Making The Perfect Running Mix

The first rule to Making the Perfect Running mix: you do not talk about Making The Perfect Running Mix.

The second rule of Making the Perfect Running Mix: don’t quote stupid fucking movies– just make a mix.

For you young readers, this is what  a tape looks like.

For you young readers, this is what a tape looks like.

(Yes, we all know that’s it’s really a “playlist” in popular parlance, but I won’t be hamstrung by your politically correct nomenclature. It’s a mix and it always will be.)

I’ve given this subject a lot of thought this summer because over 75% of my runs have sucked so bad I almost took up Zumba.   I blamed the weather.  Then it cooled off, so I blamed my uterine lining.  Other culprits: gas, grief, El Nino, Congress, imaginary cancers eating my  muscles, early on-set Ebola virus.

Then it hit me.  My music sucked.  I was running to the same playlist (composed in August 2012) every single time, which might work for individuals who more highly prize routines and predictability, but it was not working for me.

Of course you have to update your music– just like you’re supposed to retire your shoes after 500 miles (which may be a conspiracy on the part of shoe makers to get us to buy more).  If you’ve listened to Fun. for over 300 miles, it’s time to visit your local iTunes account and make yourself some new magic.

I spruced up my music and now I’m running better.  Faster.  Longer. No more daydreaming about how I probably have a rare strain of chronic functional abdominal pain or an undiagnosed tumor that manifests as a side stitch and a bad attitude.  Now, I’m running like the goddamned wind.

So to anyone suffering from shitty music syndrome, here’s some tips for Making the Perfect Running Mix.

  1. Don’t Try To Be Cool.  Look, it’s your playlist. It’s private, like your sex log or your scab collection.  No one’s gonna see it so don’t include music you think will impress others.
  2. Sentimental favorites.  You loved the Wham Rap? Milli Vanilli? Carly Simon?  Old school MJ? Put it in there, because the combination of nostalgia and endorphins will get your higher than a funny mushroom you can buy from that greasy guy who lives behind your cousin’s garage.  Tony Bennett reminds you of your parents slow dancing in the living room? RuPaul reminds you of losing your virginity on Shenandoah Lane in Highland Park? What are you waiting for? Put it on there because you may need it at mile 3 when your fatigue hits.
  3. Rebellious Anthems.  Let’s see: Maybe you teach feminist theory at the local college, but you love Blurred Lines, even though it suggests that (1) good girls don’t like sex and (2) that “girls” are animals that need to be domesticated.  Or maybe you are an officer of the law but you love cop killer gangsta rap.  Maybe you are a homophobic right-wing preacher but you love Cher in that forbidden fruit kind of way.  PUT THOSE SONGS ON YOUR MIX.  The thrill of rebelling against who the world thinks you are as you run with the music piped into your ears will help you cover many a mile.
  4. Cheese Out.  When all else fails, add in some Chariots of Fire or that Natalie Merchant song where she’s all “thank you, thank you” for being Kind and Generous.  Maybe some Whitney singing about the children or Elton John singing to the gone-too-soon Princess Diana.  You’ll be surprised how a little schmaltz will send you flying to the finish line.

33 thoughts on “Making The Perfect Running Mix

      • i do!! but like you, this summer, i’m been running slumpy, thank goodness for the runkeeper which at least keeps me a little competitive. i think i’m ready for a return to the tunes. at least, sometimes, when i don’t want to listen to the voices in my head. and i’ve read so many music posts today… am i missing something. ?

      • runkeeper is an app that i love!! it will tell you pace, map your run, and tell you if ran up a good hill.. that way i can tell mile to mile if i’ve sped up or down or having a slow run or what… i love!!

  1. True confession: Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Starting Something.
    There are websites that publish beats per minute as it equates to running pace to be sure those crooners don’t slow you down. I’m definitely due for a new mix.

  2. Nice! I love how you used “Usain Bolt-ing” as a verb. Excellent wordplay!

    And my mix would definitely have old-school MJ, U2 (always!), and maybe even some Neil Diamond — who can feel stressed bouncing along to “Sweet Caroline?”

  3. oh man. remember the days when you recorded a song from the radio onto a tape player?!? I don’t run (unless it’s to chase a jar of Nutella) but I love this post nonetheless. 🙂

  4. Fucking El Nino, I knew it!!!

    I’ve totally been thinking about adjusting my running music playlist after my Sunday long run included the theme to JAWS music, several Jackson 5 Christmas songs and a stirring Alvin and the Chipmunk’s rendition of a song I hate when it’s not sung by rodents, followed by several Laurie Berkner songs. While there is a time and place for all of those songs or they’d not be on my iphone, while I’m running is not the time. I literally almost threw myself in front of oncoming traffic it was getting so infuriating. Good music can make all the difference. Oh, and even though I am an officer of the law, I DO have some Easy-E, Snoop and several other gangsta rap tunes I enjoy on my playlist. Shhhh!

  5. I recently got back into music for my long runs, and now I’m hunting around for songs for my playlist. Most of my picks are crazy and most people would laugh, but I love them anyway.

    • Same here. One of my favorites is Willie Nelson talking about how how lucky he is. If you don’t like his music, you probably won’t like his singing! But I love it.

  6. My runs have sucked for the past 2 years – and wouldn’t you know it? That’s the LAST time I updated my iPod! Thanks to this post, I think I may be onto something….

  7. OMGGGGGG I just wrote a guest post on THE PERFECT running/workout mix! It’s going to be posted on on next Monday (I think) I would share it with you now, but I can’t spill the beans before it goes live. Check it out next week 🙂

  8. I hate running. Don’t mind doing it during sports, pick up basketball, football or baseball and I am a running fool. But just running, not so much.

    Used to run to the theme to Rocky but got tired of getting arrested for starting impromptu boxing matches with people. Never lost a fight but then again I never got one of those fancy belts they give the heavyweight champions.

  9. I used to run with one of Green Day’s albums (can’t remember the name of it) and then the CD broke (yes, it was that long ago) and I never got things back in order. Now that I have an iPhone (and have for over 3 years) there’s really no reason for me to not have a playlist or to run in silence if I don’t want to.

    My playlist would probably heavily feature Pink and I’m not sure what that says about me or what I think about what it might say about me.

  10. Pingback: What’s Harder Than Going Faster? Answer: Slowing Down | Outlaw Mama

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