Have you joined my incredibly non-annoying, once-in-a-while email newsletter?
A number of you have asked me if I’m training this year for the marathon. Indeed I am. I’m also thinking that this is the year that I’m breaking 4:00. All signs on the magic running 8-ball point to it, as I’m in probably the best shape of my life, am actually training, as opposed to just saying “Yeah, I’ll run,” then not doing anything, and really following a plan.
Of course, this means putting in the miles. Fortunately, I’m using the New York Road Runner’s Club Training Program, which so far, is really spectacular.
For me, being a musical person, growing up with music and the arts as an integral part of everything in my life, my running just doesn’t work without music. Since the first mp3 player I ever bought, the Creative Labs Nomad, which held a grand total of 32 megabytes of music, running and music went hand in hand. (Prior to that, it was running with a CD player, which as we all know, sucks.)
I have a bad habit when I run. I tend to sing along occasionally. Depending on how fast I’m running, whether it’s flat or hilly, or whether I’m having an awesome run or a crappy run, my singing could be anything from operetta quality, to unintelligible gasps. All depends on the day.
Of course, the stronger the music, the faster I run, but also, the more inclined I am to sing, and the more I sound like I’m having a stroke. It’s all relative. So if I’m really racing at a 7:40 pace because of a great song, well then, my ability to sing/shout anything is impaired. So the line from Kid Rock’s Bawaditaba, for instance, which goes:
For the time bombs ticking and the heads that hang
All the gangs getting money and the heads that bang bang
Wild mustangs the porno flicks
All my homies in the county in cell block six
The grits when there ain’t enough eggs to cook
And for DB Cooper and money he took
You can look for answers but that ain’t fun
Now get in the pit and try to love someone
could very easily, to the person I pass in Central Park, sound like,
“For tick hang, <gasp> gangs bang bang,
porno flick, <gasp> block six. <gasp gasp gasp>
The grits, DB <gasp> Cooper, took
Ain’t fun. LOVE SOMEONE.” <gasp gasp gasp>
That’s when they shake their heads and go, “Aw, the Special Olympics is training again. That’s… special.”
But, what they don’t realize is that the anger and adrenalin in those lyrics have pushed my pulse up to 180+, and all of a sudden, for the length of that verse, I’m running a 5:20 pace. It’s interval training, courtesy of Kid Rock.
Anyway, music makes my workout work. It can make it faster, more aggressive, it can make it stronger, make me run longer, faster, and harder than anything else I know. Better than any stimulant or protein powder, and all it takes is an ipod and a pair of headphones.
The right music is the ultimate workout “boost.” It can kick you up to new heights, make you reach new goals, new numbers, new speeds. It can do most anything for you on a run.
I put my workout music into a few separate categories:
The categories often overlap. There’s very few times when one song doesn’t fall into two categories. DOA, for instance, by The Foo Fighters, fits Angry and Motivational. I Go To Rio, the finale of The Boy From Oz, is just happy and fun, and I usually listen to it right after I finish my workout – It’s a great cool-down song, and let’s me sing along while my heart-rate quickly returns to normal. The finale of Hairspray, however, “You Can’t Stop The Beat,” is a happy, but also a Backbeat song – The Backbeat refers to the “fastness” of the song and whether or not I can keep in time to it in a run. (Comes from being a musician – hard to run when I’m not in time to the music.) You Can’t Stop The Beat runs me at around a 7:15 pace. The song itself runs just under six minutes, so it’s a great way to do a Fartlek mile, or finish the last mile in a six-mile loop.
Some songs do nothing but prompt anger – Which, when you’re running, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Anger, channeled properly, can be an ally.
William Shakespeare on anger:
“Anger is a great force. If you control it, it can be transmuted into a power which can move the whole world.”
He was right, old Billy Shakes. He was right.
Take “Mr. Brightsides,” by The Killers. The song basically represents a kid who didn’t get the girl he wanted. He lost. He accepted it, and was ok with it, and smiled, and showed all his friends how ok he was, “no worries, it’s just a girl.”
But then he sings about it, and you hear what’s going on inside his head, and you see how much pain he’s actually in, how angry he is, angry at himself, sad that he’s not good enough, that he lost, that he didn’t do… whatever was needed to do… to beat the other guy.
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss
Now I’m falling asleep
And she’s calling a cab
While he’s having a smoke
And she’s taking a drag
Now they’re going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it’s all in my head
But she’s touching his-chest
Now, he takes off her dress
Now, letting me go
I just can’t look, it’s killing me,
Can you imagine the pain that kid’s going through? He lost. He’s alone. He wasn’t the one chosen. And now he has to sit there and try to fall asleep, knowing the girl he wants is with someone else 10 feet away from him.
Add to that the constant bam bam bam of the bassline in that song, and you can see…
It’s a great running song, if you know how to channel it.
THAT’S the anger you need to channel when you run. Perhaps it doesn’t even have anything to do with romance, or losing a girl or a guy. But things make you angry in life. Work. Family. Friends. The idiot who shouted “Yo Baby! Nice Ass!” from the construction site. That’s part of what life is. If you’re not angry occasionally, then I don’t wanna hang around you, because you’re the type that’s gonna go all Richard Cory on us one day. So my suggestion – channel that anger – find out what you’re angry about, find out what song makes you think about it, and use it when you run.
I should say, at this point, I’m not angry about not “getting the girl.” Growing up fat, I was – not so much about not getting the girl, but not being… “cooler,” for lack of a better word. And thanks to finally realizing what was going on with me, and why I was caring about certain things, and not caring about others, I got over it. so I’m not angry for that reason, not anymore. It’s not something I keep bottled up in my head and talk about to myself on the subway or anything. I like to think I’m a hell of a lot more well-adjusted than that. I’d also say, however, that any psychologist will tell you that getting through your anger, or at least, using your anger, like I do when I run, is healthy. And as an added bonus, it makes me faster, makes my resting heart rate lower, and just might make me break four hours.
So someone calls you and says they don’t want to have a second date, (producing my best Central Park Loop time EVER, 49:31) and you channel that. If you’re smart, you get angry with the pavement. That’s what it’s there for. It’s strong. Don’t worry, you won’t break it.
So we’ve discussed Backbeat songs, angry songs, happy and fun songs. What about motivational songs?
Hardest category to define – Everyone has different motivation for everything. Some run to lose weight. To get faster, to get fitter, heck, some run to get more dates. Some run to train, some run to get through the stress of their jobs on a daily basis.
Your motivation for running plays a major role in what you’re going to listen to, and how it’s going to affect your training.
If you’re running for the purity of the sport – running to simply run, then you don’t need motivational music. Heck, you don’t even need music, and you certainly don’t need to be reading this. Go enjoy yourselves, and more power to you.
Now that we’ve lost that .000001% of people reading this, let’s ask again. What’s your motivation?
I think motivation is as psychological as it is physical. Yeah, I want to lose weight when I run. But why? Because I’ve always been a bit heavy, and will always see myself as that. Being unable to “break out” of that cycle from a psychological point of view is one of the reasons I run. I know when I finish the loop in under 50 minutes, that I’ve really pushed myself, forced my body to work. I didn’t cheat, and it was “real.” That “realness” factor to me is one of my key motivators. So what do we find that motivates us?
There’s psychological motivation. How many of us have ever come out of a movie about a spy or a superhero and wanted to be him or her? Doesn’t matter the movie. Anything from the coolness of James Bond to the super powers of Superman. That, in some way, is a form of motivation. It makes us want to reach for something and change something about ourselves – improve ourselves, in a way. That’s what running does, as well.
So let’s talk about music in those moments. What angers you? What frustrates you? What gets you so frustrated that if you weren’t someone who ran, you’d be doing something else? Challenging Mr. Daniels to a shot-contest, perhaps. Or perhaps making Coffee Columbia’s second largest export?
It’s interesting – According to the American Psychological Association, deep breathing, and slow, non-strenuous, yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer when you’re angry or frustrated.
Probably. I don’t doubt them. They’re a good group of people, the APA. But that works for those who aren’t USING their anger. They’re trying to get rid of it without using it, which in my opinion, doesn’t make that much sense. If you can use the anger in a non-harmful way, which will, in turn, not only make you healthier, but happier, (thereby decreasing anger levels anyhow!!) why wouldn’t you?
It’s like cocking a gun, but not firing it.
(I can yet again, channel the Simpsons)
Quimby:Get them through that tollbooth by any means necessary!
Wiggum: Gotcha. No survivors. (gets out a shotgun and cocks it)
Quimby: No Shooting.
Wiggum: But it’s already cocked.
Quimby: Okay. Shoot into the fireplace.
(Wiggum does so and laughs)
Something is pissing you off. Why not use the anger from it to the best of your ability, and to your advantage?
One final note before we get to the actual music: I’m not saying that you should simply go out, get angry or frustrated, and either rely strictly on that to get you in shape, or deliberately get angry and then go work out. But what I am saying, is that, just like when we’re happy and have a good workout, we can be sad, frustrated, or angry, and have that same good workout. How many times have you thought, “Oh, I’m in crappy mood, the last thing I want to do is deal with those idiots at the gym.” Then you don’t go, and instead, plow through an entire bag of ho-ho’s. What does that do? Makes you feel like crap, fat, yucky, high-fructose-corn-syrup-bloatedd/comatose, and has done NOTHING to fix the crappy mood in the first place.
BUT… Take that crappy mood and shoot it full of endorphins from a sixty-minute run – or even a 14 minute, two mile sprint – or heck, even 5 minutes of jumping jacks or jumping rope, and you’ve chemically changed the current makeup of your brain for a little while. You’ve added chemicals (real ones, not food processed ones) to your system, FROM your system – chemicals designed to make you feel just so damn good. Your body is smart – it makes endorphins and dopamine for a reason. (There’s a reason that first line of Cocaine feels so amazing – it’s every chemical that your body produces after a really good run being produced all at once, and in massive amounts. But it’s cheating – and unlike Cocaine, running doesn’t come with the required “crash,” when your nervous system, to compensate for how many endorphins and how much dopamine it just released goes into “slowdown” mode for anywhere from an hour to a day or more so it can refill the reserves again. When you’re done running, you’ve naturally produced those chemicals in your brain. So the “high” you get (known as “runner’s high) is natural, and doesn’t come with the downside that drugs do, because you haven’t depleted your reserves.)
So… Let’s get to the music.
My music won’t work for everyone. I mean, duh. You didn’t obviously think it would, did you? It’s music. It’s a personal taste. It’s the same reason some people find some kind of joke, or art, or whatever, funny, and others don’t. It just is what it is. So here’s my music. Make fun of it, if you like, go to iTunes and download some of the songs if you want… Create your own mix. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas.
A few comments will go with occasional songs, just to illustrate a point or give some background. But otherwise, here you go.
Download the Excel Spreadsheet of my 2006 NYC Marathon Training Playlist here: Download nyc_marathon_training_mix_2006.xls
For those who don’t want to read through 136 songs, here’s my top 10:
Affirmation, by Savage Garden
A very fast backbeat/motivational song, with some great lines – including this one, that’s perfect for screaming on a downhill:
I believe in Karma what you give is what you get returned
I believe you can’t appreciate real love until you’ve been burned
I believe that the grass is no more greener on the other side
I believe that you don’t know what you’ve got until you say goodbye
Defying Gravity, from the soundtrack to Wicked.
Where do I even BEGIN with this song? Not only is this the song I play after every drive home from the drop zone after a successful skydive, but Defying Gravity is probably my all-time favorite running song – if not all time, then definitely in the top three. It’s the end of Act 1 of Wicked, and Elphaba has realized that no one is ever going to understand her. She’s been played by the powers that be, and she realizes that she has to go off on her own. She understands it. She accepts it. But she still has a good, kind heart, and she cares about her friend, Glinda. In fact, the guards come racing up to find her in the attic, (where she’s just found her broom and black cape,) and she tells them it’s not Glinda they want – she says it’s her. The music builds, it gets louder and louder, you know something is coming, and then she shouts out (and this is only in the musical, and not on the soundtrack, and makes it even more special) “Leave her alone! She’s not the one you want! You want me! It’s ME!!” And she rises up, above the stage, stopping the guards (and Glinda) in their tracks, then she launches into:
So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
“Everyone deserves the chance to fly!”
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
I’m flying high
And soon I’ll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!
I honestly get chills every time I hear it. And when I’m running? I’ve clocked myself at a 4:45 pace through that verse. It’s truly awe-inspiring. I mean, you’ve run six miles, you’re about to quit, and then this piece comes on (click on it up above) and you can instantly run another seven miles. It’s so motivating – Plus, it’s just a wonderful piece of music! That’s the added bonus. Truly, hands-down, one of the best, most inspiring songs out there.
The Navy SEALs Run-to Cadences – About 20 minutes of cadences, everything that you’ll hear if you ever hang out at the Hotel-Del. C-130 Rolling down the strip… Runs at about a 7:50 pace, but if your stride is a bit longer, you can get an 8:30 or so out of it. I like it because it’s a good “filler.” When I’m running and just got to get through the miles – either in a race, or in a long training run – I can just zone out to it, and 20 minutes later, I’ve gotten through another 2.5 or 3 miles. For those who’re interested in how I became interested in the Navy SEALs in the first place (although I’ve never been in the military,) visit my friend, Instructor Walston. Or read about the classes I’ve taken.
How Do You Like Me Now?! – Toby Keith
Toby Keith amuses me. He’s come out with some spectacular songs in the past few years, including “I Wanna Talk About Me!” and “I’m Just Talkin’ ‘Bout Tonight,” but it’s his 1999 mega-smash “How Do You Like Me Now?!” that is in my running top 10. You’ve got to imagine the scene – I’m in the middle of the run, sweating like mad, got another several thousand miles to go, when I pass another runner, going in the other direction. Perhaps she’s cute, and we catch each other’s eye. It’s one of those moments that I treasure – not so much because I expect to ever see said runner again, but because she noticed me, and not in an “ew, he’s coming this way, play dead,” type way. She saw me working hard, fighting my way to improve my speed, and as we passed, we smiled. That’s how I feel about that song. “How Do You Like Me Now,” basically takes the listener back to when Toby Keith was in High School, getting made fun of, and turned down for dates. Fast-forward 20 years, and he’s a celebrity, a country music star, and the girl he wanted now wants him, but it’s too late. Classic “guy” song, as it were, and one that always makes me smile when I hear it. Makes me run a bit faster, too, and maybe even improve my posture and stick out my chest a little bit. Hey, how do you like me now?
How do you like me now?
Now that I’m on my way?
You still think I’m crazy,
Standing here today?
I couldn’t make you love me,
But I always dreamed about,
Living in your radio,
So how do you like me now?”
I suppose it’s a shout-out to all those who used to remember me before I ever put “running” and “Peter” in the same paragraph.
By the way – Yes, this born-and-raised New York City boy just admitted that he likes certain country music. Get over it.
New York, New York, by Ryan Adams
I’ll always have a love affair with Manhattan. She was really my first girlfriend, turning me into a man via the pre-Giuliani NYC streets. Giving me street-smarts, intelligence, and appreciation for all things. I fell in love with Manhattan as soon as I was old enough to know what it was.
So when the terrorist attacks of September 11th took place, they destroyed not only buildings and lives, but they wounded my city. MY city. That’s what hurt me – I lost a few people on that day. And I mourned. But I felt like my city had been wounded. At the time, I was living on 43rd St. and 10th Avenue. When I went for a run the first time after the attacks, I was running down the West Side Highway, and I noticed that the Towers, my “they’re getting bigger, almost time to turn around” landmarks, were gone. It hurt. It really hurt.
At around the same time, “New York, New York” was hitting the airwaves. Ryan Adams, in this song, talks about how he lost the woman and the city he loved the most. It’s inspiring, not only because it’s a tribute to the greatest city in the world, but also because the words are very motivating. Fast paced, with a great guitar, this is a favorite of mine when I’m cresting Harlem Hill, ready to come back down.
I remember Christmas in the blistering cold
In a church on the upper west side
Babe, I stood their singing, I was holding your arm
You were holding my trust like a child
Found a lot of trouble out on Avenue B
But I tried to keep the overhead low
Farewell to the city and the love of my life
At least we left before we had to go
And love won’t play any games with you
Anymore if you want ’em to
So we better shake this old thing out the door
I’ll always be thinkin’ of you
I’ll always love you though New York
I’ll always love you though New York, New York, New York
My Life (Live from Tokyo)
The River of Dreams/ Keeping The Faith/Only The Good Die Young – “Movin’ Out on Broadway
Huge, huge Billy Joel fan. If I took every song by him that I loved and ran to it, the entire marathon would be Billy. So I had to pick and choose. “My Life,” Live from Tokyo, has not only an extended version of a great song, but also has Billy Joel counting in Japanese to start it off. Which, if you count along with them, loudly, as you start running, you’ll keep yourself going through the entire song.
The River of Dreams/Keeping the Faith/Only The Good Die Young is a beautiful compilation from Movin’ Out, the Broadway show based on the songs of Billy Joel. This one is nice because it starts off fast, goes faster, and ends even faster. Awesome to run to. Motivating, great Backbeat, and a lot of fun.
Since U Been Gone (Jason Nevins Dub)
My God. If you told me I’d be running some of my best times to a song made by an AMERICAN IDOL WINNER, I would have severely questioned your sanity. But, hey, stranger things. This song rules for so many reasons, not the least of which is the spectacular harmonies. But more importantly, this specific remix only has a few words: “Since you been gone,” and “I can breathe for the first time.” That’s all you need. You’re coming up that hill, or on mile 12 of a 16’er, and you hear this song, and you think back to everyone who’s ever dumped you, or whom you’ve ever broken up with. The power that drips from this song could float the space shuttle. Amazing, amazing song. From American Idol. Sigh.
Down on the Corner – The Mavericks – From the King of the Hill Soundtrack
I remember trying to get into King of the Hill when it first came out. Didn’t take. Then, about two years ago, TiVo decided to give it another chance for me. I fell in love with it, watching repeats every night. Finally, I broke down and downloaded a few songs from the soundtrack. “Down on the Corner” is just one of those awesome “down home” songs that you can love without reservation. The Mavericks do it a nice justice at the end, throwing some country-scatting into the last few verses. Makes for a nice cool-down piece. Slower than my normal run, so nice for the cool-down jog.
Seasons Of Love (Scotty K House Mix) remixed from Rent
I love remixes just because they wind up being spectacular running songs that you already know. This is one of them. Nine minutes of the theme song from Rent, to a great Backbeat. Good way to kill another mile and a half or so. Thanks to Frank Manzo for the info.
Jump! By Simple Plan
Not to be confused with Jump by Van Halen, this is a kick-ass song, not only because I’m a skydiver. Sometimes when I’m running, I can imagine running faster than my sorrows, faster than my fears, and just leaving them in the dust. This song really makes me believe I can.
I don’t wanna wake up one day
And find out it’s too late
To do all the things I wanna do
So I’m gonna pack up my bags
I’m never comin back
Cuz the years are passin by
And I’m wasting all my t-t-time
I’m sick of this house
Sick of bein broke
Sick of this town that’s bringin me down
I’m Sick of this place
I wanna break free
I’m so frustrated
I just wanna jump (jump)
Don’t wanna think about tomorrow (jump)
I just don’t care tonight
I just wanna jump (jump)
Don’t wanna think about my sorrow
Let’s go whoa,
Forget your problems
I just wanna jump
Of course, there are more. But to list each song in my running mix would take forever. So again, here it is. Download nyc_marathon_training_mix_2006.xls . Enjoy. Download. Run.
Live life. Be healthy. Have fun.
And sing when you run. Who cares what other people think?
What’s your favorite running song? Leave it in the comments. I wanna hear it.