Mountain Mama: The Run the Music Died

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How running without music can help you tune into so much more…

Dear Mountain Mama:

I’m training for my first half marathon and always listen to music. My favorite playlist makes running feel easier. The race rules ban using portable music devices along the course.

This past weekend I attempted my long run without music, and from the first mile I felt fatigued even though I was well rested. The run took forever and I was so bored.

How do I make running without music easier?

Signed, 13-Miler

Dear 13-Miler,

Running with music can certainly take the drudgery out of lacing up your running shoes.

I’ve been a runner off and on since college, finishing two marathons and dozens of half marathons. Until this past weekend, I swore that I needed music to run. Then, two miles into my 11-mile run, my iPod died.

Without music to drown out other sounds, I heard my breathing, loud and fast. I spent the next mile taking long, deliberate inhales and slow exhales. I experimented with timing my foot strike to the pace of my breathing. The more I listened, the more I heard. I started listening to the sound of twigs snapping under my feet. The forest became a symphony of sounds – mountain streams, raindrops falling on the canopy, wind rustling leaves, and mountain bikers in the distance.

A funny thing happened. I looked around and realized I was halfway finished with my run. I enjoyed listening to the world around me, feeling connected to my own running rhythm, nature, and even other people.

I realized that music distracts me from my run. Always I ran away from the pain and discomfort of running, distracting myself with my favorite playlist. Without music, I was more engaged to what was happening inside and outside my body. I feared running without music, deeming it impossible to go more than a mile without listening to tunes. But when I finally was forced to embrace my fear or turn around, I found peace and, perhaps, even a little wisdom.

Find the courage to unplug. On the other side of your iPod, you’ll discover there’s so much more going on than you ever imagined. Run toward the beauty in truly experiencing every minute of every mile.

Good luck on your first half!


Mountain Mama

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