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Dr. J. on Running

The Sound of Music

Songs That Inspire Runners

Published May 22, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

In an earlier column, I denounced runners who used headsets or walkman radios while running. The thought of having music pumped into my brain while I run is as foreign to me as venison steak to a vegetarian. One of the reasons I run is to get away from the sounds of society, not to bring the noise along for the trip.

Aside from philosophical reasons, running while wearing a headpiece is a potential danger, especially to runners who run alone. While the sound of music can easily block the noise of traffic, it can also mask the sounds of oncoming vehicles, chasing dogs, or flying objects.

Music on the run can distract a runner from potential danger. However, I enjoy listening to music as a means to enhancing my stress release - as long as I don't have to carry around a headset and block out nature's sounds.

The sound of music can be a powerful way to bring back memories. A special song can remind us of favorite friends or loved ones; of magical moments in our lives when we were younger, happier, thinner or faster. I recognize the value of music as a motivational tool. Specifically, the beat and rhythm of some songs or compositions can bring new life to tired legs, causing them to turnover at a faster pace and distracting weary runners from their routines.

The right songs can relieve us from pain, or shorten otherwise tedious long runs. To our subconscious, a peppy beat can cause us to increase our heart rate and quicken the pace of our forward motion. As we hear the beat, our legs move faster, our arms churn to the rhythm, and our spirits rise to visual images that music brings to our minds.

At the recent national indoor scholastic championship held in the New York Armory, runners were treated to a constant beat of their favorite running songs during practice. The meet director certainly knew how to keep the athletes happy during warm-up and cool-down laps. If only I could understand any of the words of the songs they played.

Race directors have long recognized the benefits of music to participants, especially in longer events. Many of us measure our progress by the music played along a favorite race course. For example, the Village People's "YMCA" at mile seven of the Utica Boilermaker; The Stars and Stripes piping along the east side of Cazenovia Lake during the 4th of July ten mile footrace; or a John Phillip Sousa march played by high school band under a bridge during the Marine Corps Marathon.

Who needs a headset or a live band to enjoy music while we run? During my long runs, I 'listen to' the theme from another of my favorite Cazenovia footrace songs, -- Chariots of Fire. I visualize the athletes as they run along the beach, in a slow motion that makes me look fast, for what seems like an eternity. Songs like this make me feel immortal, but they do not help me increase my pace.

Other songs are useful for especially difficult interval workouts. Think about your favorite workout music. What do you hear? The Dixie Chicks' Ready to Run? Perhaps you hear the Bee Gees singing Stayin' Alive, or maybe something by Ice Cube? I doubt you hear Barry Manilow Trying to get the Feeling, but you never know. For fast-paced running, I favor the extremely motivational Theme from Rocky. Yo, Adrianne!

If you can't find a song that you like because the words are not quite right or the beat is not fast enough, do some editing of your own. I have altered a popular, fast-paced song to fit my needs. It used to be Lord of the Dance, but somehow all I hear is "Run, Run, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Run says he." I think you get the idea.

As I prepare for another noontime run, another tune starts to play in my head. I know it may not help with my leg turnover, since it has little to do with running at all. However, it will get me out of the door and onto the roads.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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