To date, that’s how many plays my iTunes account has recorded for “Dog Days”, by Florence and the Machine. I listened to that song, on repeat, for every single run I did for the first six, maybe seven months straight. I have a standing joke / deadly-serious agreement with my husband that if I ever need rousing from a comatose state, that’s the track to put on my headphones. If I happen to catch a few bars drifting out from a shop, restaurant or passing car, my heart rate goes through the roof – a Pavlovian response to the almost endless hours and miles of training to “You’d better ruuuu-uuu-un…”
Although I know many love to, in fact I don’t listen to music when I run any more; sometimes I’ll catch up with a radio programme podcast, or a recording of a talk or lecture, especially if I need to listen to something in particular. If my attention is focused on an audio track I run slower, so it’s a good technique to distract me from barrelling out too hard too soon, conserving my overall energy on a longer run. But in the early days, Florence was the only thing that got one foot in front of the other.
That song was perfect. I was aware of the somewhat obsessive nature of listening to the same tune over and over and over, for thirty or forty minute stretches, three or four times a week. Yes, it was a bit weird. But the beat was spot on for my pace. The lyrics inspired and challenged me. The familiarity comforted and strengthened me. And it’s a great big enervating kick-ass anthem of joy. At a time when I was training my body to do something it had never done before, and forcing my brain to tune out every inner voice protesting the pain, the bursting lungs*, the dead-weight of my feet… ceaselessly blasting this into my ears was better than a screaming drill-sergeant.
So as we’re looking at making a start – it may not work for everybody, but this technique formed a key part of my sticking power early on in my running journey: find a groove, and stick with it.
(*You see?? Album title? It’s a running song…)