Something I did a little differently on race day last Saturday was run with headphones for the entire race.
It wasn’t that I had never run with headphones before because I usually run with something in my ears. Whether it’s a podcast, an audiobook, or music, I find that I enjoy the running more when I have something going on besides just running.
It’s also not the first time I have raced with headphones as I ran a then-personal record for the half marathon at the Run in Lyon race last year with tunes blasting the whole time.
But in my ultramarathons I have never before started a race with headphones on. Instead, I prefer to run the first 10km or maybe the first hour with ears wide open while I get a feel for the course before pausing to grab the iPod shuffle and whatever I have cued up ready to play.
At the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra, however, things were a bit different. For one, I knew the course well having run it a couple of times in training and it being so close to home. For another, I was without a crew to watch my stuff and there wasn’t any secure place to store gear. This is not a big deal when it came to water and a box of gummy bears, but perhaps an iPod and some headphones might be attractive to a light-fingered passerby.
Hence, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to clip the iPod on and crank up the music from start to finish and, in the end, I didn’t mind at all.
In the past I have run with podcasts during ultras as well as music but this time around I went only with music. This was a combination of having already listened to the regular Friday podcasts I like (Ultrafinishers and Ten Junk Miles) and knowing I would need the motivation of some music to drive through the stairs every lap. It was a good call, I think, as a couple of time I was on the stairs when either a hip hop favorite (Hilltop Hoods, Kanye West, or Jay Z) or something off the Rocky IV soundtrack would come on and I would step up, so to speak, to the next level or just keep pushing on forward.
I left the iPod on shuffle for the entire course and this kept things interesting. I didn’t fast forward all that much, only occasionally if the tune didn’t quite match the rhythm I was in. There are times, for example, when The Superjesus or Powderfinger are perfect but there are also times when I just need The Bloodhound Gang loudly pumping out a beat.
I think that if I am familiar with the course then I might start with the headphones on next time, too, though with my next ultra distance event more relaxed (a 50 mile run along the Thames Path in England all alone) and the Saintelyon in December a midnight point-to-point, it might be a long time before I return to a course I know well enough to start with my attention on the music instead of the twists and turns of the course.