Friday, October 30, 2009

THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY RUNS: My Top 10 Running Songs

I never run without music. I've been running three to four times a week for quite some time now and I can count with the fingers on one hand the times that I ran without music. It's a rather eclectic mix, the songs you will find in my running playlists. Punk, rock, grunge, alternative, electronica, house, folk, new wave, pop, hip-hop -- you name it. When choosing a running song, my criteria are simple: It should have a beat/tempo that suits my pace and is conducive to running, and its lyrics should stir some strong emotion. If the word "run" happens to appear in the lyrics, then all the better. Here are my top 10 running songs (in no particular order):

1. "#41" by Dave Matthews Band, from the album "Crash"

This song has an excellent relaxed tempo, and I find it perfect for LSDs - long runs at a steady, easy, relaxed pace. It's not an "angry" song, but it's intense enough to keep my energy at just the right level for a sustained effort over longer distances. This song is a staple in most of my "chop suey" running playlists, and I normally place it in the middle of the loop so that it would come on just when I'm at the peak of my run and when I’m feeling strongest. This song was a frequent accompaniment to my long runs prior to SIM 21k.

2. "In This Diary" by The Ataris, from the album "So Long, Astoria"

This pop punk classic combines a great tempo and killer lyrics that never fail to get me motivated (and nostalgic!). How’s this for a chorus?

Being grown up is not half as fun as growing up
These are the best days of our lives
The only thing that matters is just following your heart
And eventually you'll finally get it right

I usually place this track towards the end of a playlist so that it would kick in during the homestretch of my run. This was one of the songs that propelled me during the home stretch of RotaRun 10k.

3. "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World, from the album "Bleed American"

An absolute running classic. If the lyrics of this song don't get your heart racing, nothing will. It talks to you and tells you not to quit, to give it your all, and to pay no attention to what others might say:

Hey, don't write yourself off yet
It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just do your best, do everything you can
And don't you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say

It's the perfect background music when you're working your tail off trying overtake another runner at the last kilometer.

4. "Ocean Avenue" by Yellowcard, from the album "Ocean Avenue"

How can I not throw in a song from one of my favorite bands of all time? From the opening guitar riffs all the way to the last few bars, this song is sheer energy. It's fast and edgy -- perfect for running at tempo pace, or even for intervals where you need quick bursts of energy. But ultimately, I listen to it simply because it's by Yellowcard, and it sounds so “angas.” And the cherry on the sundae? The word "run" was actually used in the chorus:

If I could find you now things would get better
We could leave this town and run forever
I know somewhere somehow we'll be together
Let your wings crash down on me and take me away

5. "I Could Not Ask For More" by Edwin McCain, from the album "Messenger"

Talk about versatility. We used this song for our wedding video, and now it's one of my favorite running songs. I've always pictured this song as being the perfect track for an LSD set against a very scenic background, and SIM showed me that it would work. I was listening to this song during Kilometer 3 of the half-mary, while I was running at sunrise along Argonaut Highway by the Subic coastline, with cool wind on my face. I’m nowhere close to being religious, but the chorus of this song precisely summed up how I felt during those priceless few minutes:

These are the moments I thank God that I'm alive
These are the moments I'll remember all my life
I have all I've waited for
And I could not ask for more

6. "Freedom '90" by George Michael, from the album "Listen Without Prejudice"

The tempo of this song makes it a great opening track. But what makes it a great running song for me is the repeated use of the word "Freedom." I always tell wifey that the times when I run are the times when I feel most free. I just let go of everything for a couple of hours and forget about the concerns that plague daily life. Running affords me some much needed alone time – it’s just me and the road. This song is the perfect soundtrack for those moments.

And hey, I don’t care what you guys think about George Michael hahaha!

7. "Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance, from the album "The Black Parade"

Absolutely great for attacking uphills and inclines. It starts out very slowly and with a very ominous feel, and then suddenly explodes into an angry track with a relentless tempo that can make you will your way up a steep incline. It’s a song that’s dripping with anger and raw emotion – the perfect soundtrack for the tough stretch of a 10k run where there’s no time to pace. I know, because this song fueled my rain-drenched run up the Kalayaan flyover during Ecodash.

8. "Wonderboy" by Tenacious D, from the album "Tenacious D"

In case you didn’t know, the frontman for Tenacious D is comedian Jack Black. That should give you an idea of how nonsensical the words of this song are. The lyrics are crap (actually very funny), but the melody and the tempo of this song makes it a powerful running song. For the longest time, this track was my Power Song in my Nike+ iPod – the one song that I turned to each time I needed a quick surge of strength. And for some reason, I’ve just got to have this song on everytime I run along Father Masterson in the Ateneo campus.

9. "All Out" by Tupac Shakur feat. Outlawz, from the album "Until the End of Time”

Tupac Shakur is one of the greatest and most influential artists of his time. Call me weird, but I have his name carved on my arm. I did the carving myself on the day he was mudered back in '96. Dala ng kabataan at kalasingan hahaha. No way am I running without The Master.

Put the women and children to bed. This stuff is hardcore. This track was one of my earliest running favorites, and I still turn to it for inspiration every so often. Check out the chorus and you’ll see why I usually have this blasting in my earphones during uphills and tough stretches of my runs:

We goin’ all out, bomb first till they fall out
Take them to the war route, without a doubt
Ball, which means we all ride if it's on
Each n***a handle ya own, bring it on strong
If you got bills to pay, n***a go all out
Bustas playin’ with ya peeps, betta go all out
Try'na see the next day, n***a go all out
Obstacles in ya way, you better go all out
Without a motherf****n’ doubt

You want passion? That’s thug passion right there. Whether you’re on a treadmill or going up St. Martin outside ULTRA, this song will get you to the top.

10. "City of Blinding Lights" by U2, from the album “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”

Dozens of U2 tracks are good enough to make this list, but I give the nod to this one. It’s perfect for starting long runs with, because it starts out slow and then just morphs into a subtly intense piece, but does not grind you out or tire your brain like a lot of other heavy tracks. I remember listening to this song while I was heading for Lawton Avenue during the Urbanite Run last March. Picture this - a cool night run at a pace straddling somewhere between easy and tempo, with the glitzy lights of the 40-storey residential towers dotting the horizon, with Bono and U2 playing in the background. What an experience.

There you have it, folks. The soundtrack of the runs of an average recreational runner. What’s on your running playlist? It would be great if you’d leave a comment and let me know what makes your motor go. Help me create a new playlist composed exclusively of songs that rock your runs.


  1. Good job with the playlist Jules, I'm a fan of '41' myself :) For the life of me, I still cant understand why we didnt see you at SIM bud!

  2. Ok, ok.... I suck at music... Isa lang ang alam ko sa mga songs na ito... ahehehe!

  3. Hi! Found it intriguing to find out what other runners listen to! #41 was one of my faves back in college! Woot!

  4. My Chemical Romance is a good album with that parade song. Bought it a while back. I like track 14 I think it is? I havent ran with music in about a year or so, but when I did, I like Disturbed, Ramstein, etc... Shit that will make your feet fly.