iPods & the art of distraction

Thanks to Apple and the launch of the iPod 13 years ago, running was transformed, as you could easily store hours worth of music for any length of run you wanted. Granted, the walkman made this possible years earlier, but unless you ran really slowly, the movement made the music sound shit, CD walkman’s only made this issue worse.

It’s now one of the big choices you make as a runner. Do you run to a carefully chosen playlist on your chosen mp3 player? Or do you run to your own soundtrack & the sounds of nature/car engines?

When I started running, I couldn’t do it without music. I spent more time perfecting my playlist than I did planning my warm up. I would even try to change the music to not have the same playlist twice for the same run. The reason for this, was I might get to a specific song and feel really knackered, and my mental overthinking brain would remember that on the previous run I was feeling ok during that song. All of a sudden The Voice would be ramped up, knowing that this run wasn’t going too well.

If you’ve read the start of this blog, then you’ll know that I now use a lot of my running time to get my head straight on the issues of the day/week/month and to do this I can’t be listening to high energy dance music (or power ballads, as one of my close friends admits he runs too…) So I’ve changed what I listen to quite a bit over the years and to be honest I can’t really say I’ve stuck to one particular choice.

Some runs I still like a good club mix to run to, some runs I like nothing at all but the little angel on one shoulder and the wee devil on the other, fighting over who gets to choose my mood that day. But a third option, which again is down to the iPod generation is the podcast.

As your runs get longer, and The Voice gets more and more anxious for you to stop, a lot of folk need a distraction, which is where the music comes in. But I also find nothing works better in terms of distraction than a decent podcast. For me, I listen to football podcasts like the guardian Football Weekly or Scottish Football’s Off The Ball, or another option is listening to comedians. Richard Herring & Doug Stanhope both have great podcasts.

After the initial 5-10 minute burn of any run, when you feel knackered immediately, its common to get into a rhythm where you lose the concept of being tired and you just motor through the miles. When you’re listening to a person or persons chatting about something you are interested in, or a good stand up routine, it helps you zone out to this rhythm phase, distracting your mind from the reality that you’ve now spent over 40 mins hammering your bodyweight through your knee joints and feet & onto concrete. The one drawback of comedy podcasts is the chance of you looking like an oddball jogging up the main street in your running gear, sniggering away to yourself but if it helps get folk out your way then it’s not all bad.

A huge percentage of runners use mp3 devices & earphones now, but I wonder how much of them listen only to music when they are running? My brain can get used to distraction techniques if I over use them (Oh to be a simpleton) so I’m always on the lookout for something new.

Does anyone else have any specific things they listen to, to get them through each run? I’d be interested to know.



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