Running with music has long been debated among runners. The majority of mid packers seem to prefer using their iPods to get them through their race and help them enjoy their run. There are even studies that show music can fool your brain into thinking it is less fatigued and reduces how hard your running feels by about 10%.
I usually run with my iPod, but I use my running time to catch up on the podcasts that I am subscribed to. Podcasts are perfect during the run because many of the ones I listen to last around an hour or so and they fit right into my run. But when my podcast(s) are over and my run still has fifteen or twenty minutes left what do I do? I can not get through another podcast episode so I usually switch over to music to finish out my run, and by doing this I have discovered something about my running.
Music boosts the last few miles of my run.
Just the other day I was out for a 10 mile run. The weather was hot and I was getting tired. I picked a podcast that would last for most of the run, but I still had two miles left when the podcast ended. So I switched over to music. Despite my legs feeling heavy and my body tired and drenched in sweat, I started holding my pace with more ease and did not feel the urge to slow down like I had minutes before.
When I made my race day plan for last year’s Philadelphia Marathon I did a similar thing. I loaded enough podcasts onto my iPod to get me through mile 13 and told myself “no music until after the halfway point.” Halfway through the marathon that boost from the music was very welcomed. This year I may even divide the race into three parts, no headphones and then podcast and then music.
Save it for the end.
Clearly I have not done any type of scientific study or even tracked my statistics with music, but the anecdotal evidence is enough for me to know what to do in my running. You can definitely apply it to your running and see how it works for you. In fact I encourage you to try it out and tell me how it goes.
Holding the music until the end seems to be better than listening to music from beginning to end. If the music is playing the entire time you are running your body adapts to it early in the run. But, if you wait until the end of the run when your body is tired and starting to slow down the music will inject a boost into your body and it will be like having fresh legs for that final stretch.
So from now on, long runs and race days will not have any music until the last few miles of the run. I say 30% but in a marathon that is only the last 7.86 miles and I may need it for the last 10 miles.
There are many times in races I do not even use music and enjoy the atmosphere of the run. There are also times in the early morning when it is better just to connect with nature and enjoy the run as it is.
But when you need that boost at the end of your run to get you those last few miles, music can be a performance enhancing drug.