The perfect running event playlist

Today is my LAST RUN before the London 10K on Bank Holiday Monday. I’m currently in what’s called “tapering”, which is the 2-4 weeks before a race (depending on the distance), when you reduce your training intensity, aka run shorter distances and spend more time instead watching 90s soaps on YouTube. 

I’ve become a bit of a running bore lately because, quite honestly, the rest of my life involves everything I write being rejected by everywhere and that’s even duller to talk about. For some reason, every time I sit down to write anything I feel like Manu Chao at a UKIP conference, and I’d rather run instead – a slight problem given writing is my job and running isn’t. I run 10K in an hour; a pro athlete can do it in 38 minutes (I don’t know what the equivalent measure is for a “pro” writer, but whatever it is, I don’t feel very close to it at the moment…) Yesterday, one of my dearest friends, and former housemate, saw me tweeting gloomily about how all my writing feels like shitting in a box and sent me a cheer-up text, which has spurred me into writing a semblance of a blog post….

So…ahead of race day, some thoughts on one of the most fun bits of running: selecting a playlist. Picking the right running music raises some pretty urgent questions if you spent your formative years hating sport and listening to Radiohead. After months of scientific research Twitter crowdsourcing, I’ve reached these conclusions about choosing the right tunes…

First: Music I run to has to be upbeat. Anything too ponderous when you’re running will make you want to rip your ears off and eat them. And sod being trendy or sophisticated: you’re running, not judging the Mercury Prize. Second: I have to run to music. Other people may be able to run to comedy, audiobooks, Radio 4 podcasts and whatnot. I can’t. At least, not yet.  Thirdly, a running playlist should be a blend of sorts. Songs from different life stages, and songs that are just “good for running” versus songs that are in some way sentimental.

It seems entirely right for this particular playlist to have a firm nod to the two people whose tragic deaths have inspired this whole running endeavour. T. (the first) and T. (the second) didn’t know each other and were different in notable ways but charmingly alike in their appreciation of high-tar cigarettes and the sort of music you hear in the background on Top Gear and in head shops in crap towns. Accordingly, I’m going for Deep Purple’s Hush and Kula Shaker’s Hey Dude (my excuse for liking Kula Shaker is being a teenager in the 90s. I’m not sure what theirs were, but there we are…).

Though it’s not exactly upbeat, I’m also throwing in Shake and Crawl by the House of Love; the song my Twitter account is named after. A couple of years before he died, T. (the first) sent me his copy of the album the song comes from as a surprise gift after I’d had a particularly tough week at the office. It was in a cracked case, with an instruction pamphlet printed in West Germany on “Caring For Your New CD,” and it stank of twenty years of B&H but it was one of the sweetest things anyone had ever done for me.

I listen to a lot of new wave, punk, riot grrl and Britpop, which are all pretty good to run to. Wake Up Boo by the Boo Radleys, which used to drive me spare when it was the soundtrack to every item on breakfast TV in the 90s, has taken on a whole new meaning now. (I’d forgotten all about the quiet profound bit at the end and oh boy, that works). Also handy are lots of 90s dance singles I remember from various stages of school. Natalie Imbruglia’s Shiver is perfect (in fact, all of her songs are in one way or other, but let’s stick with the happy ones…). Then there’s various late-90s/early-noughties pop (Britney, Beyonce, Girls Aloud) that I never actually listened to at the time because I was far too earnest to relate to songs about fun, lust and laughter. I should probably include something released within the last two years to prove I don’t keep my teeth in a mug – Taylor Swift fits the bill there.

Abba and showtunes are utterly essential, of course. A buddy recommended the Chess soundtrack, which, being Anglo-East German and partial to overwrought lyrics, covers all bases for me (Cold War theme, tick. Melodrama, tick). OK, I might have had a mini internal meltdown at my desk upon listening to the lyrics to I Know Him So Well properly for the first time ever but that was at Easter. I can totally cope now and am absolutely not going to start welling in the middle of the Strand in front of hundreds of people. Ahem

Of course, all this is assuming my phone works properly on race day: Starting an app with a phone attached to a running armband can be faffy enough when there aren’t hundreds of people either side of you who’d rather not be jabbed in the face while you try to press the screen…

Apparently, a common incentive Marathon runners use to get sponsorship is that sponsors above a certain amount can choose a song to go on your playlist. All further suggestions (for Monday and/or next year’s Marathon…) very welcome…

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3 thoughts on “The perfect running event playlist

    • Ha! I bet he’d have suggested it. I can see him either making me a running playlist of heavy metal, OR a cruel ANTI-running playlist…

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