I recently ran a marathon…. now I don’t say that to make you feel in any way inadequate or inferior…I am sure that you could do the same and are probably struggling to find the time to fit it in…or maybe it’s in the plan somewhere in the future…or maybe you just don’t fancy it or don’t see what’s so special about it. That’s fine, as I said I didn’t run a marathon through any sense of personal self aggrandisement and raising a 4 figure sum for homeless people in the developing world was merely a fortunate by-product of this endeavour. I am sure in your own way you make a positive contribution that is equally worthy and if not equal, then at least comparable. I certainly don’t hold with all those people who says it’s a super human effort that confers some superman status to those completing this mammoth task. We are all winners, right?!
However, the key to running a marathon is preparation and bearing in mind that you will be spending 7 hours per week on your own pounding some street somewhere, the first priority must be to get the music sorted. Here is the answer to all those awkward questions about how to make the ultimate running playlist that will deliver you to that start line ready to become immortal!
You play lots of songs about running right?
Wrong! So Wrong! When you put on those trainers and leave the house you know what you are going to do. You’re doing it for 7 hours a week for 17 weeks. You don’t want to be reminded of the fact that you need to “Keep On Running”, that you’re “Running Up That Hill”, that someone might “Catch Me If You Can”, that you are in a very real way a “Road Runner”. No. What you need is music that allows you to forget that you are running, that is a sufficient distraction from the repetitive action, the pain, monotony and sheer boredom that running can be. Take for example, the opening track. Imagine the scene – you have got up long before anyone else in the house is awake, you have got the gear on, left the house to feel the cold and dank weather on your skin, it’s pitch black, the road is illuminated by orange street lights and the headlights of the few cars that are on the roads at this time. The wind whistles through the bushes and you are all alone. You don’t need inspiration and motivation if you have got to that place, you need solace and counselling. What about a man on Death Row grappling with the consequences of his crime and his imminent death? That’s just the ticket! Cue Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds with the Mercy Seat.
Do I play Music I know or new Music?
A difficult question. We should all be musical pioneers and strive to pay our dues to the musicians who push the envelope and search for new and exciting vistas of sound. That said, you don’t have the option of fast forwarding, pausing, searching, you’re on the move and whatever comes up next is what’s playing in your head whether you like it or not. Also, imagine the scene, 7am on Sunday morning and your one goal is getting this ordeal over with, but no, you’re struggling, getting your mp3 player out of whatever pocket / holder you have for it and then struggling to find a series of tracks that will work for you. Trust me, you don’t want to go there. So, I am sorry, but this is not going to be the day you discover the next Robbie Williams (that’s a joke!). The conscience assuaged, let’s get The Clash on – “I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)- by the way, listen to the rhythm guitar work on this track, great work by Joe there!
- Top Tip: Cluster songs by the same artist or off one album as you will want to hear another track by whoever and you will not be able to stop. So, if you cluster 3 or 4 of your favourite artists / albums, you will have audio satisfaction and, hey, there is another mile and a bit gone!
Slow or fast songs?
Not so fast! (See what I did there?) It’s not about fast or slow, it’s about pace; about finding your pace and rhythm and finding music that has a beat that will get you to a state of running Zen. The perfect toe tappers, or trainer tappers, for this purpose are They Might Be Giants. Their use of tight efficient beats woven around riffs and intriguing lyrics provide the pulse to drive you along and the distraction required. They have, literally, hundreds of good examples and I would pepper your running mix with them, but to pick one, I would go for “When will you die”.
Running Zen! Cosmic Dude?
Don’t laugh, your brain needs to find ways to engage in flights of fancy for long periods and ideally enter a dream state so you are effectively on auto pilot for long periods. This could be engaging music that has a deep dreamy feel like Chorizos favourite from last year Give Your Love by Neat Beats. Equally, songs that have a story that will take a few listens to reveal their complexity work well. A good example of this is Panties in Your Purse by the Drive By Truckers and a song that comprises both of these features and benefits from being nearly 7 minutes long is the mighty Walk On By by The Stranglers.
You sound like a machine. What about all this life changing inspiration crap they talk about?
Fair play, by the half way mark you are getting a bit low on inspiration and could do with a bit of a pick-me-up, but nothing too contrived as even your exhausted, demoralised self will see through anything too obviously “motivational”. (A friend of mine had Simply The Best as their rallying call song. How awfu.l) No, get something that celebrates you and makes you feel good. I recommend Chuck Prophet’s Solid Gold from the Age of Miracles album, where he drinks a toast to all “Stand Up Guys” who “put up a fight”, which when facing a further 13 miles slog, is what you will need to do.
What about when you are ready to quit?
When the moment comes that you have nothing left in your legs, when mentally you are ready to accept that the task is beyond you, and you realise that whatever plan you had was hopelessly flawed – that’s the moment you need to play your ace, the song of pure defiance that can leave you no doubt that you will finish this thing if its the last thing you do (and let’s not be coy, it might be just that). Now’s the time for Dan Sartain with Fuck Friday! Rejoice as Dan lists days of the week and says Fuck Them and Fuck You!! That will get your legs moving again. Let’s face it, it’s a fucking pointless exercise, it’s just one foot in front of the other for 4 fucking hours, don’t dress it up like it’s a pass to sainthood, just keep running, you lazy cunt! (you can use this motivational mantra yourself if you like).
Bullet Point Summary (I guarantee you that every “How To Run A Marathon Book” has one of these)
- Pick songs you love
- Music for pace not speed
- Aim for dream-like distraction
- When you know you’re knackered, play songs to kick you up the arse
Here is that Marathon Playlist in full: