RMDC June Music - Ron Marinucci

RMDC June Music - Ron Marinucci

One of the lessons history teaches us is that the answer is not always where we expect it to be. If, for example, one side of history teaches A and another side teaches C, the answer might not be B. It could well be D or E or F or……

So perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised at the results of a very informal (perhaps even frivolous in light of our history lesson!) survey I took of runners.

A month or so back, when the winter weather broke a bit, there were a few more runners out on the roads. The advent of warmer weather always brings out more runners. And it seemed that as many as not were listening to music or something. At least they were wearing ear buds. Although not every runner dons the head sets, they do appear to be coming closer and closer to ubiquitous. At least that was my perception.

To support my thoughts, the national running magazines and various blogs and Web sites often have conducted their own surveys, albeit quite unscientific also. They’ve asked runners what songs they listen to while running.

This is what sparked my own, again very unscientific, survey. Granted, too, it was a small one. I asked about two dozen runners a couple of questions. “Do you listen to music when you run?” and “If so, what are your favorite songs to run to?” About half responded and, I guess because of my initial observations and assumptions, I was a little surprised by the results

But first, for quite a while now, runners have been listening to music while they run. First it was with those rather cumbersome headsets. With the advance of technology, those headsets have been replaced by the ever-so-small earbuds. Many runners even use them in races.

I’m pretty much a Luddite, a Neanderthal when it comes to any kind of technology. In fact, one of my college roommates and teammates refers to me just such, as a “Luddite.” So, I had to ask my son, Matt, about these music-loving runners. He told me most of them use an I-Pod or some other such device. Many of these can hold up to 300 or more songs; they can be cycled through like CDs on their players. 300 songs! That, maybe as much as 15-20 hours of music, should be enough to handle most long runs.

Some studies have shown that listening to music can make the effort of running seem easier. Perceptions of difficulty can be diminished by as much as 10%, especially on easier runs. Music can also elevate one’s mood, reducing fatigue and tension among other things. Listening can motivate some runners, especially those who still find running “boring.” It’s interesting that more research is being conducted, some, for example, with the synchronization of pace or stride rate with music’s beat.

I’ve often wondered about the dangers of running this way. Especially on the roads, wearing earbuds can be hazardous. One, at least, of our senses is removed from our natural safety mechanisms. Runners who listen to music should be extra vigilant with their other senses.

Safety aside, I was curious about what music/songs runners prefer. I’ve never felt any desire to use earbuds or, before them, headsets. During races I have enjoyed some of the music on the courses, say, for instance, the last mile or so of the Crim. Some boom box blasting out “Nowhere to Run” always perked me up, a least a little. But on my daily runs, nope, I’ve never listened……

So I queried about a dozen runners. My informal poll was somewhat startling to me. The overwhelming number of respondents claimed they preferred to run without music of any sort—and they explained why. That doesn’t quite match up with the national magazines’ stories or with the number of earbuds I see in races and otherwise. So, my assumptions were wrong.

Initially, I thought my results might be a generational thing. Maybe they are. Younger runners, more comfortable and familiar with technology, are more apt to run with music—maybe. Older runners, perhaps out of years-old habits or due to the need to just get away from the ordinary stresses and struggles of daily life, desire to be alone with their thoughts—maybe.

Regardless, here are some responses I received to these questions. “Do you run with music? If so, what are your favorite one or two songs?”

Without question, of the dozen or so folks I surveyed, Anthony Targan was the most enthusiastic booster of running with music. “Running songs is a topic near and dear to my heart,” he admitted. In fact, eight years ago his first Michigan Runner article was on this very subject. His choices of songs “are very personal” and “favorites” include “Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty and “Help! I’m Alive” by Metric. He said, “I generally run to music when I am training alone, but never with others. I always used to race with music, but now only use it for marathons, when I need the distraction.” In training for the Cleveland Marathon, for instance, “I used [running songs] extensively to train.” For shorter races, though, Targon now ditches the earbuds. “I really want to be focused on ‘listening to my body.’”

My son Matt puts on the earbuds to run, especially liking “Mother” by Danzig and, shamelessly admitting, “wrestling theme songs.” [Yes, it embarrasses a father to hear that.] He added, “I recently started listening to podcasts,” a variety of radio shows recorded and put online available for download.

2015 Michigan Runner Runner of the Year Sarah Boyle chipped in. “I’m in the same boat as you [meaning me]. I don’t ever run with music.” She continued, “But I will say that I am never bored without it. People are my best company when I can have them along for a run.”

National senior running ace Doug Goodhue echoed those comments. “I don’t run with music either.” But he did recall, “When I first started racing, two songs that did inspire me were ‘Takin’ It to the Streets’ by the Doobie Brothers and ‘Start Me Up’ by the Rolling Stones.”

Another former Michigan Runner ROTY, Andy Muchow, said, “I have never run with music.” He explained, “Somehow it takes away from my run.” He cited the dangers of “blanking out on the world around you,” but mostly it’s more personal. “I like to hear the sound of my footsteps and the world around me. Sometimes, like at a park, it’s better than others, but I couldn’t imagine taking away that sense.” But he did say, “I guess I can understand if you are warming up or need to be in yourself for the moment—or maybe for distraction on the dreadmill.” Yet, “I do have good memories of the team blasting ‘Born to Run’ before and after cross country meets in college. I kind of roll that into good memories of teammates and competition. Otherwise, mark me down in the column of rarely listening to music while running.”

Patty Pape is a long-time runner, swimmer, and kayaker who now spends much of her exercise time “walking at least three miles a day,” that is, “when I’m not canoeing, kayaking, or hiking.” She said, “I walk with the girls between six and seven AM weekdays. We listen to the owls, hawks, mourning doves, and coyotes,” that is, “when we aren’t talking and gossiping, updating one another on our lives. That’s more fun that music.”

Mark Cryderman offered, “I don’t use headsets or earbuds either.” His time out there is more spiritual. “When I am running, it is a great time to think and plan. It’s also kind of my church. Running the trails of Milford and Kensington lets me take in the beauty of nature: the woods, rivers, lakes, and occasional deer or wild turkey giving me an inquisitive look as I pass by. I can also see the individuals, couples, and families enjoying these same things, too, each in their own way.” For Cryderman, “There’s too much going on to be distracted by music!”

Another 2015 Michigan Runner ROTY is Eric Stuber. “At this time, I don’t run with music at all,” he noted, “but Brooke, my wife, listens to ‘80s rock on Pandora when she runs alone.” He admitted, though, “I used to listen to Classic Rock Block Party Weekends when I was marathon training more than 20 years ago. But now I just run by myself with only the world singing its tune.”

Lauren Hubbell doesn’t use ear buds, but apparently runs with music anyway, well, sort of. “I actually don’t run with music, but I often find myself singing in my head.” And this “made me think of a friend who once got a song stuck in his head during an 18-mile training run. The song? ‘The Witch Doctor!’ You know the one,” as she started to sing, “Ooh Eeh Ooh Ah Ah, Ting Tang, Walla Walla Bing Bang.” Yes, we do. “Is there a more annoying song to have stuck in your head during a long run? I think not.”

Dave Miner threw a wrinkle into his reply. “I sometimes sing off-key while running, just to make my fellow runners sick.” But, more seriously, I think, he added, “I don’t wear the ear muffs or other devices for fear I might not hear a 16-wheeler closing in on me.”

So, my conclusion? Hmmm…… I’ll have to do more research on this, especially the generational thing.