for a run without music is a nice way to unplug from our connected world for awhile and just relax. I don’t think about work, or what chores I need to do when I get home, I just live in the moment. Try going for a run without music early on a Saturday or Sunday morning and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Listen to Your Feet

I read an interesting article on a friends’ blog the other day and it actually inspired me to write this post. In the article, Alan talks about how shod runners run very noisily and I can’t agree more. After my transition to barefoot running, that was the one thing that I really noticed when I ran with a group. I couldn’t believe how hard some runners hit the ground and I’m sure I probably sounded like that too when I would heel strike in cushioned shoes. I remember one time running with someone who was constantly having problems with his left knee. A few kilometres into the run I began to notice that his feet were actually making two different sounds. His right foot was fine but his left foot was slamming hard into the pavement every other beat (ie. beats 2 and 4.) Of course he had no idea until I told him about it. A lot of people don’t realize just how loud they are hitting the ground because they run with music.

So, Should You Run With Or Without Music?

Ty leaving the iPod at home sometime and really pay attention to your foot landing. You may find the run boring without your favourite playlist to motivate you, but you’ll be amazed as to what else you hear. This is the main reason I won’t run with music anymore. I know that if I can hear my foot landing, I’m landing too hard and I need to make an adjustment. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve snuck up on. Not that I’m trying purposely to scare them, but they just can’t hear me coming. They can’t hear me and all I can hear is my own breathing. Music to my ears.