Over the past few weeks, with the long run taking 2-3 hours and the midweek easy run often taking over an hour, occupying my mind when running alone is becoming a bigger deal.
Some runners don’t run with music. I didn’t at first, because I was always on club runs. Chatting is nice, or listening to other people chatting if you’re not feeling it. Sometimes they are necessary: my headphones ran out of battery during the very hilly mile 9 of the (much missed) Great Edinburgh Run a few years back, and the collective noise of 70-ish people huffing and snorting their way up Queen’s Drive was loud and irritating.
When running alone I do generally take headphones, even if I don’t use them for the whole distance. Sometimes you just need the boost but you don’t know when. I don’t listen to headphones when it’s dark or if I’m out very early or late, either. But I’ve been running by myself for the majority of this training cycle, and having something to listen to has been good for breaking up the monotony of longer runs.
I am not obsessed with sound quality, but I do like over-ear headphones more than earbuds and will never go back to wired models after so long with wireless Bluetooth. For running & training, the quality does have to be good enough to block out the traffic or the terrible gym music as well as being comfortable enough to not be irritating. I have tragus piercings in both ears so earbuds are not always the best choice, but I have a few pairs of headphones on rotation for varying uses.
I currently have three sets of wireless headphones that I run with:
The Skullcandy Ink’d are probably best for running – the neck band is comfortable and they block out a lot of external sound, but sometimes start feeling uncomfortable after a while. I picked them up randomly because they were on sale very cheaply, and I thought they would be good backup, but I use them more than I thought I would.
The snappily-named JBL E55BT over-ear headphones were a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and I really like them. I use these most often when in the gym/lifting or for general daily use. Clearly not sport headphones, but I run with them if I have no other option – they are slightly too big for my head and the movement can be annoying, but if I’m on a steady run then they’ll do, and they have the longest battery life. No good for faster treadmill sessions, though.
The Urbanista Chicago sport earbuds are new and my current faves. I really love this brand, and have worn Urbanista Boston for years after (again) picking them up cheaply in duty-free years ago. Although considered sport headphones, I sometimes found the linking wire with the battery pack to be heavy and irritating when running, although fine for everyday use. The Chicago is much lighter and the earbuds are a bit more comfortable – I’m enjoying getting used to them, and finding the perfectly fitting earpiece, as there were six sizes and shapes included. The sound quality is nice, although the controls are a bit cumbersome if wearing gloves. They’re definitely water-resistant: my last two long runs have been in torrential rain and they’ve coped very well.
In terms of music choices… yeah. Very variable. I don’t get obsessed with bpm, although there are a handful of songs that I know will slow or speed my pace, because I’ve been running with them for years & they are such old friends. I have a general racing/running playlist that I add to as required. Generally upbeat, sometimes not. Some obvious choices, some choices I’d never admit to in public. Sometimes I want to run slow & feel melancholy, sometimes I need the hi-NRG nonsense with a constant beat to keep the feet moving. Songs that have got me through difficult races can be good or bad depending on mood.
This training cycle, I’ve also been making an effort to listen to podcasts on the longer runs. Music can make me run faster than I need to sometimes and the flow of a podcast makes the miles slip by. Starting with the very good From Your Big Sister, I’ve since spent my Sundays listening to On The Engender, Jog On, podlitical, Standard Issue and 2 much girls. I’m still happily working my way through previous episodes of most of these, but any suggestions for running/fitness/feminist/political podcasts are welcomed…