Running up, over and through the cogs

Posts tagged “Music

Running with a Mind Full of Bach

bach with shadesI still belong to one of those good old fashioned email listservs.  It’s one that I have been a part of for a long time now — one I look forward to every afternoon; but at the same time it sort of stresses me out.  It stresses me out on a very superficial level, I admit, but still, stress is stress.

To be more accurate, this daily email often overwhelms me more than anything, as it generally features 20-40 individual links to the hottest news stories of the day.  These often include fascinating scientific breakthroughs, underground and outside mainstream opinion pieces and lots and lots of pictures of cats.  Rarely am I able to read/view every single one of them.  There just isn’t enough time!

Take the above alongside my afternoon dose of front-to-back Chicago Tribune reading, a neverending stream of Google Reader aggregated posts from my 100+ favorite blogs and the bevy of Facebook/Twitter feed links and articles being thrown my way every two seconds and I find myself actively vetting my reading material based on how sexy a URL may read.

There is just too much information out there — information I think I want! — attacking me via my laptop, my desktop, my phone, my other laptop and my BRAIN!  If I’m not careful, I become Fred Armisen, trapped in a technology loop:


Sometimes I get trapped in there, for very long, uncomfortable periods of time.

Running is the antidote.

Of course, I can’t always be running, or exercising for that matter.

Enter Johann Sebastian Bach.


I have long been acquainted with the works of Bach.  In high school and college I often cursed his named, wondering if he had ever even bothered to try singing one of his own tenor fugue creations.  People have to breathe, y’know.  Singers really need to breathe.

But sadly, my appreciation for his music never matured beyond the basic acknowledgement of his reinterpretation of what music could and should be.  I knew all the greats (Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, etc) looked to him as the godfather of melody — that the foundation for the classical explosion was rooted in the Bach catalogue, but that was about it, and I never bothered to appreciate any of it.

More than a decade later, while circumventing the technology loop with a playlist full of Lady Gaga, Die Antwoord and Modeselektor, body and mind ready to explode from information overload, I stumbled across this:


Instantly, I was at peace.

And I was just getting started.

The last few months have been a joyous trip through the ever uplifting works of J.S. Bach.  From violin concertos to piano sonatas, to choral masses, organ fugues and everything in between, I have become a bonafide believer in the beautiful bounty of Bach.

And the very best part?

Now I am running to Bach.

Not with headphones.  I don’t run with music.  I don’t have to, because Bach is in my head.  It is always there and I am always elated!  No more I’m Henry the Eighth I Am poisoning my psyche.  No more Cotton Eyed Joe, no more Hey Mickey, no more Blue da ba de da ba die stuck on autoloop for miles and miles and miles.

No, sir.

Thanks to the musical genius of J.S. Bach, I am free.  Free at last!

FREE AT LAST!!!


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.

*Footnote*
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.