Find out the real TRUTH about racing with music

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Would you rather run with music or no music on race day?

It’s race morning. You put on your race shoes, your clothes and your bib. Do you also grab tunes?

We’ve chatted with runners of all levels and it’s a polarizing topic: you’re either a runner that races with music or not. But why? 

There are no right or wrong answers. There are reasons you might want to run with music, and the same number you might want to give it a miss.

And if you’re curious about how you rate, our poll said that 42% of you like to race with music, 58% without.

If you’re here for more than a browse, you’ll want to watch the full video podcast with special guest Remy B Reel.

Why you should race with music

Running with music helps amp you up, helps you achieve a steady (and fast) cadence and gets you in the zone. Here’s what our runners had to say:

1: Running with music helps you set the right cadence

When you listen to music, your body naturally follows a cadence that’s in beat with the music’s tempo. In fact, hit Google with “running playlist 180 bpm” and check out all the results that come up.

Running at the right cadence for you (which may or may not be 180 beats per minute) is critical for a great race day. Start out too fast and you’ll tire too early. Too slow of a cadence and you won’t hit your goals. The right playlist can help.

Want a great tip for getting your music just right to run the correct pace? Go to the end and see.

2: Running with music gets you in the zone

Your training all builds to race day. And you need focus to execute your plan. Listening to music blocks out distractions and helps you get into your zone.

“When I race, I just wanna be in the zone. And what I mean by focus, so it’s cater to then focus, is I feel like I’m in my own world, especially when I put some glasses on and I got those headphones in, it’s just like me and the road and the race and other people around me that I’m racing, that I’m either pacing with or going round.” -Daren

3: Music energizes your running

The right playlist can amp you up to perform just a bit better. It’s the tempo (see point #1) but also the excitement. 

“I almost never, ever run without music unless there’s been a malfunction of some kind. I need that fast and loud music in my ears to make me go faster and feel louder.” – @_banana_splits 

Why it’s better to race without music

Runners in the no-music camp are focused on safety and soaking in the cues around them. Here’s our runners’ reasons for racing in silence:

1: Running without music helps you enjoy your surroundings

One of the joys of running, particularly on race day, is to soak in your surroundings. Whether it’s the beautiful scenery, the friendly faces of the fans on the course sidelines or to be aware of course changes – there’s no question that racing with music puts you in a ‘zone’ that removes your focus from what’s around you.

“And why would you go to a wonderful experience only to drown out the sound of the crowd, support and the excitement and the atmosphere by pumping the same playlist that you’ve listened to over and over? I’d rather be one with the scenario, be with the environment, and really soak it all in. That’s why I choose to train without music, without headphones at.”

Remy B Reel/J Mike Remy 

2: When you run without music, you’re more in tune with your body

Your internal rhythms are an important gauge of how your race is going. What does your breathing sound like? Is it smooth and rhythmic or getting jagged? How do your footfalls sound? Are you starting to shuffle?

These cues are crucial to informing your run strategy and with music, you’ll miss them.

“No music, no distractions. I have a mental image they go through and I’m constantly checking: how is my breathing? Are my shoulders relaxed? Am I landing correctly? What’s my cadence doing? What kilo mark am I at? Is it time to drink? Do I need to eat? Am I relaxed again? I go back and just keep constantly going through them. If I’m listening to music, I’m just getting so into that track that I’m not focusing on the race. However, having said that, a long, slow run. I love listening to music.” – Mike Trees, @run.nrg

3: It’s safer to run without music

No matter how carefully a course has been planned, stuff happens. And it’s your responsibility to take charge of your own safety.

If you’re in your own world listening to music, will you notice a car that hasn’t followed a road closure sign? 

Many events don’t allow you to wear headphones, for this reason. You also need to hear any marshal instructions as well as instructions at aid stops.

4: Technology breaks. Be prepared.

Even music-lovers agree, technology breaks sometimes. And if it’s race day and you’re not used to hearing your body suffer, it may come as a bit of a shock. Your brain is an amazing pattern-detector. And if you haven’t trained it, it’ll hear the slowdown in cadence and think “geez, I’m tired”, and start shutting down. 

So, even though you have the fitness capability, you’ve been relying on the crutch of the music to block everything out. Is that a reason to not run with music ever? Maybe not. But be prepared.

Music or no music on race day: what’s the verdict?

We’ve talked to tons of runners and the verdict is clear: do what works for you.

“I train without music. And so the thought of trying something new and crazy on race day when I have my jam down every day when I’m out for a run [is too much].” – @run.anastasia.run

Bonus: how to make a race-day playlist to match your cadence

Method 1 – Super Easy | Not as accurate | Okay experience

If you have a Spotify account (Free or paid) type “180bpms” into the search bar. You will get a playlist that is around 180bpms of songs that are similar to what you listen to. It’s pretty awesome little hidden Easter egg.

I say it’s not accurate because some songs might be 177 bpms and some might be 183bpms. But most are close to 180bpms. Good for easy runs and maybe even tempo runs.

Sure, you can find playlists. You can get a music running app. Or you can do this hack, courtesy of DJ DLake (that’s me).

Grab your DJ mix. I listen to drum and bass DJ mixes – usually considered Black urban music in London and Europe. Most DJ mixes are set to bpm, so the songs change, but you’ve got an hour and a half of the same bpm.

Now, here’s the magic: Get the app Video Lan – VLC Player, which lets you change the tempo of your music with a slider. So, you can slide it to 1.03 and it’s 3% faster… and bam! A playlist at your favorite cadence.

Not a drum n bass/electronic music fan? No problem. Hip Hop can kinda work. Hip hop is usually between 80 and 100 bpm. So double it. Same for rock, but Rock and Hip Hop continuous dj mixes are very hard to find. Hrmmm… maybe I should make one?!

Method 2 – Not as Easy | Very accurate | Great seamless experience

Now this method involves a tiny bit of tech and downloading (gasp) mp3s. I mean… who does that in [insert current month and year]. But if you can download the mp3 somehow or use a Youtube/Soundcloud downloader (this is grey area ethic/legal so do this at your own

Bonus – or use a downloader) and you like drum n bass dj mixes (you can also do this with hip hop or rock dj mixes but they are harder to find.

Keep the conversation going!

These posts wouldn’t be any fun at all without our audience chiming in. So, please be sure to subscribe and chime in with your thoughts with a comment below.

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