Bands on the Run?

Bands on the Run?

With all due respect to Sir Paul McCartney and the Wings, the running community has been reckoning with a melodious predicament: to listen or not to listen to music on the run. Folks have hard hitting opinions. The masochistic purists refuse any joy aside from negative splits, while the dutiful recreational runner literally cannot run without tunes giving them the beat.

Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way?

Tech companies would tell you the only way to run is with everything on your body having a GPS, a playlist, and a heartrate. If you ask your coach, they may start talking about having to run uphill, both ways, 12 inches of snow, wearing burlap shorts, or something in that old-timey storyteller vein.

And while the variety of headphones to choose from continues to grow, and more brands cater to headphones made with running in mind, there seems to be a clear division of whether to bump beats or keep your lobes free.

The Truth: stop letting old timers tell you what to do on the run. Admittedly, I am an old person at heart, something about running in nature, open road, blah, blah, blah. To be honest, my ears cannot fit most headphones and I sweat too much -- the truth is out there!

But to zero in on the haters-- stop. For the people that refuse to listen to music, we have our reasons (sweat) but that doesn't give us the rationale to be creating such division.

The Deeper Truth: coaches, elders, the people that helped make running a sport and not just something called jogging with a soft "j"  just did not grow up with the opportunity to have music so accessible.

Running with vinyl: impossible. Running with a "no skip" Walkman CD player: good luck. It was not until the iPod came into the world that the ability to run with music was a seamless merriment of miles and melodies. For as much crap as the iPod Shuffle got, they were pretty sweet for a weightless music experience. Disclaimer: the music lover in me could not grasp the psychotic nature of randomized tracks (I know it's in the name, but what a dumb thing). I digress.

As we look to the future of the sport, the rising stars know only a life with endless audible options; allowing you to listen to Tame Impala's anthology, and then add a Song Exploder Podcast about Tame Impala as a cool down. Company is okay, solitude is bliss.

But while researching this topic made me realize I run in an old school way, I do feel like there are some ethical ground rules as to when music is not okay. Here is my consensus:

Never in a Race

I'm sorry, but it's a race, be engaged. Plus, I'm pretty sure NCAA and USA Track and Field don't allow it. If you're in a Turkey Trot or Holiday Themed Fun Run, I don't even think they time those things so you do you.

Never on a Group Run

It's a group run. I don't like talking while I run but commit to the bit and engage with the people around me.

Never in a National Park

Oh I'm sorry, are the Rocky's not Rocky enough for you? Is Zion too beautiful for you to handle that you have to listen to Joe Rogan to sober the majesty of the Park?


As life moves forward, let the people jam out as they wish. The more I stick to my old bone’s mentality of a soundless void, the more I debate trading trainers in for Nordic Trekking Poles. The youth are the future, and that future is filled with sound and color. Let the rain explode into a mighty crash and the let there be bands on the run.