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Image / Editorial

What to listen to when you’re out running


by Hannah Hillyer
19th Mar 2019
What to listen to when you’re out running

Hannah Hillyer is training for her first marathon this year- even though she hasn’t got a ticket yet and can barely run 5k without stopping for a break. Read her weekly running diary here on IMAGE.ie where she’ll be taking you on her journey to find the perfect sports bra, the best running apps as well as discussing all the pains and gains that come with a vigorous training program.


Before I went on my first ever run I spent hours curating the perfect playlist. I took it very seriously, trying to choose songs I liked that also had a BPM fast enough to propel me down the street as quickly as possible.

Looking back, this was all just an elaborate form of procrastination, as when ‘running day’ rolled around I put it off as this all-important playlist was not finished. It’s easy to laugh now, as I spent a week creating an hour-long playlist and could barely run for the length of two songs before coming to a shuddering halt.

Related: Hump Day: Here’s the ultimate Spotify playlist to get you through

Much to my running partner’s horror, I now no longer run whilst listening to music – but before you write me off, I don’t do ‘silent running’ either. That seems altogether too professional; only for the swishy, regular marathon runners who like to hear nothing but their feet pounding off the pavement. For me, that sounds hellish, as my goal is to completely block out the sound of my laboured breathing wherever possible.

The Podcast Runner

Instead, I listen to podcasts as I trot about my neighbourhood, which is what my running buddy cannot understand. ‘How can you run without something fast to keep you going? I understand where she’s coming from as before I would never have dreamed of trying to exercise without the thud of drums in my ears. The problem with me and music is that I get bored listening to it. It doesn’t distract me enough from putting one foot in front of the other, so that’s all I can think about, always painfully aware of how far I am through the run.

However, this is not to discredit the power of a good playlist. A song you love can come on just as you’re about to give up and start walking, the correctly timed 80’s power ballad can get your legs up a steep hill and sometimes the right Kanye song can get you through a particularly rainy evening run. Sometimes music can be the motivation needed, especially on the days you don’t even want to step out your front door.

Related: The only playlist you need this International Women’s Week

Listening to a podcast however is a much slower pace, there’s no tempo to keep you going. Instead, if it’s a topic I’m really engaged in I find it takes my mind off running completely. Suddenly I’m so engrossed in what I’m listening to I don’t feel the kilometres racking up like they would if I was listening to music.

Read whilst running

More recently I have dabbled with audiobooks which are something I have never used before, always favouring a physical copy that I can bend the spine back on. Instead of after work runs being something to dread, listening to an audiobook meant they were something to look forward to. By saving the audiobooks solely for these times, it becomes a sort of ritual and far more enjoyable.

I’ve run 5k’s listening to Pride & Prejudice (the one narrated by Rosamund Pike is oh-so-good), pounded pavements listening to Dolly Alderton narrate her wild youth in Everything I Know About Love, and more recently I am listening to Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. Finding books I really want to listen to or old favourites is key as it encourages me to pop in my headphones and put on my running shoes so I can hear more.

Related: TOP OF THE PODS: The top 30 podcasts we’ll be listening to in 2019

What works for you

As mentioned, you will often hear seasoned runners, who cover a lot of mileage, run without any music. For some, it can throw them off their pace, as instead of being mindful of their speed they run faster to the beat of the music instead. Many advocate running without distraction for safety reasons, and others because it’s one of the few times we can get away from technology and can be with our own thoughts.

It’s all about finding what works for you though, you may use your runs as meditation and want to listen to nothing at all. Or throw on some 90’s R&B or pop-punk (Blink 182 are great when you feel like giving up) but don’t listen too much to what everyone else tells you. Experiment, play around with different playlists, books or podcasts and find what suits you.  For now, I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to run long enough to listen to a full episode of Joe Rogan in one go, but I think that’s still a while off yet.

Header Image: Unsplash.com


More like this: 

  • How running helped me find self-acceptance… here.
  • Stretch the legs: 10 walks to do around Ireland in 2019… here.
  • Need a mental break? Check out the benefits of hot yoga… here.

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