I’ve often marvelled at the power of music. One song can instantly transport you back to a specific moment in your life, bringing with it a wave of nostalgia. Film scores can cause your heart to pound, while concerts can compel you to jump into a sweaty mess of humanity. For fun. Music can make you cheer, dance, jump, and sometimes even cry, and I’ll never stop being amazed at where it can take you next. Earlier this week, I found yet another reason why music is so incredible, and I discovered it while out on my morning run.
At this point, it is important to understand that I am not a runner. I grew up in a swimming pool, and therefore my body was conditioned to think that exercise only took place in zero gravity environments. As I grew older, and spin classes and hiking took over from my time in the pool, I studiously avoided any form of running, with the exception of running after the odd bus or runaway shopping cart. Therefore, it was not in a moment of good judgment last year that I agreed to run a half marathon, but agree I did, and several months ago I began my training. Due to my complete lack of prior running experience, the first reaction of my body to the start of training was instant shock, as in, “What on earth do you think you’re doing?!” The constant pounding of the pavement left my body confused and disoriented, and in those first few weeks, I very nearly called the whole thing off. I figured that if I couldn’t run for two minutes without feeling like I was going to die, attempting to run 13.1 miles would surely do me in for good. But I kept at it, allowing myself generous helpings of walking in between my running attempts, and as the months passed by, I slowly worked up to being able to run for 45 minutes straight.
Now before you send in any celebratory parades, let me assure you that not one of those 45 minutes are pretty. Starting at about 30 seconds in, I settle into my usual pace, one that can only be described as a new dance move called the geriatric shuffle, and from there I huff and puff my way through my usual neighbourhood loop. I was content with this achievement, until I looked up my pace and realized that not only would I come in last in an upcoming 10K race, but I was in danger of not making the pacing requirements for the half marathon, thereby rendering all of this pain and suffering moot. And so I began looking for a way to pick up my pace that did not involve me curled up on the side of the road in the fetal position begging passersby for an oxygen tank. This search was not going well, and my pacing remained stubbornly stagnate, until yesterday when something wonderful happened. Previously, I always listened to podcasts while running, using the time to catch up on my backlog of subscriptions, but yesterday, my sleepy brain refused to choose one to listen to, and instead I just lazily hit shuffle on a random music playlist.
Now I know that what I’m about to say isn’t exactly the scientific discovery of the year, but as soon as that music started playing, I could actually feel myself going faster as I ran in time with the beat. Turns out, simply listening to people talk isn’t exactly a great motivational tool when you’re trying to run with any semblance of speed, and as I clicked through song after song of fast beats and steady rhythms, I found myself settling into a pace that was much faster than any of my previous efforts. When I finished my route and looked down at my time, I had managed to shave two minutes off of my previous best.
I know that doesn’t sound like much, and I won’t be breaking any land speed records anytime soon, but I’ve found my key to running faster, and for the first time since I agreed to this crazy idea, I truly believe I can finish a half marathon. So from now on, my iPod will always be fully charged and ready to go for those early morning runs with my new running playlist all queued up. If you have any good song suggestions, please pass them on, otherwise I’ll see you at the finish line. If you can catch me, that is.