Music I run to: chase down that PB

Music enhances physical and mental endurance and engages your sympathetic nervous system, gearing you up for what lies ahead. It activates the cerebellum in the brain, which is responsible for coordination and movement. I advocate this and listen to music on nearly every run. It helps me feel motivated and stay focused in order to get round the course and fly over the finish line. I have sampled running compilations but find that amongst a few decent tracks the rest can be a bit disappointing. So I make my own.

Depending on your pace, and song choices, you may only get to listen to 5 or 6 tunes during a 5k (obviously more if you run further). When you break down a run into musical bitesize chunks, it seems more manageable. Everyone is motivated by different genres and tempos, and it’s not necessarily what you’d listen to at other times.

So here’s a lowdown on what features on my iPod nano, humbly sitting on my arm powering my run.

includes links to all tracks and inevitably some ads on YouTube!

To kick off, I like something that’s steady and catchy. Sweet child o’ mine by Guns ‘n’ Roses is almost 6 minutes long and by the end of the guitar bit, you didn’t even notice you ran 1km! I also love a bit of ‘British country rock’ (what a genre) such as Walk of life by Dire Straits. And if someone overtakes me early on, I just think ‘you can Go your own way‘,  like Fleetwood Mac suggests.

Picking up the pace calls for something like This is the life by Amy Macdonald (which I think is about being hungover, apt for a weekend morning run). I also love Summertime sadness by Lana del Rey versus Cedric Gervais. A great remix, first heard in my spinning class. And the Communards’ disco classic, usually confined to the cheese room in nightclubs, is released every Saturday morning to get me up those hills. Don’t leave me this way, aaaaah, baby!

Ella Henderson’s #1 single Ghost is a haunting but upbeat one that makes it to my playlist, swiftly followed by Changing by Sigma, featuring Paloma Faith. Interspersed with slower parts, it builds up nicely, and somewhere around the 3km point I agree with her line “I can’t do this anymore” (but inevitably, I can). Another steady number is Rihanna’s Diamonds (make sure it’s the Congorock remix). 80s classics from Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin also deserve a mention: Leave a light on and Rush hour (I got a PB finishing to this track). As JW says, ‘it’s so good…’

I plan some tunes for around the time I know I need to find more fuel in the tank. Quick wins include Bon Jovi’s I’d die for you, Holding out for a hero (Bonnie Tyler), or some slightly mad hardcore like Make it bounce (Sly & Unknown – yeah exactly, who?) which is a bit nuts but fast once it gets going. One hardcore track is probably enough, so moving on, to ‘glam metal’, it’s Alice Cooper’s Poison… and my absolute favourite at the moment in the charts is Runaway (U and I) from Galantis.

The final bit of the run can be when I feel like giving up, so something like Let you go by Chase & Status is fab. This was also taken from my spinning instructor’s playlist – I hadn’t heard it before but even listening to it now, in my kitchen, reminds me of the chipwood at Bedfont Lakes parkrun which marks the last gruelling 500 metres. And remember the Cranberries’ Zombie in the 90s? Well this is a slightly different mix by Ray Knox, it’s 6 minutes, mental and motivating.

That’s 17 tracks so far, and plenty more on my iPod, but I’ll stop here.

Cool down 

I don’t really cool down at parkrun, preferring to ramble on about my run to anyone who’s listening, but in the gym or whilst road running I’ll slow to a jog/walk and enjoy the feeling that it’s all over, and switch to a chilled playlist that includes:

Years & years (King), Klingande (Jubel), I want to break free (Queen), Rockstar (Nickelback) and Don’t stop believing’ (Journey).

So there you go, a real cocktail of a compilation. Some classic Glee material, some you’ve probably never heard of, many throwbacks, and (a bit of) modern. All available from iTunes. Whatever makes you run, stick in on and go! Make it personal, as after all that’s what a PB is all about.



  1. I have never ran outside with music. I actually thought that I would start with this half marathon training. I will take some of your advice! Thanks! My FAVORITE FAVORITE running music is Girl Talk “Feed the Animals”. I just start from the beginning and go.


  2. I absolutely LOVE that you use The Communards for hills. I, too, find my remix of Don’t Leave Me This Way when I begin fading. I click my iPod and I’m off and going again. Sadly, in the home stretch is when I pull out Jessica Williams’ version of I Am Woman. I say sadly because, well, I’m a guy, but the song has no less personal intensity for me.


  3. Great post, i love running whilst listening to music on short street runs but never for longer runs such as half and full marathons. Whenever I run home from work Central London by Buckingham Palace, London Eye and though Chelsea up to Wimbledon I tend to listen to musicals, Les Mis, Sound of Music, cheesy stuff but suits the route!


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