The Best Running Music: Playlists from the World’s Top Ultrarunners
Tunes that’ll help power you through a workout or find zen during a long trail run
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Anyone old enough to remember what it was like to run with a Walkman, or, heaven forbid, a Discman, probably doesn’t feel too nostalgic about the experience. These devices may have signified a revolution in portable tech, but they were still too ungainly to be an ideal workout accessory and certainly wouldn’t deliver the best running music.
How times have changed. In 2016, portable audio players have been reduced to the size of poker chips, while gaining the capacity to store about eight billion songs. Gone are the days where you were hostage to the Top Gun soundtrack for the duration of your run.
It’s only logical to assume that such technological empowerment would be especially welcome among those who run farther and longer than anyone else: elite-level ultrarunners. So we asked a few of the sport’s best about when and why they run with music, and what’s currently on their personal playlist.
Anton Krupicka, Two-Time Leadville 100 Winner
“I almost never listen to music while running, but I listen to music (and podcasts) a lot when biking or skinning,” Krupicka says. “Here’s a sampling from my current playlist—a mix of current songs and older ‘classics’ (like maybe 10-15 years old).”
Stephanie Howe, 2014 Western States Champion
“I don’t listen to music when I race, but I do listen when I need a pick me up for a long run or workout,” she says. Stephanie has two types of go-to playlists—one for a hard run or gym session and the other for easier long runs.
For a kick in the butt:
To Zen out to:
Ian Sharman, Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Record Holder
“I listen to music during most of my training runs, but never in any races any more—in many races, you’re not even allowed to use music,” he says. “I usually like to keep things varied, but don’t often listen to downbeat music when running, although I’ll listen to it at home. Radiohead, for example: great music, but not so good for running.”
Timothy Olson, Western States Record Holder
“I love music, but don’t listen a ton while I run—maybe once a week and for sure on a treadmill,” says Olson. “During a 100-mile race, I’ll listen to music at some point, but not always. I prefer the sounds of nature. Here are a few songs on my running playlist, although I listen to more chill music around the house, like Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan.”
Max King, 100K American Record Holder
“Sorry, I’m not going to be much help on this article,” Kings says. “I’ve never liked listening to music during my runs. My soundtrack is au natural. I like listening to the crunch of my footsteps, wind in the trees, and critters. I do listen to music when I’m prepping my mind for a race however. That soundtrack is usually Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory), but it’s also included White Zombie, Metallica, and stuff like that. Gets me pumped for a hard effort cross country race or track race.”