Running and music

Ahh running and music, a slightly contentious issue for some. Some people look at runners who wear headphones as ‘fake runners’ or being too self-absorbed, especially in races. I fully disagree.

I love listening to music and podcasts when I run. I listen to MarathonTalk and love Tony’s Trials but I always cringe when he calls runners “headphone dicks” for listening to music in races. I also hate it when races ban headphones (but I do understand the safety element if the road’s aren’t closed). I don’t think you’re any less of a runner if you listen to something when you run – even in a race. For me it heightens my experience and can take my mind off the pain of a hard run or the boredom of a long run.

A while ago I was invited to an event held by Currys discussing the impact music has on running. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the event but they did kindly send me some information that was discussed so I could still share it.

_w8a8161_579x386 Source

The main speaker was Dr Costas Karageorghis, a reader in sport psychology with an international reputation for his research into the psychological, psychophysical and ergogenic effects of music (ooh err!). His music research has been featured in newspapers around the world; most recently in the Times, Independent, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Sydney Morning Herald.

Dr Karageorghis made some excellent points:

  • “Sometimes during a run, your body will be screaming ‘STOP’ but some well-chosen tunes can help you to temporarily ignore that stop sign.”
  • “When synching your stride rate to the beat of the music, you can increase the intensity of your run by raising the music tempo by one or two BPMs beyond your ‘comfort zone’. This will increase your stride rate with the notable additional benefit that the difference in effort will be almost imperceptible.”
  • “A motivational running playlist can help to ‘colour’ the symptoms of running-related fatigue, like burning lungs and a beating heart, so that such symptoms are interpreted in a more positive manner. This is why your choice of music may have a strong bearing on how long you adhere to a running programme.”

I highly agree with these points. I use a fast-paced playlist during parkrun when I want to run fast to keep me motivated and pushing hard.


I find it quite hard to push myself as hard without the use of a good soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong I can do it but certainly when I’m running intervals on my own my motivation and speed are far lower.

Yes music can take you away from the atmosphere of a race or you can lose touch of what’s happening around you, but I think on the whole music is a positive thing. According to research, music can elevate mood by some “10-15%, even at high running intensities and to me that is a huge benefit.

My marathon strategy has, and will be, that I have nothing for the first 10 miles to absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the race, then listen to a podcast for the next 10 miles to stop the tedium and keep my mind from thinking about how far I have left, and then for the last 10k put the music on and get those legs going. So far it’s worked perfectly.

I don’t mind being part of the “running with music” camp at all and I see it as running snobbery for those who look down on us. I think whatever makes things (legally!) easier, you should embrace.

THIS is an interesting article from RunnersWorld with some cool facts and THIS is a good link to some research.

**Full disclosure: Post in association with Curry’s and Joe Blogs**

8 Replies to “Running and music”

  1. I always used to run to music but haven’t done it for about 2 years now. Mainly because I cannot find enough songs that work with a high cadence running, I tend to get carried away by music and take much bigger steps than I should. I’ve hear you can search music by the cadence you want to run to but I’ve been too lazy to look into it as I’m so used to running in silence now.
    MrsB recently posted…Nutrition advice – it’s a minefield out there!My Profile

  2. People who snark on runners for wearing headphones really need to get a life. There needs to stop being a hierarchy when it comes to running, whether it’s on the basis of size, speed, distance or what time of the day you run. It just doesn’t matter.

    I prefer not to run with music, but sometimes I need it to distract me from the fact that I’m in a crowd of other people (in a race) or out on my own in areas where I’m likely to be shouted at (always insults, always weight-based, and I really do not wish to hear them).

    I’m adding ‘Addicted to Pain’ to one of my playlists: it’s great and I had never heard it before, so thank you. I’m not in the shape to even attempt any kind of speed or distance, but it will be there for me when I do need some music. I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to Dragonforce, but their songs are great to run to (particularly ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’). I also love ‘Dead’ by My Chemical Romance, alongside my standard screamy/anger death metal that doesn’t seem to appeal to anyone else!
    Jess @ One Step Closer recently posted…Some Answers…And Some QuestionsMy Profile

  3. I don’t look down on runners who listen to music in races- for my first few races I did have music playing quietly in one ear as I got so put off by hearing my own breathing that I would get into a bit of a panic. But I do worry about being told off, or disqualified, so I would not risk it now. Plus, I have run for over 5 hours with nothing and survived- I quite like my own thoughts!
    I do not like people who have it so loud that they are not aware of what is around them, but that is just people being idiots. Plus some people are rude runners and they don’t have the headphones excuse (some of the fast club runners at St Albans parkrun barge past the slower runners on their second and third laps)- some people just have no manners. During Brighton I had the Lilo and Stitch soundtrack on my phone, for “just in case”, and I did think about it with 6 miles to go, but I didn’t want to stop and faff, so I just sung it in my head instead.
    I prefer podcasts though now, because with music I try to run on the beat and then I either run too fast or too slow- with a podcast I can go at my own pace.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…New shoes! Don’t wear jeans to the sports shop!My Profile

    1. I always have my music low enough so I can still hear around me. I think it’s rue when runners can’t hear someone yelling support their way – I always like to wave/smile/grimace/attempt to say thank you back.
      That’s why I use the podcast for the 10-20 miles, to slow me down and keep my mind occupied. It really helps.
      I love that you had Lilo and Stitch as a backup. I need to check that soundtrack out (I love movie soundtracks!)
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…150 parkruns and a glamping experienceMy Profile

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