Monday, October 1, 2012

The Perfect Marathon Playlist

Every long distance runner knows that the crux of your marathon preparation really comes down to whether or not you can compose the perfect marathon run playlist.  Forget the intervals you blew off when you were hung over.  Never mind the long runs you couldn't do because you got injured.  If the right song comes on at the right time during your marathon, you will become Haile Gebrselassie.  Wrong song?  You'll spend the rest of the race trying to spell, and then pronounce, his name correctly.

Haile commands, "your playlist shall not suck"
Sure, we list-making/mix-taping marathoners don't have it as bad as they did in the '80s, when runners were locked down by their cassette tapes and walkmen, forced to either listen to an entire song or fumble with the FF button and wait impatiently before guessing where the start of the next song was.  The iPod's click-ability and ample memory allows you to put a bazillion songs on the device and navigate through them, but a sloppy mishmash of songs is still annoying at best and worrisome at worst.  You're not going to look forward to your next song with confidence when you're not sure if you put a string of 25 electronic dance jams on there, especially when right now you're hurting for that filthy Zep riff on "The Ocean".

So how does one compose the perfect marathon playlist?
  1. Visualize your marathon.  The race has highs and lows, times to get amped up and times to zone out, times when you need a laugh and times when you sacrifice a few salty drops to the asphalt.  You can't predict these times precisely, but you can set a working soundtrack to your day. 
  2. Don't get predictable with alternating fast/slow songs or picking only songs that have 180bpm or whatever.  That will suck the life out of your playlist.  Let your playlist tell a story, let it go for a ride, let it breathe.
  3. Listen to your playlist at least once all the way through to make sure it is awesome, but don't listen to it every run or the songs and the tracking could lose their punch on race day.  
  4. Don't let someone else (or your ego) make your playlist.  Remember in the Goonies when Mikey says, "this is our time, down here"?  This is your time. And it all ends if you take a ride up Troy's bucket.
  5. For the majority of your list, go with the battle tested songs that you love, rather than this week's latest release.  A marathon is emotional, and you need the songs that have been there for you all the way.
This weekend I'm running the Red, White, and Blue marathon thanks to Jon Dix, who unfortunately couldn't run due to injury, but graciously offered to transfer his bib for the race's very reasonable transfer fee.  Thanks Jon, heal up soon!

Here's my Perfect Marathon Playlist for this race:

Animal Collective -- "What Would I Want, Sky?"
Bruce Springsteen -- "Badlands"
Led Zeppelin -- "The Ocean"
Langhorne Slim -- "The Way We Move"
Arcade Fire -- "Keep the Car Running"
Elvis Costello -- "Chelsea"
Japandroids -- "Fire's Highway"
M83 -- "Midnight City"
Sleigh Bells -- "Comeback Kid"
Beastie Boys -- "Sabotage"
Nine Inch Nails -- "Head Like a Hole"
Alabama Shakes -- "Hold On"
Raphael Saadiq -- "Stone Rollin'"
Beyonce -- "Best Thing I Never Had"
Foster the People -- "Pumped Up Kicks"
Stevie Wonder -- "As"
Jay-Z and Kanye West -- "Ni**as in Paris"
The Replacements -- "I Will Dare"
Grizzly Bear -- "Yet Again"
The Clash -- "Rudie Can't Fail"
The Horrors -- "Endless Blue"
Tallest Man on Earth -- "Wind and Walls"
The Walkmen -- "Song for Leigh"
Wilco -- "Art of Almost"
Beck -- "Devil's Haircut"
Bloc Party -- "Like Eating Glass"
The Thermals -- "Now We Can See"
Neutral Milk Hotel -- "King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1"
DJ Shadow -- "The Number Song"
Stevie Wonder -- "I Wish"
The Vaccines -- "Wetsuit"
New Order -- "Blue Monday"
Hold Steady -- "Stuck Between Stations"
Kanye West -- "Stronger"
The Killers -- "Mr. Brightside
Spoon -- "The Underdog"
LCD Soundsystem -- "All My Friends"
Lotus Plaza -- "Monoliths"
Modest Mouse -- "Doin' the Cockroach"
Nirvana -- "In Bloom"
Notorious BIG -- "Things Done Changed"
Outkast -- "Bombs Over Baghdad"
Phoenix -- "1901"
Bruce Springsteen -- "Backstreets"
Sly and the Family Stone -- "Sing a Simple Song"
Radiohead -- "Myxomatosis"
Tool -- "Parabola"
Rage Against the Machine -- "Calm Like a Bomb"
Sleigh Bells -- "Crown on the Ground"