To Run With or Without Music, That is the Question

When I first started running, listening to music was non-negotiable. I could not imagine running without it and always had an IPod full of upbeat tracks to get me going. I have successfully ruined many songs this way, by playing them on repeat and not switching up my music enough. The upside is, anytime I hear Bruno Mars Locked Out of Heaven, I remember my trip to Rome and running on cobble stone everyday (and the pain in my legs that followed). Music has brought a lot of enjoyment to my running, but I am starting to question whether or not I should be listening to music on my runs.

Music used to have a lot of control over my running and performance, I would delay runs if my IPod was low on battery. I have even attributed poor race performances to not having music (only once, or twice, but still). As someone who has spent most of their time as a runner, running alone, music was my company, my distraction when things got tough and my extra boost to cross that finish line. And then I ran the first 2 races of the year without music (it isn’t allowed for safety reasons) and still PB’d (WHAT?!). It seems I gave music too much credit.

While music is not integral to strong performance (the pro’s aren’t wearing earbuds during competition clearly), I don’t think it’s a problem to use it as long as you don’t give it the weight I did. If you need music to get you out the door and do something active, by all means. I can definitely relate to that. If the music of choice is up tempo, I think it can help keep your cadence in check. The target is 180 steps per minute, so choose your music wisely! Presumably, you could use the music to train your legs to run at the ideal cadence and then continue to run efficiently without it.

As of late, I am running with a group for both my weekly workouts and sometimes my Sunday long run. That leaves 3 or 4 runs a week to listen to music(Spotify’s Vacation Haus, anyone?). I will likely continue to race without music this season, at least for the Island Race Series, since it is not allowed. The big question is: do I want to run my next marathon with music or without? At this point, it feels like a long time to be running in silence and a lot of time to think. Racing a 10km without music is fine, but I am not sure I want to run 3 hours and change without it. That might change though.

I think the problem some perceive with listening to music on the run, is that it distracts you from what you’re doing. It could cause you to be less mindful about your running form. Maybe your form falters and the thumping base drowns out your heavy feet, leading you to run like an elephant. Or maybe not. I can totally see the case for running without music for short distances. Realistically speaking, the reason for using music during a marathon IS for a bit of distraction because you’re running 42.2 frigging km and it’s going to hurt. Plus, my form will probably suffer during the last 10km of the race anyway, again just being realistic. I think I will make a decision closer to race day, since there are still almost 11 weeks between now and then. For now I will continue to use music for half the week only and see what happens.

What are your thoughts on running with music? Have you ever run a marathon without it?


One thought on “To Run With or Without Music, That is the Question

  1. When I ran the Alice Springs Marathon, with a field of 60 competitors and much fewer spectators and race supporters and a 5:00 am start time to avoid the heat, having music seemed critically important. But when running in Paris, Rome or any large city, music is a dangerous distraction.


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