Top 5 Songs on My Boston Marathon Playlist (Mental Taper, Part 1)

During the last 2-3 weeks before the marathon, there’s not much we runners can do to improve our physical readiness for the big day. We need to run the optimal amount, neither too much nor too little, to ensure we’re fine-tuned for the race, but the bulk of the work has already been done. And there’s no such thing as “last-minute cramming” for a marathon!

However, we can still do quite a lot of mental preparation during taper time. Because I’m running fewer miles this week and consequently have more free time, I’m planning a multi-part blog series about my favorite “mental training” activities.

Music and running are a natural fit! Members of the team perform at a karaoke fundraiser for NORD.

Music and running are a natural fit! Members of the team perform at a karaoke fundraiser for NORD.

Today’s topic is creating a marathon playlist. Not everyone likes to run with music, but for me it’s a huge part of how I get into “the zone” where the miles fly by and it’s just me and my thoughts.

Some of my teammates set up playlist fundraisers in which anyone can donate $5 to NORD in order to put a particular song on their playlist. So far, I haven’t had the guts to participate in that fundraiser because every song on my playlist is carefully chosen. Just as I wouldn’t crowdsource my shoe selection, I won’t crowdsource my playlist either.

Those who do participate in the playlist fundraiser say that it’s an amazing way to feel connected with your community of supporters. Whenever a song from a particular person plays, the runner can think about that person and get a little extra motivation.

I like the idea of that connection, but as I said, I need to pick my own playlist. So here’s my modified version: I’ll share my top 5 songs and if you decide to listen to one or more of them on race day (whether or not you’re a runner), let me know and I’ll think of you when the song comes on my iPod.

Here are the top 5 songs on my Boston Marathon playlist, along with my personal interpretation of each:

  1. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”
    In my marathon-focused interpretation (which, I admit, is unrelated to the real meaning), this song is about all the hard work that we put into training, and about the results of those efforts.

    EnduranceUndergroundA few of us have been doing intense track workouts together with the Endurance Underground track team, whose logo is reminiscent of the “radioactive” symbol, so this song immediately reminded me of that.

    As I listened more closely to the lyrics, the song also started to remind me of our Tuesday morning team runs during the bitter cold of the long New England winter. In less poetic words, we all had these thoughts while leaving our warm beds and houses: “I’m waking up / I feel it [the cold] in my bones / Enough to make my systems blow … This is it, the apocalypse!”

    Those of you who have read other posts I’ve written know how frequently I talk about running as a superpower. And how do you get a superpower? By being bitten by a radioactive spider, of course! And by doing challenging track workouts and freezing cold mid-week runs. So in my mind, the lyrics “I’m radioactive!” are a celebration of running as a superpower.

  2. Leann Rimes – “One Way Ticket (Because I Can)”
    What’s a country song doing on this playlist? I know, I’m sorry, but when you read my interpretation, you’ll understand why.

    Taking the commuter rail from Boston to Ashland for my last long run before the marathon

    Taking the commuter rail from Boston to Ashland for my last long run before the marathon

    Many Boston Marathoners-in-training have had the singular experience of buying one-way commuter rail tickets from South Station in downtown Boston to West Natick, Framingham, or even Ashland to run the marathon course back into the city. On weekend mornings during the months of January through April, trains on this Framingham/Worcester line are filled with people clad in running clothes, carrying nothing but water and GU energy gels, and discussing running minutiae at the nerdiest levels. Sometimes we talk to one another even if we don’t know each other, bubbling over with pre-marathon excitement. But this is Boston, after all, so sometimes we just make eye contact, mutually acknowledging that we know what the other is up to.

    This song is clearly about that experience. Check out the lyrics: “Gonna climb the mountain [Heartbreak Hill] / And look the eagle in the eye / I won’t let fear clip my wings and tell me how high I can fly … / Freedom was waiting, down at [South] station / All I had to do was make up my mind / And buy a one-way ticket on a westbound train / See how far I can go…”

  3. Dropkick Murphys – “The Hardest Mile”
    This great jam from Boston’s favorite hometown band reminds us that we’re all Boston Strong enough to conquer even the hardest mile – in marathons or in life!

    (Actually this song isn’t so uplifting. But I like my marathon-focused interpretation better!)

  4. Switchfoot – “Needle and Haystack Life”

    Appreciate every step of the way – even the painful ones! When I was running through Kenmore Square during last year’s marathon, I shouted “I’m dying!” to my friend.

    Appreciate every step of the way – even the painful ones! This is mile 24 of last year’s marathon.

    This is my classic marathon playlist song because it reminds me to appreciate the tough runs as well as the exhilarating ones (“You’re breathing in / The highs and lows / We call it living”). Every step from the starting line (“The road begins with newborn skin”) to the finish line, even the painful steps, can transform us more into the people we were meant to be (“Become who you are / It happens once in a lifetime”). The 2014 Boston Marathon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Cherish it.

  5. Florence + the Machine – “Dog Days Are Over”
    This song takes me back to the days when I was first becoming a runner. Thanks to those on the Genzyme Running Team who encouraged me from Day One, the idea of running for others and for something bigger than myself was deeply ingrained in me.

    The lyrics of this song, which reflect that idea, became a mantra as I pushed myself through those grueling runs (six miles, seven miles, eight miles) when each one was the longest run of my life. “Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father / Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers / Leave all your love and your longing behind / You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive…”

I would love to hear which songs inspire you as well! I make no promises, but maybe I will add some of them to my Boston Marathon playlist.

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2 comments on “Top 5 Songs on My Boston Marathon Playlist (Mental Taper, Part 1)
  1. Emma Rooney says:

    Great post and I’m looking forward to hearing more about mind training. I’m just getting into a book about this topic that I’m only 45% through but would already recommend: “The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive” by Jim Afremow (it’s not just for runners but most of the information seems really relevant).
    It’s neat having your interpretation of the songs you pick. I always wonder about this! An album I really like for training (I’ve never raced with earphones but I might try) is Angèle Dubeau’s “Game Music”. Look it up! Yes, it’s classical music but famous game themes. I’m not a gamer but I love it and it sets a great tone for running. Totally different but I also love Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole – Over The Rainbow (my wedding song). It puts me in a happy mood regardless of how the running is going and helps me relax.
    Good luck finalizing your playlist Jessi!

    • Jessicac says:

      Thanks so much, Emma! I’m definitely going to check out those songs and that book. Also, I’m glad you like this mental taper series because I’m giving you a shout-out in Part 2, which I plan to post today. 🙂

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