Sarah Bowen Shea: Music Makes All The Difference

"Nothing else puts a spring in my step like a new playlist or one of my psych-up songs," says Sarah Bowen Shea

Music makes all the difference to me when I’m running. Nothing else puts a spring in my step like a new playlist or one of my psych-up songs. My energy can be flagging and my quads feeling wobbly, yet when “More” by Usher, “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keyes, or “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis cycles onto my iPod, a surge like a mixture of electricity and sugar goes through my veins.

Recently, I was doing a 12-mile run that was the dreaded H’s—hot, humid, and hilly. Listening to a podcast for the first five miles, my legs felt heavy and I doubted I’d ever reach home again. I chalked up my sluggish pace and dire attitude to the weather and terrain. When “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” wrapped up, I switched over to a mix of my favorite songs from Spotify.

Boo-yah! It was like the temperature had dropped 30 degrees and I had an infusion of GU! Same thing happened the other day when my running partner and I were doing tempo intervals. With three more 3-minute bursts at 8:15 pace on tap, I summoned Spotify and blared music from my 21st-century boombox: my iPhone in the zippered back pocket of my Saucony shorts.

I don’t wear earbuds while running with a friend, and I even used to boycott music completely when running in tandem. It seemed rude to me. But I love my new share-the-songs trick. Whether at the track or running tempo, music helps us move at a faster pace.

My one exception to my no-earbuds-with-a-pal rule: races. My work-around is a shared playlist. Whether we are running side by side or our own races, I groove on the idea of hearing the same songs at the same time as my friend. With music in our ears, self-imposed limits “can’t hold us,” because we are “girl[s] on fire!”

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

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