Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I have a confession to make, lately I have been struggling. Two weeks ago I had a fantastic 16 miler that really helped boost my confidence and chase away a lot of doubts I had been having about doing another marathon, but many of these feelings have returned after a disappointing 18 miler. I guess the poor attitude I had even going into it really sunk it for me before the run even started. I hadn't slept well the night before, it was extremely humid, and once the sun came up it got hot, quick. For some reason, 18 miles is my nemesis. Last year, I had the same problems. All runners go through things like this, and after a miserably hot summer, and a few things Mother Nature has thrown this way lately, like an earthquake and hurricane, finding excuses not to run and to be discouraged has certainly be easy.

I've also been dealing with a slight injury over the last few weeks. I thought I had finally tamed my plantar fasciitis problems, only to have them come back. I blamed some movements we did in my summer boot camp class as the primary culprit, but the reality is that it coincided with my mileage increase, so likely the combination of increasing both my mileage and going to twice a week intense cross training had something to do with it. I stubbornly did 18 miles knowing this, and yes, I knew it probably wasn't a good idea. Didn't this stubbornness lead to a stress fracture 3 years ago? Old habits are hard to break. I am being reasonable though. If it doesn't get better, I know 26.2 miles is impossible.

Anyway, the struggles with my 18 miler reignited a debate with myself - to iPod or not to iPod.

This brings my third confession - I've never run a race or done a long run while listening to music. I've probably only worn my iPod while running outside a handful of times, and all probably in my first year or two of running. Honestly, I'm not even sure I know where my iPod is right now.

Running with a music player is a pretty controversial topic in many circles. Some people swear by it, others are dead set against it, mainly as a safety issue. I agree it is a safety issue, and also feel it takes away from the race experience - listening to spectators and taking in the atmosphere as a whole. However, I have wondered lately if having music would help distract me when things got rough, especially since I am facing running the entire marathon alone. One of the reasons why I've never done it is because I never wanted to feel like it would be a crutch for me, one of those people would couldn't possibly think of running without. If I starting listening to music to on my long runs, would I ever be able to go back? Or, would I spend the money on a new, smaller player, wear it around with me, but never use it?

Yesterday I had a routine medical appointment, and was chatting with my doctor during the visit. She's currently training for her second half marathon, and is running it with another doctor and a couple of family members. She said that she could never run that distance alone, and what could people like me doing marathons possibly think about while out on the road for such a long time. That is the mystery of being a distance runner I think, and where some of us blossom, and some of us struggle. There's a fine line between squashing the doubts and letting the doubts take over.

So, I ask you - to iPod or not to iPod?


  1. It's like having a friend telling you a story while you're running, with the safety issue much reduced. You can be much more aware of your surroundings, don't need it too loud, and it's not CONSTANT sound like music. As I'm sure you know, I'm very anti-iPod, but to be honest, music doesn't really work for me for anything that's really long anyway. If I'm doing long mileage, a book is the only way to do it.

    If you haven't read it, I recommend Tina Fey's "Bossypants." Listened to it on a 14 miler, and I think she's awesome to listen to.

  2. I'm no runner, but I can't exercise without the iPod. I get too bored. If I'm walking into town I'll wear it, making sure the volume isn't too loud, and I have to say that the majority of joggers I've seen around here seem to listen to music. I think as long as you're aware of your surroundings and can hear traffic, I don't see a problem. Just my opinion.

  3. When I trained for my first marathon and all but one of my long runs was alone I listened to books on tape. Books I really wanted to read but was only allowed to listen to while I was running. I am one of those that doesn't like iPods for safety reasons, but every now and then I just need the distraction to keep me moving forward.

  4. I run with music when I am going solo. As a former marching bandsman, I find that I keep a steadier pace when I have a beat to run to. Most of my playlists have songs with similar BPMs. Also, singing (softly!) along with the music helps control my breathing.

    That being said, if I run with friends or family, I will not use music because I have them with me for distractions and support.

  5. I am for the Ipod on longer runs, it really helps make the time go and I find it helps if I am struggling and put on some 'bootie moving' music.

  6. I do all of my training solo, and while I'm okay with not having anything for shorter runs, I really like having music to keep me motivated for the longer ones - just do one earbud out or keep it at a softer volume. I really like the idea of books on tape too. May have to try that out!! I still prefer not to use music during races, though, as I find it generally to be more of a distraction than a help.

  7. I am so very new to the whole running thing, less then a year but for my first two 5k's I did it with music. Now I am training for a half marathon and I just went on my longest run every 8 miles, with a friend and I went without music and I loved it. I have been working on not using my iPod for short runs, 3-4 miles but still need it when I go solo for miles 4-7. So clearly I am torn what to do. I think if I wasn't running with someone I would like to have music, but with someone right there I think I can do it without.

  8. Add me to the audiobooks list! On my short runs it's podcasts. On my long runs, it's audiobooks. In races, nothing. I can't do music for the simple reason that I'm so naturally musical I automatically run to the beat, which while that could be a good thing inevitably pulls me off my desired pace.