Perfect playlist: The Marine Corps Marathon

I’d like to start by justifying this playlist. Not everyone’s into music, and those people might have a hard time understanding why

My iPod is loaded with awesome music in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon.

My iPod is loaded with awesome music in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon.

an otherwise sane woman who already spends an inordinate amount of time running might waste hours poring over iTunes to create the perfect long-run mix. It’s simple: If running is how I unplug from the pressures of daily life, finding that space between the hustle and flow that leads to something like meditation, music helps me get there. And as someone who loves music to begin with, pairing a new favorite song with the rhythm of my footfalls can help me appreciate the song on a higher level than simply listening to it as background noise.

Now. When asking for new long-run-mix suggestions, it occurred to me that simply providing a playlist might not be that helpful for other runners. Running songs are so personal, and what pumps me up might leave you feeling flat and  (or offended, considering many of my pump-up songs are angry, misogynistic gangsta-rap songs that send my gender, and the human race, back a good century or so). So I’ve included my strategy for building the perfect long-run mix, in case you want to improvise and start your own.

I like to think of my races, and my playlists for them, in roughly five-mile sections (a marathon is nothing more than four easy five-milers, plus one really painful 10K, right?). I like to plan for almost 50 minutes of music for each, just to be sure I won’t run out too soon. I’ve made notes by a few selections that have special meaning to me. Others, I feel are self-explanatory (how can I NOT have “Baby Got Back” somewhere in the mix?). I even tested this on my 21-miler on Saturday to make sure it’s awesome in practice as well as in theory.

Don’t need four hours of music? Check out my previous playlists for distances ranging from a 5K to a 10-miler here.

Finally, if it seems like we share musical taste (or lack thereof), please let me know if you’ve got any other brilliant suggestions — I’m always, always looking for new additions.

START: You’re going to want catchy, mid-tempo songs that energize and excite you, but that aren’t so hard-core, you go into immediate overdrive. This is also a good spot for some slower songs that somehow make for good running tunes — I’m digging “Come to You” by Carina Round right now, after finding it on Kara Goucher’s endurance playlist (“Viva la Vida” is a Goucher pick, too), and “Punkrocker” by the Teddybears, which was recommended by a Twitter-runner-friend, Megan. In the Marine Corps Marathon, this will take me through the hills on Lee Highway, and across the Key Bridge into Georgetown.

Mudhouse – Bob Schneider — This song led my National Half Marathon playlist, and was a suggestion of my runner-friend Jim, who inspired me to run my first marathon. His story, which is almost guaranteed to make you cry, made me think back in 2007: If he’s running a marathon, what’s stopping me?

Going the Distance – Cake

The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

The View – Modest Mouse

Come to You – Carina Round

Viva la Vida – Coldplay

Let Me Go – Cake

Beautiful Day – U2

Never There – Cake

Punkrocker – The Teddy Bears

Stronger – Kanye West

Live Your Life – T.I., feat. Rihanna

Universal Mind Control – Common (another suggestion from Megan – thanks!)

SECTION TWO: Here, you want songs that encourage you to lock in the pace. I like the ones that help me channel past races, like “Here We Go Now,” which started my playlist for the Nashville Country Music Marathon in 2007, or “Award Tour,” which led my mix for my first-ever distance race, Gainesville’s Five Point of Life Half-Marathon. This section will take me through Georgetown.

Here We Go Now – Naughty By Nature

Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z, feat. Alicia Keys

Come On Eileen – Save Ferris. This song reminds me of being a high-school senior visiting Georgetown on a recruiting trip for swimming, dancing in some dive bar with the swim team, convinced I’d die if I didn’t get into the school. I didn’t get in, nor did I die, and I’m convinced that not getting in, which led to me moving across the country to attend University of Colorado, where I met my now-husband, Steve, was the best thing that ever happened to me. The dive-bar jukebox played the original version of this song. When this awesome cover comes on, I’ll simply think: Suck it, Georgetown!

Woo Ha (remix) – Busta Rhymes

Did You See the World – Animal Collective

Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives – Voxtrot

Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured – Arctic Monkeys

Run This Town – Jay-Z

Shake That – Eminem

Flathead – The Fratellis

What a Wonderful World – The Ramones

SECTION 3: This is typically a tough section of the race for me, and I like to pick songs that are meditative and thoughtful, that make me remember why I’m in this race to begin with. These are highly personal, and may not work for everyone. For example, “Cruel” and “Baby, You’re Amazing” are songs I ran to during Steve’s deployments. They’re not likely to pump up anyone else, but to me, they conjure a time in my life when I’d run so I could work out pain, and cry without being caught (I held the pace while bawling through these songs on many an occasion, thank you!) I pick some happy songs, too — “Brand New Colony” reminds me of my wedding. I bounce back from the heavier songs with a few that, if you don’t want to dance by the end of them, you should probably check your pulse (see “Kiss,” “Vivrant Thing.”) This section of the playlist will take me through Potomac Park, and should end when the course spits me back into downtown DC.

I Will Survive – Cake

How It Ends- DeVotchka

Cruel – Calexico

Breathe Me – Sia

Baby, You’re Amazing (live version) – Josh Kelly

Kiss – Prince

Gold Digger -Kanye West

So What – P!nk — This is a favorite of my hard-core runner-friend Sarah. I have it twice on this playlist to make sure I hear it around Hains Point (read my long-run report to find out why)

Two Step, Dave Matthews Band, Live at Red Rocks – My favorite version of my all-time favorite song!

Walcott – Vampire Weekend

B.O.B. – Outkast

Get Back – Ludacris

Catch 22 – Streetlight Manifesto

Rosa Parks – Outkast

Survivor – Destiny’s Child

When the Sun Goes Down – Arctic Monkeys

Vivrant Thing – A Tribe Called Quest

SECTION 4: I’ll be running around the National Mall here, and will likely be getting pretty tired. The serious pump-up songs start here. So do the ones that make me laugh, like “Baby Got Back.”

Run On – Moby

Make Her Say – Kid Cudi

Get High Tonight – Busta Rhymes

Baby Got Back – Six Mix-A-Lot

Shame on a N***a – Wu-Tang Clan

D.O.A. – Jay-Z

Lose Yourself – Eminem

Dear Sergio – Catch 22

Crack a Bottle – Eminem

Fugeela – The Fugees

Radio Nowhere – Bruce Springsteen

How You Like Me Now? The Heavy – A suggestion from another Twitter-runner friend, Dustin. Listen to it while you’re doing speed work, and you might just PR in the mile.

Still D.R.E – Dr. Dre

END: It’s “go” time. I like to start this section with “Ain’t Nothing But a G-Thing,” because Dre says it best when he warns: “Cause you know we ’bout to rip s**t up.” Indeed.

Ain’t Nothing But a G-Thing – Snoop Dog

Fight the Power – Public Enemy

Rump Shaker – Wreckx N Effect

When Distaster Strikes – Busta Rhymes

You Can Do It (Put Your A** Into It) – Ice Cube

Kick In The Door – The Notorious B.I.G.

Bulls on Parade – Rage Against the Machine

Scenario – A Tribe Called Quest

M-E-T-H-O-D Man – Wu-Tang Clan

Moving to New York – The Wombats


Filed under Uncategorized

19 responses to “Perfect playlist: The Marine Corps Marathon

  1. Love your playlist! I’m planning to run Philly sans iPod, but if I change my mind, I’ll DEFINITELY be using some of your songs! (I also love the “…send my gender, and the human race, back a good century or so” as my playlists are generally equally as offensive!)

  2. SO MUCH CAKE!!! I love it! Thanks for the shout out. I just posted a playlist on my blog too! You are going to rock out hardcore at MCM. Section IV will have you moving so super fast 😀

  3. Great playlist, Amy! And THANK YOU for not including any Black Eyed Peas. So sick of hearing them at races. Eminem gives me a surge of energy too! And kudos for Tribe… so old school

  4. Great selection… but there’s on song missing… I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas!

  5. I have a live version of Viva la Vida by Coldplay. It’s the best!!!

  6. Heather

    There really is an “art” to creating the Running Lists. I have some that I made specifically for shorter races; the LR ones have more “long” songs and a calmer beat, with some Crazy mixed in there (i.e. the misogynistic stuff we aren’t “supposed” to like 😉 ).

    Viva la Vida will ALWAYS be on one of those lists.

  7. Heather

    oh, and, btw – STILL listening to “how do you like me now” on repeat. Yup. Thanks for that one 😉

  8. excellent playlist! i have a similar taste – as far as blood-pumping hip-hop/pop music anyway. i don’t know how people can listen to podcasts while running? well, maybe on a regular run, but not in a race or a long run – i think i’d fall asleep! 🙂

    this isn’t a new one, but what about “heart of a champion” by nelly?

  9. Cassie

    Another good one is Breathe by The Prodigy. It has a good up tempo beat. I don’t love a lot of metal but this always gets me going.

  10. LB Mo

    Thanks so much for your suggestions. I, too, love the way music sounds (and feels) while running long distances. I am about to plan my running play list for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon but I am worrying about whether I am going to be hassled about wearing an iPod during the race. Do you know anything about whether or not they really enforce the supposed ban on music playing devices? I ran the MCM in 2006 and didn’t have any problem whatsoever. Do you think that I will have similar luck this year? Thanks again for your list. I intend to look up some of the unfamiliar songs you have listed since they appear to be well “pre-tested”. Good luck to you in your running.

    • Good question … if the MCM does seriously enforce that rule, I would have to seriously consider whether I could run a full marathon with no iPod (Kidding! But not really …). Hope you enjoy the songs, and let’s both keep our fingers crossed our iPods are Kosher on race day!

  11. I love getting thoughts on music from other runners. Awesome!

    Lose Yourself – Eminem… probably my most motivating song and has stood the test of time and remained in my Running Playlist for years now.

    Good luck at MCM! You’ll rock the house.

  12. Pingback: Putting it together before the Marine Corps Marathon « Amy’s Training Blog

  13. JT

    Love the playlist! Here are some personal favorites of mine that have pulled me through some races and long runs:
    Longwave – Sattellites
    Metric – Gold Gun Girls
    Moby – Machete
    White Rabbits – Percussion Gun
    Placebo – Running Up That Hill
    Bravery – Believe
    The Doors – LA Woman (Paul Oakenfold Remix)
    Hole – Dying
    Morcheeba – Run Honey Run
    Low vs. Diamond – Heart Attack

    Random but fun hip hop/rap
    T-Pain – Church
    Rihanna – Breaking Dishes
    Swizz Beats – Money in the Bank <-LOVE IT

    The Hole song is kind of ironic but I always fit it in towards the end of the middle of a LSR because that's exactly how I feel at the moment.

  14. Pingback: A positive spin « Amy Reinink

  15. Nice playlist! At my company we did a similar thing. We broke down the playlist by miles and we put in samples of each song. We had some overlaps with your playlist. But matching the playlist to course is a great idea.

  16. Katie Barnett


    I think you are too cool. Cake, a tribe called quest, outkast, busta rhymes, the boss, the fugees…..

    And huge points in my book for animal collective. “fireworks” is one of my favorites for my runs. I usually have it on my playlist twice!

    I also found a new must-have for my running playlist. “consolation prizes” by Phoenix. It’s super fun. Try those two-I think you’ll like them. Oh and here are two more-

    “feel the pain” by dinosaur jr
    “teenage riot” by sonic youth (this one takes 20 seconds or so to kick in, but well worth it)

    give them a try and and let me know what you think : ) I have more where those came from if you’re ever in a music slump.

  17. Pingback: Marine Corps Marathon countdown: Visualize miles 1-5 « Amy Reinink

  18. Pingback: Marine Corps Marathon countdown: Visualize miles 6-10 « Amy Reinink

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s