Running and Music

by CPM Librarian Stephanie Bandel

I am a runner, a runner who every day rises at five in the morning, commutes two hours, completes three hours of graduate coursework, and at 6:00 p.m. sits down at the kitchen table and laces up running shoes for a short four miler. At that point I’m tired, I’m questioning my desire to continue pursuing my master’s degree, I’m doubting myself, and I’m worried. So I finish lacing up, walk slowly down my driveway while fiddling with my phone to launch Spotify, access my “Run It” playlist, and hit “Shuffle.”

Stephanie’s “Run It” playlist

The music pushes me to take my first steps into another nightly run. Instantly my thoughts change. I’m not doubting, I’m not worrying, and I’m not caught up in the day. Instead I’m flying, my feet racing over the pavement. Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, Adele, The Weekend, Halsey and so many others cheer me on, propelling me forward both physically and mentally.

In their article pertaining to music and running Lane, Davis, and Davenport (2011) conducted a study of the effects of music on emotional states in runners. They had several participants sign up for their study, set a running goal, and choose music they felt would aid them in reaching this goal. After conducting the study, Lane, et. al. surmised that “the findings of the present study lend support to the notion that listening to music is an effective emotion regulation strategy for use in running” (p. 405). I know their findings to be true from personal experience.

I recently ran my very first half marathon: 13.1 miles of glory, guts, and (frankly) tears. I have an amazing running buddy that I enjoy talking to whenever we can find the time to run together, but around mile eight of the half marathon we fell quiet and introspective. My thoughts turned to the achy feeling developing in my knee, and I later found out her thoughts were on the possibility that she may not be able to finish. Somewhere along mile eight we separated and I decided it was time for my music.

My pre-race running packet.

Smiling before the race, with earbuds around my neck.












I shoved in my wireless earbuds, irritated that my phone was taking what seemed like centuries to start my app. Finally, I was in and I found my list. I found the second wind I so desperately needed. All my favorite up-tempo pop and rap songs flooded into my mind, and my achy knee, my thirst for water, and my desire to quit faded away. Now I was listening to power ballads, my feet pushing off the ground with every energy filled beat. Music got me to the finish line; it comforted me when I had to walk miles eleven and twelve because my knee couldn’t run any more. Music gave me the will power to run mile thirteen and across the finish line. Music got me there in two hours and thirty minutes, music got me a medal, and music made me feel good about myself.


Right now I’m on a break from running and letting my knee heal up, but I’m listening to my music because it keeps me in touch with that powerful runner that lives inside of me. My music comforts me, assuring me that I will run again (hopefully 26.2 miles in the spring). Lane, et. al. (2011) found that their “results also indicate that the motivational quotient of music is associated with improved performance and beliefs that emotions helped performance” (p. 405). Never before has a statement rung so true to me. Without music to alter my emotions at mile eight and help me through the hard walk that was miles eleven and twelve, I would not be the proud, strong runner that I know I am today.

Naturally, there are those runners who espouse the “natural” running method. Extoling the virtues of running without music, Scott Martin in his 2014 article for Runner’s World explores his journey from using music while running to going without it. As positive effects of this change he cites being able to hear cars, to talk to his running buddies, and to feel more connected with his body. His argument emphasizes safety, being able to hear cars, animals, or other potentially threats.

I can see Martin’s (2014) point and do recognize and understand the importance of running safely. While running with my running buddy we don’t listen to music; we talk to one another, find motivation through each other, and feel safer because there are two of us. When I run with music I typically run with only one earbud in place in order to be more aware of my surroundings. It is my opinion that when done conscientiously, listening to music while running can be just as safe.

There are, of course, different types of music people listen to while running. I mostly stick with up-tempo pop music while running or true crime podcasts (not music, obviously, and I know of other runners who forgo music and primarily listen to audio books and podcasts). Is there a certain type of music that is particularly helpful when running? According to John Davis’s article for Runners Connect, several factors affect athletic performance. Davis asserts that tempo and volume can be factors in athletic performance, noting that tempo is more effective in the first half of the workout. Davis also considers motivation a contributing factor in the effectiveness of music on athletic performance. Music alone, he concludes, cannot significantly improve an athlete’s performance or have a pronounced effect on training results.

Music means different things to different people, and they use it in all sorts of ways (sometimes without even realizing that it serves a real purpose). For me, music is a companion and a motivator when I’m running. It sees me through the tough patches when I feel like giving up.

-Stephanie Koroll
Library Assistant II


Davis, J. (Undated). Does Music Help You Run Faster? A Look at the Scientific Research.
RunnersConnect. https://runnersconnect.net/does-music-help-you-run-faster/

Lane, A. M., Davis, P. A., Devonport, T. J. (2011) Effects of music interventions on emotional
states and running performance. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 10, 400-407

Scott, M., Giddings, C. (2014). Should You Listen to Music While Running? Runner’s World,

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