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