January 14, 2010

Challenging all headphone wearing runners

When I started running last June, one of the essential items I would take out with me on a run was an mp3 player. Not only did the music provide a distraction and entertainment during my run, but running to the beat would help me run. In late July I ran my first 5K race and running to the beat of the music was what got me to the finish line without stopping to walk once.

The more I ran, the more I loved it, and the more I researched EVERYTHING about the sport. One day while researching, I realized that in some races wearing headphones (listening to music) was highly discouraged, and in some cases, even banned. BANNED, what do you mean banned? Well, if you wear headphones during the race, your race time does not count. I suddenly thought, "how can I possibly run without music?". That prompted me to start questioning myself. Why couldn't I run without music? Look at all the people that run without listening to music, why am I so dependent on music. The reason why is because it was my crutch. It was an aid I was using to keep me going.

Considering that one day I might have to run a race without headphones, I decided to try running without them. I headed out my first time and it really did seem much more difficult to finish my run. It just felt like I didn't have enough energy, but now I realize it wasn't that I didn't have enough energy, it was "mp3 withdrawal". The next time I went out for a run, I took my little cute pink mp3 player with me and although I had charged it for hours, the battery was low and within a few minutes died. After that day I was never able to revive my mp3 player. After a few days without it, I realized that I no longer depended on it to be successful at running...I mastered running without music - even my long runs.

It is a little odd for me to think that I run at times for over 1.5 hours and there is nothing to distract me and entertain me while I run. You might think "It is boring to run without listening to something." Well, I am here to tell you that it is far from boring. My mp3 player refusing to charge was the best thing that happened because now while I run, I can enjoy every moment of it. There is so much to see & hear while you run.

If you are currently a headphone wearing runner, you are probably not someone who runs with a group...for the most part, you run alone (like me). I challenge you to go for a run without your music or audio book. At first, you will go through withdrawal - it will seem much harder to run, but once you are free from the headphones, you will realize that your run is much more enjoyable than before.

When you run with music or an audio book, your focus is on what you are listening to and not to your body and surroundings. Running without the crutch, makes you much more attentive to the nature around you, even if you run in a city. You hear the leaves dancing around on the floor from the wind, the car motors humming as they pass your side, the laughter of children playing in the street, the sound of wind chimes, the still of a side street with little to no traffic - all these sounds and sites bring warmth, even on a cold day. They are sounds of music being created by life and can bring such peace.

There is one more great thing about running without music - to spend time with your thoughts. How often do you really take the time to just think? Think about life - the good, the bad, the indifferent. Think about your plans and how you are going to get there. Think about the goals that you have set and your progress. Really, no one runs alone because your thoughts are always with you, but many times we shut them out. These past few months I have spent many moments with just me, my thoughts, and my surroundings and I can honestly say that I have never had so much perspective on my life. I have been able to come up with ways to overcome hurdles, make plans, and just simply think things through. I must even confess that at times I talk to myself, but in the end I can say that I am a much more balanced person for it.

So how about it??? Put on your running gear, leave your mp3 player at home, and enjoy time with your thoughts and life's music. It will take some adjusting, but I promise that eventually you will treasure every moment that run brings you. Are you up for the challenge?

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