Angela Bekkala: The Music Of A Run

Angela Bekkala will take a music-free run over the alternative any day. Photo: Angela Bekkala

When I first started casually running in high school, I felt like I always needed music to get me going. I would carry my Walkman in my hand as I slogged along for 3ish miles.

How could anyone ever run without music?

Fast forward 10 years and I was still running with music to power me through. I had decided to register for my first ever half marathon. My heart sank as I read an email from the race director — no iPods/music allowed. The course was not closed and followed along narrow roads with little room for runners. If you were caught with music, the result was an automatic DQ. I panicked. How was I going to run 13.1 miles without music? I couldn’t stand the thought of hearing myself breathe heavily or my feet slapping the ground for two hours.

So what did I do? I wore an ear warmer headband (thankfully it was November and chilly) and tucked all the wires down my shirt so no one could see I had earbuds in.

Rebel, huh?

After the race, I continued to be attached to my little white umbilical cord. But then something switched. As I was training for my first half after my kids were born, I found that I didn’t need music to keep my mind entertained.

I had a gazillion and one thoughts going through my head to ponder.

I enjoyed listening to my breath.

I enjoyed hearing my foot falls.

I enjoyed quiet.

Of course, I was a new mama to twins who was in desperate need for quiet and alone time. But I realized I didn’t need music to distract me. In fact, I didn’t need a distraction at all. What I needed to do was tune in to me and my surroundings.

Once I left the music at home, I noticed a shift in my running. I was able to work on my biomechanics just by listening in to my body.

I listened to my footfalls and made adjustments as needed. Am I shuffling my feet?

I listened to my breathing. Was I taking shallow breaths? Was it even?

I began to notice nature more.

The dew on the grass. A sunrise. A ray of sunshine through the trees. The smell of a hot, humid summer day (even the not so good smell on garbage days!). The crunch of leaves with every step in the fall. The sound of birds chattering. The ga-rump of frogs. The rhythmic lull of the waves at the beach.

I’m sure I noticed these things before but I was more wrapped up in the music streaming through my ear buds rather than the sounds and sights that were wrapped around me.

Now that I’ve been running music-free for years, I can’t imagine going back. Not only has it made me a better runner, I also feel that it’s safer. Even if you have the sound down low or one earbud in, you are still distracted.

I do have one exception that I’ll make to running with music: The treadmill.

That is definitely a necessity!

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.