If you’re like most runners, you head out with your headphones on. I have nothing against the latest podcast, but there is little question that the right tune at the right time can take your run to the next level. Whether you’re logging some easy miles on the sidewalk or unleashing hell at the track, there’s a song for every run.
I don't throw on headphones as often as I once did. But, when I do, the tracks below always come in handy. Be advised, this list skews heavily towards tracks released in the 70s, 80s, and 90’s. In other words, these aren’t just some of the best running songs out there, they’re some of the best songs EVER ;)
A long, slow, easy run.
I tend to gravitate towards something mellow, rhythmic, relaxed and lengthy when running long. The song that best captures this energy for me is 'Riders on the Storm' by the Doors. It's a slow, relaxed, rhythmic track that seems to go on forever. It also has the vaguely foreboding sound of rain and thunder in the background for the duration of the track.
If you're anything like me, it's hard to hold back and run 'easy'. Listening to 'Riders on the Storm' effectively forces you to relax. It forces you to run easy.
This one is my go to track for any run that lasts more than two hours. On occassion, I've even put this track on repeat for miles. Riders on the Storm is particularly effective during a long run when it is 'actually' raining. Give it a shot!
A lung searing interval session at the track.
A lung searing interval session at the track isn't a run. it's a FIGHT. So, I need the kind of song to get me in the right head space to fight. I need a fight song.
Just about anything that is angry, aggressive, and/or defiant works. I love Judas Priest's 'You Got Another Thing Coming'. It's got an undeniably defiant edge to it.
But, the song that never fails to get my adrenaline flowing is 'Welcome to the Jungle' by Guns N' Roses. It's unrelenting. It's angry. It's everything I need.
Notching a few (or numerous) 400/800/1200 meter intervals is a beastly challenge. It is throwing yourself into the maelstrom. It is the jungle.
If this one doesn’t light your fire and make you want to unleash hell, I don’t know what will.
An epic trail run.
If you run on the trails long enough, you're going to encounter something amazing. You're going to encounter something epic. It's not a question of 'if', but 'when'.
I encountered my first (and only) rattlesnake on the trails. I saw sunsets so beautiful they stopped me dead in my tracks. An epic trail run requires an epic track.
Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' is my epic track of choice. It has a rhythm that builds. It gets bigger. It crescendoes. Then, it starts building again.
This one simply 'sounds' like an epic journey. I love it for long runs of any kind. But, it's all too appropriate for a lengthy sufferfest on the trails.
A personal best.
You've invested months and miles for this one. A personal best is right there for the taking. But, you have to rise to the occasion.
For a moment like this, you need a track that inspires you. It needs to enervate you and elevate you. This track needs to remind you can go further, faster, higher.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers rendition of 'Higher Ground' does it for me. This song captures the essence of my first year as a runner. Every run was a personal best. So, was every race.
I just kept chasing the runners in front of me until I reached higher ground. It all culminated with my FIRST win at a race after nearly ten months of relentless training. It was two miles on the track. It was a massive personal best.
While I wasn't listening to this song during the race, I still give the Red Hot Chili Peppers most of the credit for this win as I was playing 'Higher Ground' obsessively before the race.
Higher Ground is aggressive. It’s unrelenting. It is a track that does not back down. In other words, it's a great 'personal best' track.