A good song at the right time during a run is like downing a Gu packet – except it works a lot faster. When it feels as if I’m carrying my legs and not the other way around and the sun, the poor night’s sleep, the cramps and side stitches and the thirst are all powerful forces acting against my desire to locomote, a song can make me feel as if my shoes sprouted wings, as if I could keep running forever.
Like most anyone, I would guess, my playlist includes a strange mix of songs. Most of the selections reside there because I genuinely like the song no matter in what context I may be listening, but others are there solely to provide motivation. In any circumstance other than running, I more often than not hit “next” when one of these songs comes up: Kid Rock’s “Fist of Rage" isn't on my iPhone because I admire the lyrics; it’s there for when my run feels powered by my own sense of self-satisfaction (a la Ed Begley, Jr. in an old Simpsons' episode). Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly” guarantees a few minutes of seemingly effortless, smooth running – right up until the point when he forgets that all songs must end and I move on to the next tune. C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” needs no explanation. There’s the Justin Timberlake song, "Cry Me A River" (why is he singing about the Crimea River?); Journey’s “Send Her My Love” for when I need to drop the pace and Juliette & The Licks’ “Sticky Honey” to help pass the time by pretending I’m on stage.
Several eras provide motivation. Fats Waller’s “Your Feet's Too Big” makes me smile no matter how my feet are feeling at the time. "Candela" from Buena Vista Social Club is a five-minute Spanish language lesson (I've extracted gato and bailar and that's about it) and has great rhythm for a run. Sometimes 70s disco is what I need: Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, Vickie Sue Robinson. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, ELO, Joe Walsh, Steely Dan – the bands my older brother was listening to during his teens are good for a mile here and there and anything from a John Hughes movie or from MTV’s heyday (according to me, anyway) in the 80s – back when the rocket blasted off a set of videos. No run would be complete without “Rock Me Amadeus,” “Smalltown Boy” or “Thieves Like Us.”
Songs fall in and out of favor. My playlist is an ever-changing thing (btw, Style Council's "My Ever Changing Moods" is a great song whether running, walking or sitting). That all-important first song of the run used to be "Joe's Head" by Kings of Leon; currently it's James' "Getting Away With It." Thankfully there is a bottomless pit of great songs out there from which to choose - so long as my heart, lungs and knees are willing to keep hitting the pavement.