Embarrassing Confessions: What's on My Perfect Race-Day Playlist

I’ve been tinkering with my running playlist this morning in anticipation of Sunday’s race (seriously, SO MUCH ANTICIPATION) and thinking about what exactly will be needed to make it the Best Playlist Ever.

Before I tell you my theories though, what do you think about running with an iPod? In some races, it’s forbidden. I think the reasoning behind that is safety — race organizers have to get insurance, and apparently some insurers won’t allow headphones to be used. I specifically picked the Birmingham race (over, for example, the Atlanta race) because headphones would be allowed. I couldn’t imagine being out there running for 150 minutes or so without music – to me that sounds unbearable.

I’ve been thinking, though, and I’d like to try running without music sometime soon. Not during this race, of course, but sometime afterwards. I’d like to try some trail running, and that seems like the perfect time to go sans pod. For safety, to be sure, but also in order to hear all the sounds of the woods and maybe be in tune with myself better as well. But that’ll be happening down the road. (Bad pun. Sorry.)

This weekend, I need the perfect playlist to keep me going. I have a range of music on here, but a lot of it comes from the pop / hip-hop / hip-pop / dance / generally cheesy crap genres. You have been warned. Laugh it up all you want, friends, but this is proven running magic, I tell you.

Any good list has to have a combination of three types of song:

1. Known Training Favorites: any song from my training playlist that I either know from experience makes me kick it up a notch, or that I remember vividly from any great past run. Those songs will be familiar but hopefully not boring, and will have positive associations built right in. Examples: Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious,” Kanye’s “Stronger,” and Sinéad O’Connor’s “No Man’s Woman.”

2. New/Forgotten Catchy Tunes: anything I know and like but haven’t heard a lot (recently). I like to intersperse these throughout the playlist so that I’ll always have something new and interesting coming up around the bend. I picked out a few of these at the last minute from the radio and a few from my iTunes library that I haven’t heard in a long time. Examples: Low Fidelity All-Stars’ “Battle Flag,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer,” The Pixies’ “Alison,” Timbaland’s “Carry Out,” and The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA.”

3. Generally Inspirational Songs: I go fairly literal here. We’re talking Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” Cake’s “The Distance,” The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” (SHUT UP, YOU), the cast of Glee’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and the like. These always work in a pinch.

The playlist is three hours long, but I’m hoping I’ll only hear the first two and a half hours of it. I don’t plan to hit “play” until I cross the official start line (i.e. not during what I imagine will be a long walk/jog up to the starting line from my position in the back of the pack with the other slowpokes). Here it is (click to embiggen):


  1. Oh, but have you looked into any New Pornographers songs? There are LOTS of really upbeat ones, like: All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth, Mass Romantic, Use It, It’s Only Divine Right, All For Swinging You Around, and Letter From An Occupant.


  2. There’s this insane japanese band called The Boredoms and in particular a song called Seadrum that is an excellent workout tune. Firstly, it starts off nice and slow and then really builds up to what a friend of my described as the sound of a trainwreck hitting a waterfall. Secondly, it’s like 26 minutes long.


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