Thursday, 25 July 2013

pronounced "sincerity" without the "sin"

Posted by speedygeoff on Thursday, July 25, 2013 with 2 comments
Percy Cerutty was heard to say in the 1960's that runners of the future would train while listening to music. I know he said that because I was there at the time. Now I unashamedly embrace music as part of my running experience, although I haven't gone as far as to make it part of my racing experience.

And I promote my "song of the week" because of my belief that running and music are inseparable.

There is an excellent Scientific American article on running and music. See

I will list what I think are the main reasons that music goes together with running, but refer to the article above for more.

1. Distraction. This is particularly important in training, or perhaps in a long race where the goal is just to finish. There is a role for dissociative running, days when the running itself is painful and keeping ones mind on the company, the scenery, or the music, reduces ones attention on the pain, the tiredness, the stresses of work, family, and other pressures. when I go on a long run by myself, that is when I find music a most pleasant distraction.

2. Motivation. My playlist contains all my favourite songs - of course! - so I really look forward to listening to some of them on the run. It adds to the sense of anticipation before running. What usually motivates me to run is knowing it is making me fitter, knowing it is preparation for my next race; hoping it is keeping illness at bay, and looking forward to meeting up with my running partners. If there are to be no running partners on the day, music is a good substitute.

3. Enjoyment. Music is intrinsically enjoyable; as is running (once you're out there). Put the two together, and wow.

4. Pacing. I don't necessarily run at the pace of a song; some do. But the occasional song on the playlist will help pick up the pace, and a five minute burst during a long run is an excellent training strategy. There is plenty of BPM software if you want to pre-plan your running rate. See, except you want the pace much faster than their proposed 120 to 140.

Detractors usually instance distraction as a bad thing. Well then, use your brains, run where it is safe to be distracted. And running in company, chatting, is just as distracting. Maybe you just don't like music? Well, again, I do!

Percy was well ahead of his time. He knew that the rhythms and flows of music would reinforce the rhythms and flows of running. Can another visionary see how we can marry the two and attract more people to the very natural sport of running? Gyms do it, how about running tracks?

As I understand it, music will be of little help when you are racing flat out. That is because racing is an associative activity, because you need to "welcome pain" when racing, and because it is difficult to lift above what is already a 100% effort. But music as part of training will help you train better, achieving the increased fitness levels needed for faster race times.

Observation of athletes here in Canberra seems to bear all this out; those runners who train with music seem highly dedicated and are darn good runners; those athletes who race with music seem to be going along well within themselves. But of course, there might be some very good reasons why you would not want to bust a gut every time you race. So, load up your iPod or smartphone and enjoy your running!


  1. I've heard the theory and LOTS of my running mates train (and race) with music buds in their ears but I'm a purist - ie, all or nothing - ie, running is running and listening to music is listening to music and never the twain shall meet. Each to their own .....

  2. I usually prefer listening to the sounds of nature. Thanks for the tip though - next time I'm running with Jen I'll use my iPod.