Can Music Make You a Better Runner?

I'm a Convert

Recently I received an iPod Shuffle as a gift from PEAR Sports CEO, Kristian Rauhala. I loaded it up with songs I thought would be good for running and did a 15-miler. I was an instant convert to running with music. So powerful was its effect on my perception of effort and performance that I decided to experiment with wearing the iPod during the marathon I was preparing for.

That marathon took place last weekend. I waited until mile 14 to pull the iPod out of my shorts, for two reasons. First, I didn't want to do the whole race in a bubble. I wanted to be fully present with my thoughts and the other runners, spectators, and volunteers for at least half of the race, because there's something to be said for that too. (As much as I now love running with music, I will never be one of those people who runs with music all the time, or even half of the time.) Second, I knew it would be in the latter part of the race when music would make a difference--or not.

It made a difference. The pain I experienced in the last 5 miles was no less severe than in any other marathon I've run. But the music made the pain more bearable. It made me tougher and braver. I'm convinced I wouldn't have finished as strongly as I did (those last 5 miles were my fastest miles of the whole race) without the iPod. I'm now training for the Los Angeles Marathon in March, and I plan to jam to some of my favorite tunes through the second half of that one too.

Are you one of those runners who is "too serious" to run with music? Good. Stay that way. I need every advantage I can get.

Share your favorite with songs for running below.

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Active Expert Matt Fitzgerald is the author of Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen & The Greatest Race Ever Run (VeloPress 2011) and RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel. He is also a coach and training intelligence specialist for PEAR Sports. Learn more at







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