The Day the Music Died

Saturday morning I was ready to go for a run. It was a sunny spring day after a week of rain and I was feeling the running mojo. The day was long in front of me and I was thinking 6 – 7 miles, which is pretty much my most epic distance.

The temperature has been increasing here and the sunny days are reaching a temperature classifiable as “hot,” particularly if you are exercising. One problem this has posed for me is that I need water on my runs longer than about 3 miles. I wasn’t opposed to trying a run with a small water bottle clutched in one hand, but this conflicted with what I normally hold in said hand: my iPod classic. (Running with an object in each hand just seemed dysfunctional; plus, how would I a. open the water bottle or b. adjust iPod volume?)

A solution appeared to present itself in a gift I gave Tim a few years ago: an iPod shuffle, the little kind that clips onto your sleeve. Tim doesn’t run with music and he almost never uses the iPod. (This has been a source of discussion.) He dug it up and said it was fine if I synced it to whatever music I wanted, so I put my running playlist on it, and with small water bottle in one hand, off I went.

All was well until a mile in. I’d just passed IKEA and entered Delftse Hout. I was midway through “Sing”* when the music just stopped. I thought I’d lowered the volume too much and began messing with the button. Then the realization hit me: why would an iPod that probably hasn’t been played in a year have any charge? Shoot.

This threw me into a serious conundrum, because I do. not. run. without music. The only reason I get through half my runs is because I’m distracted. It helps me set my pace, as through old marching band habits I tend to step to the beat (can’t run to syncopated tunes). It inspires me when I don’t think I can go any farther. And it lets my mind think about things besides how far it is to the next mile point, or home, or how much my side hurts.

I’m aware that in a lot of races, mp3 players are persona non grata, and I’ve often wondered how I could ever get through a marathon or half marathon if my music wasn’t allowed.

I kept running, when I realized the music had died. I didn’t want to waste my run. At first I tried picking up where the iPod had left off and “thinking” the songs in my head. This sort of worked, though I would get into a weird loop where I’d just be hearing the same thirty seconds of the song over and over again. Then I tried just taking in the sounds around me: birds, children, dogs trying to bite my ankles. You can’t run to birds.

Finally I envisioned myself saying I’d made it through all 6 miles with no music, and what a big accomplishment that would be! I regret to tell you that did not happen. I did 4 miles, which to be honest I’m kind of surprised about (gmaps pedometer just told me). Running is interesting. Two miles was for many months my standard run. On big days I’d do 3. Then I gradually worked up to around 6 for the 10k in March. Now 3 is my standard and on days I have more time or ambition I’ll do 5 or more.

There were other factors working against me today. One more was related to the temperature, and that is incorrect equipment. My warm-weather bottoms are black three-quarter yoga pants and they are way too heavy for high-temp running. So I was more overheated than I needed to be. Plus, I have never had seasonal allergies in the US, but there is something in the air here right now that is absolutely wrecking my nasal passages. I returned home after 4 miles a snotty, sweaty, music-less mess.

Alas. Can anyone give me tips on breaking the running-with-iPod addiction?

*Dear Glee: I have stopped watching you but I still listen to your music.



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5 responses to “The Day the Music Died

  1. Scott

    If you know more about the birds they no longer are just birds. You can tell them by their song, if it’s a warning or mating call, if they are native or imported or just passing through.
    My next strategy may be more due to age – – I used to think that my running was my time to excercise my body (legs, heart, lungs) but I found that I had left out my brain. I have the same challenges in thinking about the next mile or hurting side, but I use my run to excercise my will and deliberate intention. Very tough at first but I slowly got better and better at it and it has paid off in my non-running times. I am better able to deal with other tasks where my thoughts try to distract me from my goal (e.g., praying). Good luck.

    • unquiettime

      It’s interesting what you say, Scott… I have thought many times that my “weakest link” in running is not my physical stamina, but my mental stamina for it: how quickly I get bored, or my mind just “decides” I’m done for the day. It’s a good point that mental discipline in one area will show up in another (and undoubtedly I could use it in all of them).

  2. Katie

    I HATE running, but I do it occasionally. I would never do it without tunes, but for the h2o I’d say go camelbak or get a hydration belt. Beth runs lots and almost always with music, but when she needs to run without, she meditates.

  3. Tom

    Megan, the jukebok is in your head! You can instantly access any song, any artist, any genre, and all without having to fiddle with buttons, knobs, or d0-dads(?). The only problem I have, sometimes, is that I end up singing the same one or two lines over and over in my head. It’s a good time to analyze lyrics as well.
    Happy RunSinging!

    • unquiettime

      Yes, you’ll certainly discover the place in the song where you realize you never quite got the words, too….

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