Running with music does NOT make me slower

I’m a huge believer that while running can be a group activity, it is extremely personal.  What works for one runner may not work for someone else.  Through trial and error, we find what works best for us.

For example, I take a day off before a long run and prefer to do a shakeout run after a long run.  I am rested for my long run and recover well from the back-to-back runs.  However, I know many runners who train the opposite way.  Sure, you can you argue all day about the benefits / drawbacks of each, but in the end, you do what you feel most comfortable doing.

Another example – I wear a Garmin when I go on my “quality” runs (long, speed, and tempo runs) but I prefer to not use one on easy days because I want my body to dictate the pace – without being consumed with my pace.  I don’t judge those runners who will never run a mile without their Garmin or those who would never come within 5 feet of one.  Again, it’s a personal decision.

I run with music.  Almost. Every. Single. Run.  I’m not ashamed to admit this.  I am a music lover – I enjoy everything about music.  Music makes me happy.  Which is  why I take it with me on runs – especially on long runs.  For me, there is nothing better than when one of my favorite songs come on my IPOD and I get pumped up and pick up the pace during mile 20 of that long run.

I also race with music.  I have run some big races with my IPOD:  NYC Marathon, Boston Marathon, NYC Half…yes, there are literally millions of fans along the course.  I’m sometimes asked why I would wear music and “miss out” on all the cheering.  There are points at all of my races where the crowd is intoxicating and motivating – it doesn’t take much energy or coordination to shut the music for the 5, 10, 20 minutes that I want to enjoy and soak up the crowd.  And I try to keep the music low enough to hear the cheering.  In my opinion, it’s the best of both worlds.

Running with my IPOD does NOT make me slower nor does it make me any less serious of a runner.  I’ve run my fastest times with my IPOD.  And I consider myself to be a pretty serious, dedicated runner.

There seems to be this elitist mentality among some runners who run sans music.  (Note: I’m not saying every runner who doesn’t use an IPOD feels this way but I’ve encountered many who fit this description).  I’ve been in conversations with runners who almost scoff at me or look down on me when they hear I wear an IPOD – as though running with music is for casual runners – not those who are serious.

I’m sure there are countless arguments as to why running without music helps you and your body – you can hear and monitor your breathing, enjoy nature and your surroundings, be on the lookout for dogs, cars…But you can use those arguments for why you want to run with music – I have found that my heavy breathing psyches me out, I prefer to enjoy my surroundings with my favorite music, and I keep music low enough (or only in one ear) when I am running along the road or any other area that could be unsafe.

So to all the runners out there that look down on us – please don’t.  I am just as serious and dedicated as you are.  I train hard.  I race harder.  My IPOD does not mean I take running lightly. 

What are your thoughts?  Are you a music lover?  Or do you prefer running sans music?

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    46 thoughts on “Running with music does NOT make me slower

    1. Thank you this is so refreshing to hear! I am a musician and I think one of the main reasons I love to run is it gives me a chance to listen to new music or lose myself in old faves. A great song with a perfect beat can re-motivate me and get me through when all I want to do is stop and walk. I have been reading post after post about these Zen runners who shun music on runs, and this made me feel I needed to do the same or else I’ll never be a ‘real’ runner. Thank you so much for showing me the opposite!

    2. I run with one earbud in and one tucked under my bra strap – this way I get the benefit of music (can’t run without it!) and the safety of still being able to hear what’s going on around me. BTW I’m running my first full marathon in my native NYC this November (was in NY having travelled all the way from San Diego when it was cancelled last year). Unbelievably excited!

    3. I prefer to run without. But that’s mostly because I do most of my runs on mountain trails and need to be super aware of my surroundings. I’m slightly scared at the thought of running into a bear or a snake. Although I’ve only encountered birds and squirrels so far.
      I can understand it on a flat course when it gets boring. But frankly I’d have to find something that says in my ears and doesn’t fall.
      Cécy recently posted..Blue Ridge Marathon: My First 26.2 (Part 2)My Profile

    4. Personally, I don’t run with music purely because I can’t get headphones that sit nicely in my very oddly shaped ears and I prefer to be able to concentrate on feeling comfortable rather than wires and headphones. Plus I get bored really easy and only tend to listen to half a song at a time!

      Each to their own though, every runner is different. Thats why I love this sport so much, it can include individuals preferences, quirks and habits.

      • Helen, have you tried Yurbuds? That’s what I use and find that they stay pretty well in my ears! I also take the wire from my IPOD and put it under my sports bra and shirt/tank top to keep the wires out of my way !!
        I agree – my favorite thing about running is that there is no right or wrong way…Some of the best runners have the strangest looking form!! LOL

        • Thanks! I will look into them, if not for running but for the gym. My gym has the WORST music ever :)

          Happy running, mama!


    5. I guess I didn’t realize people’s personal decisions about running with or without music was an issue or topic of debate. Personally, I don’t run with music 99.9% of the time. I’ve been running since I was a kid and running with music wasn’t an option during track practice in 7th grade. I think that’s why I don’t listen to it now. I also know that most people these days do listen to music and I’m usually the odd man out and people think it’s weird. To each their own,right?
      Jess recently posted..I Tried It: Duct Tape on a BlisterMy Profile

      • Jess – it may be just me, but I’ve experienced quite a number of rude looks or even comments when “serious” runners see me with music. I think most of the runners that grew up running (like you) are accustomed to no music as well as those that compete at the higher levels b/c it’s illegal. And I agree – everyone has their own tendencies when it comes to running!!

    6. I’m one of those runners who run with music although I see more and more races these days, which urge runners not to wear devices which are related to iPod or cell phones due to security. I can understand that but I feel that when I run with music, it makes me run better. Perhaps it the beat or perhaps it is that the music make me zone out of the world around me. But, I too prefer to run with music and just like you, I consider myself as a serious runner.

      • I’m glad you are like me on this topic!! I agree – I zone out with music – there are times I don’t even know what song is on – but I like not having the sounds around me (especially me breathing!)…I think RDs are trying to eliminate it b/c some runners have their music BLASTING which could cause some accidents/falls.

    7. I run all my solo runs with music. I love music and it almost always motivates me. I agree, hearing my breath or my water sloshing around can psych me out. I don’t wear my ipod when running with my friends because I don’t want to be rude 😛 If races allow it, I have my ipod with me and then just have it on when I want it, and off when I don’t. It’s not like it’s tough to push the little on/off button. With all I struggle with trying to think of myself as a ‘runner’, it’s nice to hear that a serious and talented runner runs with music 😀
      TriGirl recently posted..Blogging, Tommie Copper & BRD Sport Helped Save My (Running) LifeMy Profile

    8. I’ve always enjoyed music on a solo run but never a race. I must admit that I used to be one of those serious judge mental runners who thought, “How can he/ she race with music?” That was until I ran a HM in December with my ipod and PR’d big time- and I felt great the whole race. Since then I have raced in 2 marathons, a 15K, a 10K and a 5K with my ipod. The only race it didn’t help me was the 5K. The race was just too fast for my music or something. For every other race distance though it has been WONDERFUL!

      What are your favorite running tunes? Just curious. I’m always on the look-out for music to add to my running collection! :-)
      Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom recently posted..Dear Boston 2013…My Profile

    9. For many years I have run without music and here is why.. I have three little kids all about the same age and I have ADHD tendencies (they are all asking me for something at the same time and after several hours of this I need to decompress, my brain gets overloaded) I really rely on my running to clear my head, until recently I could not even have it on in the car. Now that my kids are getting older I find that music has become a comfort to me. I am going to be moving across the country and unable to run with my friends and think music will be a nice on those lonely long run days. I have found that people judge you based on what is going on in their lives at that moment. Because you are such an incredible athlete I am sure some will find anything little thing to make them feel more superior (false power) …. as you said it is so personal. btw- Just downloaded Kate Bush “Running up that hill” because I thought that’s a great tune for a hill workout… see, I’m ADD… your posts are always so thought provoking that I leave these lengthy comments…you are probably snoozing by now. goodbye xo :)
      Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Three Little BirdsMy Profile

      • Hehe…I try not to just write posts about my running – I feel like it doesn’t offer my readers a chance to give their opinion or discuss something between them, you know? Otherwise it just feels like I’m writing to hear “good job” and stuff like that =)
        I totally get what you are saying about NOT wanting music and just wanting some peace and quiet. Ask me in about 10 months and we’ll see if I am still running with my music. LOL.
        I had no idea that you were moving. That’s so sad =( I’m sure you will find some runners right away that live close to you!! And thank you for the compliment – I just don’t get understand why some runners think it’s beneath them to run with music. Oh well!
        PS. Love the new song!

    10. I am definitely a music every run and race kind of person. Without music I tend to get so “in my head”. My thoughts are rather chaotic. Music helps me straighten things out and get in a running zone. I have thought about running without just to try but I’m not sure.
      Jeni @ stepping out recently posted..New River Marathon Week 6My Profile

    11. I’ve recently discovered that I need to run with music for long runs and long races and at first I totally hated myself for it. In college I was told that only non-serious runners use it, and that it’s a crutch. Now that I’m running longer distances and my breathing totally psyches me out, it’s what helps keep running enjoyable for me!
      Meg G recently posted..Not a real taper and what to do this weekend?!My Profile

    12. I almost exclusively run with music!!! I have a huge passion for music, of all varieties. there is something in every genre I enjoy.. (ppl who listen to my iTunes on shuffle would probably be really confused)

      I have heard people say it means we aren’t as dedicated, serious, fast, bla bla bla. you name it, we’ve all heard it. It’s all bS though.

      like you said, what works for me may not work for you.
      Charlotte recently posted..7 Day Cleanse Recap – a TOUGH weekMy Profile

    13. I didn’t run with my music at Boston and I really missed it. I run better with music as I am able to focus better. It drives me crazy when people think that runners with headphones aren’t as serious, totally disagree with that!
      Robin recently posted..Boston Marathon 2012 Race ReportMy Profile

    14. I am a music LOVER. I run almost all of my runs with music as well. Especially marathons. There’s nothing better than an upbeat, fast tempo song at 20 miles. I also find that I am too much “in my head” without music, and I start thinking. I don’t like to think when I run, it’s my time to unwind, relax, and turn the brain off.
      Samantha recently posted..Saucony #FindYourStrong EventMy Profile

    15. I am usually a music runner, except when I run trails.
      I love everything you had to say here-it’s amazing to me how different runners are! Some of my running friends do things that would drive me absolutely crazy, and I’m sure the same is true in reverse!
      I have two friends who are elite runners, completely amazing women whose running abilities totally blow me away. One of them always runs with music, and one of them always runs without! Cracks me up that they are polar opposites on that one. :)

    16. I just recently found your blog and I am truly enjoying the read. Second I knew you looked familiar! I had to search your blog and sure enough I remember seeing you (on TV) representing SI at the last NYC marathon and you won. Congrats!
      In any case, in regards to running with or without music, I think that everyone should run as they feel most comfortable. While you need to run with your Ipod, ever since I got my Garmin, I need to run with it no matter what. Even if waiting for satellite is soooo annoying. I have always been one to run with music but I have done a few runs and races without music and not really on purpose but because I forgot my nano once and/or forgot to charge it the night before more than once. I have noticed that I am so much more in-tune with my body when I run without it and I actually don’t miss it. I think I talk a lot more to myself though. Overall, for the most part I think I will always have my nano on me for a run.

      • Thanks so much, Liz!! Yes – the FL5BC gave me my 60 seconds of fame, I guess. It was a great experience – one that I will never forget and will likely never be duplicated again!
        I agree with you – you do what works best for you. It’s just frustrating that there are some that look down on runners who “need” music. =) There are days when I shut off my music mid-run and just enjoy the scenery…but I like having it there – just in case =)

    17. Thanks for this post! I think there are a lot of people that hate on runner’s with music. I’m also a big music person so I enjoy having it with me! I also like to test myself without it occasionally on solo runs just to see how I do and try it out. I also run without it on group runs. I think it’s always good try different things and like you said see what works for you! Plus there are plenty of times when I’m out on a long run and a portion of that run I won’t even be listening to the music that’s on I’m lost in my own thoughts. Sooo there’s that too….

    18. I go completely w/o music, always. That’s just my preference. BUT–i don’t think people are any less a runner if they use music. One of my best running friends, a runner I admire immensely, loves to use music when she runs solo. To each his own!
      misszippy1 recently posted..Rockin’ the recoveryMy Profile

    19. Girl, I am in total 100% agreement here! I absolutely LOVE my music, and while I do enjoy running without when I run with friends, I think it really helps me stay focused and enjoy the run more. But you are right, there are MANY who think it is some anti-running crime to love it that way and sometimes I feel like I need to hide the fact that I enjoy it so much on a run. Thanks for posting this! It makes me feel better to know that other runners feel this way too!
      Jane recently posted..New Roaring Running SongMy Profile

    20. I don’t run with music for short races or some weekly runs but I am a HUGE fan of having my music for races. I tend to psyche myself out mentally when racing so music keeps me positive and motivated! I don’t have to have it but love having the option to listen to tunes when I need to kick it into high gear or push through the pain in a longer race!
      stephanie recently posted..Week 25 (4/9-4/15)My Profile

    21. I totally agree with you. It’s all about personal preference. I listen to my iPod during every single run. I run On a trail sometimes and during parts of that run I might turn off the music to listen to nature- especially of its been a rough week. I find I run much faster to songs I enjoy- they motivate me to run faster or slower. I have put a song on my running playlist that I have gone back and deleted after hearing it while running and hating it (only during a run). Just as I love music, I also love to read. On my long runs I listen to books on my iPod. I only listen until I feel I need more motivation (usually 1/2 way or less depending on the lengthy). I have 4 kids so reading is a luxury I don’t have much time for!! Thanks for the post!!
      Andrea @ Running 4 Mamas Comeback recently posted..This Week in PhotosMy Profile

    22. I do a bit of both and completely agree that it is a personal choice – who are we to judge what works for someone. On the days where life seems extra busy (and noisy) I like to run without music because I look forward to the quiet time. I recently discovered the 8Tracks app and love using someone else’s playlist because I don’t know what’s coming next and it keeps things interesting (I have a tendency to listen to the same stuff over and over again and that can get boring!)

      I am a solo runner (slowly convincing some friends to start running) so music is a necessity sometimes especially on the long runs.
      Jenny @ simply be me recently posted..Vancouver Sun Run Race RecapMy Profile

    23. This post makes me incredibly happy. It didn’t just get the point across – but it did so in an eloquent manner. I can’t run without music. (I’m also clearly not an elite runner.) But it’s not because I need something to help pass the time or get me through a run – I just love music. I love discovering music. I love finding a new song and saying, damn, that’s gonna feel so nice while running up Harlem Hill.

      • Stacy! Thank you =) I tried! LOL I agree – it’s not that music is a crutch for me – I just really enjoy it. Plus I don’t like listening to my heavy breathing…Music is a MUST going up those darn hills =)

    24. I do a little of both – running with music (or audiobooks) and without. Since triathlons & duathlons typically don’t allow music, I have gotten used to running without more often. I make a conscious effort to cut back on the runs I do with my headphones when I’m in the midst of those races – but I agree it doesn’t make me slower either. :)
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    25. Ooh I love that you did a post on this! It is such a “sensitive” topic among runners and EVERYONE has an opinion. I’ve tried both running with and without. Of course when I first tried running with, I was holding a CD player (hello I’m old!). I gave it up because it was too cumbersome, but tried again when the IPOD shuffle came out. I trained for and raced a marathon with it, and have to say it was actually one of my slowest times (San Diego 2007). At the time I was also running with a Polar heart rate monitor/pace keeper. I kind of took a hiatus from racing for several years (after the disappointment of San Diego). When I returned to serious training and racing in 2009 I swore off all “gadgets” and bought a $10 watch at Wal-Mart that only clocked up to 60 min then started back at zero. Ha! I’ve since upgraded to a Timex Ironman that does splits and doesn’t stop at 60 min (so that’s good:-) If I run on the treadmill I HAVE to have music (I’d probably stop after five minutes if I didn’t). If I’m outside I prefer to run without it, I feel more in connected with my environment, with my body, with my mind and with God. Running becomes more of a meditation for me (except on tempo runs/ track workouts). I would like to get a Garmin at some point, cause I think it would be helpful with tempo runs. We’ll see, but for now I like it just me and my thoughts:-)
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    26. I love to train with music, but I haven’t ever raced with it, mostly because of the “elitist mentality” that you’re writing about. I feel like I can’t be taken seriously with my ipod. However, in most races, I wish that I had just brought the music along and not taken into consideration what others will think about my listening to it.

      For example, I just ran the Boulder Spring Half, and as my luck would have it, I ended up stride for stride with a heavy breather. This dude was gasping for air, which made me second guess myself. Should I be breathing harder? Am I not running fast enough? When I went to pass this man, he says to me through his gasps, “I am NOT going to let you beat me.” I was stuck with him for 8 miles, until I passed him at the finish line :) During those 8 miles, I was begging for music to drown out his noise. Next time I’m in a long race, I may just bring the ipod along.
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    27. I could do either. I run with music in the morning on the bike path because it does make the runs easier/more fun. I don’t listen to music on the trail because I enjoy the trail sounds.

      Plenty of pros listen to music when they run. Meb advertises for that Sony headset and he says he uses it. If Meb can do it, we can do it! So there. :) I say whatever makes you run happy.
      Lisa recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – New Bike EditionMy Profile

    28. I would never think that running with an iPod would make you slower or a less serious runner! I always listen to music when I run on the treadmill and I definitely think it helps me when I need some extra motivation. I don’t run with music when I’m outside but that’s mostly because a) I didn’t own an iPod when I started running so I’m used to being without it and b) I’m generally kind of uncoordinated and am afraid I’ll fling my iPhone somewhere and damage it when I’m outside.
      On a side note, how annoying is it to deal with other runners’ opinions sometimes? Whenever I see other people running, no matter in what capacity I’m just thrilled that they’re out there and doing something good for their body. But I sometimes hear runners making disparaging comments about another runner’s clothing or pace or watch or whatever. It takes a lot to make that firs step to go out and go for a run, how could I ever judge someone for their other, inconsequential choices?

    29. I rarely run with music because it isn’t allowed in triathlons. When I need some extra motivation or I’m struggling to get out the door, I’ll grab my music. It is a great treat for me. I always run faster when I have it. Music is a great motivator not a crutch.

    30. I’ve never heard that music is for casual runners. I’m the same way. LOVE my music. I’ll also hit the pause button when running by a band on the course or a loud cheering section. AND you are right… if listened low enough you can hear both and it is the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

      I also do not run the day before a long run and most of my long training runs are with friends, sans music, all conversation. Sounds like we could totally run together. It would just have to be a shakeout run for you and track work for me that way we are at the same pace. LOL. Great post!
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    31. Amen! and “say that, girl!” Yes, I fully agree with your points. I find that music helps me run faster. I swear by it. In fact, I have a post I planned to put up tres soon with similar points.

      While wearing my ipod, I don’t feel less connected with the crowd cheering at an event, because I can still see them, hear them cheering, and feel their energy. And, while even though I socialize before an event, and after an event, and if you have a certain t-shirt on I will automatically talk to you, I am not about to talk to you during the actual run. Music helps me connect with something bigger in myself. Music is there for when just talking isn’t enough, when you need more emotion, and running is there when the energy of walking isn’t enough, so when you combine the two, you get one incredible, (and plenty fast) incredible experience.

      By the way, I will see you in NYCM 2012, with my ipod on and lip-syncing the lyrics with my blood ablaze, my soul burning with joy, smoke coming out of my arse, and dashing to the finish.
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      • Your words said exactly what I was feeling – and you said it so much more eloquently than I tried to do =)

        Looking forward to seeing you at NYCM!! Although we will have to chat before – not during – since we’ll both be bopping along to our music =)