The sound of races

Come walk on sunshine with me, why don’t you?


There’s a parcel of concrete on top of a hill surrounded by buildings that nearly touch the clouds. Elevated highways bow tie this tongue of land I stand atop as the morning sun dissects the surrounding skyline. I have only felt this nervous a few times before, and I am coming to grips with my cold sweat and nausea, which will surely be followed by my vomiting. Luckily I’m shirtless.

I take a moment and stand in awe of my surroundings, then I turn around to look down the cement hill. One hundred meters ahead are 28,000 people, crammed together forming a phalanx bearing down on me. I am standing by myself in the middle of a road in downtown Kansas City, about to race in the largest, most competitive, and unnerving 5K of my life. I stand tall and look down at the thousands waiting to charge.

There are so many, the hoard bends at an intersection a half mile away, and continues on for another mile at least. I can’t see pavement between them.

I move down the hill with my eye on the crowd. Walking to the starting line, I can’t hear anything other than arteries pulsing in my head. I cross the starting line and am infused with everyone’s nerves and anticipation. Shoulder to shoulder, chest to back, feet to feet; we are all claustrophobic today.

I take a deep breath, drop my shoulders, bend slightly, tuck my chin, and dig-in my right foot for a Spartan-like push. The starting gun fires and organized madness ensues. This is one time in my life I could hear soundtrack music playing in my mind, complimenting the rush of 28,000 racers behind me.

The song?

You know that 30 Day Music Challenge bonanza everyone is doing on the FBook? I scoff at that. I laugh at that. How conforming of you to give in to such a stupid idea.

I was busy thinking exactly that when I saw a person whom I immensely respect had started their own 30 Day Challenge. My perspective changed, and I thought about songs that define me, or at least bits that comprise me. I thought of the start to that 5K, and how I wanted The Last of the Mohicans’ theme blasting. Me passing people, people passing me, thousands more behind me, pushing, sprinting, madness… I thought this song fit. It sounds like agility.

In the face of this chaos, I somehow found my cool and slithered through the people until I was with one of the lead packs on our way through downtown KC.

If I could, I would listen to that song at the start of every race. It sets my pace perfectly. It’s uptempo, yet relaxed. It reminds me I need to be hustling, but that sprinting isn’t necessary yet. What song indicates, for me, it’s time to bury my heels deep in the pavement and haul ass? I’m going to play this idea of racing music out:

The start: Promontory, like I said.

Once I’ve established my pace and have hit cruise control for the middle portions of the race, there are a couple songs that, for whatever reason, feel appropriate and energetic:

1) Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by The Arcade Fire.

2) Born this Way by Lady Gaga…. get off my balls already. Don’t act like you don’t like it, hypocrite.

I’ve likely been running a negative split, so the racers ahead of me falsely believe I am firmly in their dust. That’s when the clouds open and the Imperial March momentarily erupts (nerdy). I pass my opponents. I am their enemy, the bearer of bad news–I’ve been holding out on them, waiting to strike.

I see the finish line. It’s time for something loud that beckons all my strength: The Inception Score.

The finish line is less than a quarter mile away and it’s go-time. I’m trying to pass every last person between me and the end. I’ve moved off my heels and onto the balls of my feet. My knees are cranked high and my velocity is the only thing keeping me from losing my balance and falling face first. Now I’m on my toes and pumping my arms wildly. I want this song blasting so loudly it compresses my brain and makes my stomach turn inside-out. It’s epic, and I’m hoping my finish will be, too.

When I finished that 5k, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Kansas City, I didn’t hear any music–only my heaving (racing protocol: sprint the finish, puke). In 2009, my first Komen and the one I described before, I finished 89th. In 2010, I finished 69th.

Non-running music

I’m more likely to be listening to Huey Lewis and the News than Metallica when I lift.

Despite my marathon training, I still lift quite a bit. And I’m so far out in left field with my lifting music, I’m practically blacked out drunk somewhere in the bleachers. Most guys listen to the hardest of rock, or heavy bass hip-hop.

Not I.

I listen to Walking on Sunshine and the rest of the American Psycho soundtrack, because it reminds me of how buff Christian Bale got for that movie, and that drives me to lift hard enough to achieve the same physique. Throw in some Top Gun and epic movie scores and I’m prepped for beastmode.

To each my own.

There is one song I listen to when I’m really about to unleash the fury. Du Hast by Rammstein. JACKED. UP. I’m ready to sacrifice a goat.

Music is proven to help you workout. I can’t race with my iPod, but I can train with it. And I take full advantage of it with 80’s mega hits and movie scores.

What do you listen to? I’m looking for gems.


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