To Tune or Not to Tune, That Is the Question
Nothing polarizes a roomful of otherwise friendly runners more than the listening to music while running debate. Take a side. Fine. Someone will still always be pissed off.
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Pains and Sorrows of outrageous Monotony,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of boredom,
And by opposing with Music end them…
I have been on both sides of the debate, so I feel like I can offer a bit of rationality, a trickling of reason, LOGIC. When I first took up the sport, it was in order to get fit. I had no other reason. I was tired of the frumpy, lethargic piece of apathetic crap I had become, and the quickest way to turn my physique was through running. I had dabbled in it during my youth. My father was a runner. I knew it was possible.
But as much as I looked forward to change, I was equally terrified of the actual work I knew it would require. From what I could remember of my adolescent/teenage running days, I knew that, for me, running was a) boring b) painful c) BORINGPAINFUL.
So from the beginning, I used music to get me out the door, to keep me going. And it worked.
But a funny thing happened on the way to getting fit: I FELL IN LOVE WITH RUNNING.
Hooked. Addicted. I couldn’t get enough.
It wasn’t boring, it was exciting! It wasn’t monotonous, it was exhilarating! And sure, sometimes it was painful, but most of the time it left me feeling FANTASTIC.
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
Before I knew it, the music I used as a crutch to get me going in the morning became unnecessary. It became an obstacle to my complete running experience. I found that as I grew as a runner, the music became a distraction from the constant mind/body checking-in I felt was necessary for my own well being. I began leaving the iPod home on my easy recovery days.
Those easy, music-less recovery days morphed into days of great discovery. Without the Rocky theme setting the cadence or the trance melodies keeping me company, I found myself noticing interesting things along my route: the old lady watering her flowers, the taxi driver setting off for a long day’s work, the air temperature relative to the humidity. Not to mention the countless injuries/wrecks/collisions I avoided with traffic, people and dogs.
That was just the start.
Nowadays, I don’t run with headphones on at all. To be honest, the idea repulses me, but only because I enjoy experiencing the run with all my senses. Having lived most of my life previous being completely unaware of all that surrounds me, I don’t ever want to live like that again.
But that’s just me. That’s my opinion.
I will never chastise those who prefer the music-aided run, just like I will never chastise those who prefer minimalist shoes, or shin sleeves, or pink shorts. Do what ya gotta do to experience the run as best you can.
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair iPod? Nymph, in thy tunes
Be all my sins remembered.
The run is what is important. The run is above all else.
In racing situations, I will say that being aware is a responsibility that falls upon all of us — the music-aided and the music-less. If one can be aware of his/her surroundings during a race while wearing headphones, then that’s great. But if someone spits on me one more time having no idea I AM RIGHT BEHIND HIM because he is zoned out to Led Zeppelin, then I’m gonna go all Zapotek and stomp on his ass.