• Pete Simpson

The Power of Four: Running Tunes

The running community has a variety of feelings when it comes to running and listening to music.

Some purists consider exercising with something in your ears pure sacrilege, whereas others view it as an essential tool which provides a nice distraction while the legs are pounding the pavements.


I find myself in amongst the quiet majority somewhere in between both camps.


I like a bit of music in the background during longer steady runs, but prefer to put it away for races and harder stuff where I need to stay focused on the job in hand. At least during the event…


With any race or big session the actual running only forms part of a successful outcome and getting a good time is almost as much mental as it is physical.


Successful sports teams and individuals always listen to the same songs just before heading out to the arena for good reason, swearing religiously it’s part of an essential team help get set them up on the road to success.


I also like to use music as a quick pre-race tool to get pumped up and ready to maximise performance – lots of tunes do the trick and these are my favourite 4.


4. Bill Conti: Gonna Fly Now (Rocky Theme)

A bit of a cliché for sure, but there’s good reason so many wannabe heroes picture themselves as the Italian Stallion when going about their training routine.


Everyone loves a good underdog and the relatability of our Philadelphian lionheart is one of the reasons why I and many other adore more than any other movie character.


As well as the positive traits of looking cool, being popular around the neighbourhood and having the obvious strength of a horse we also see lots of personal demons he struggles to tame at times.


Difficulty managing personal relationships, insecurity at being mocked for the way he talks and the fear of taking on what seem like impossible opponents all plague Rocco at some point during the series and are many of the same things we all go through in life.


Seeing The Pride of Philadelphia work his way up the ladder to overcome adversity gives us all hope and brings out a little bit more in me every time it pops in the head pre-session – making running up a series of steps that bit easier, even on a hot summer’s day in the city itself.


3. Panic At The Disco!: High Hopes

When this song first was first released I hated it – loud, brash and overly optimistic American Pop Music at it’s trashiest.

That all changed during 2019 while I was recovering from the cardiac arrest which derailed me during the London marathon and inspired me to set up this blog in the first place.


I can remember this being one of the first songs I listened to when making my baby steps back in to running and it helped shift me towards a more positively focused mindset.


My younger self would have favoured angrier sounding rap or hard rock tracks, trying to work out with a “me against the world” approach. Over time I’ve learnt it didn’t help, leaving my trapped in a web of negativity at times.


Having a “glass is half full” outlook was instrumental during my recovery period – rather than figuring out what went wrong for the slowest kilometre of a run I moved to a habit of putting energy in to what went right for the fastest and over time it did the trick.


A kinder personal appraisal helped stay motivated when any setback would hinder the recuperation process and over time the good vibes kept spirits up.


The feeling of finally completing an April marathon in 2020 made it all worthwhile and I couldn’t have done it without the regular input of high hopes in to my head.


2. Ellie Goulding: Love Me Like You Do I doubt many other runners will have a headline title track from Fifty Shades of Grey towards the top of their playlist - it finds it’s way on mine largely due to the memories it evokes.

If you ask an endurance athlete to name their favourite runs you’ll often find that a race where a previous failure has been conquered will come towards the top of the list.

Two half marathons I did during 2015 fall into this camp and are the source of why Hereford’s finest singer earns the coveted silver medal on my list.


My first attempt at this distance came in my home city of Edinburgh during May.


It had been a big target race but didn’t go well from start to finish and I felt a bit crushed by a poor performance and a disappointing time which was a few minutes slower than I’d hoped to achieve.


Fast forward a few months and my next shot came at the Barry Buddon half marathon in August, the location of the Scottish East District championship that year.

Everything seemed to click and I went round 3 minutes quicker than I had in Edinburgh, helping my team to third place overall that day and netting the result I’d hoped for a few months earlier in Edinburgh.


And how does this get to Ellie Goulding? I’d heard her soothing tones at some point before the race and the song was stuck in my head all the way through.


Whenever I hear it now I think back to that day and the joy of achieving a goal after previously coming up short - the power of music memory!


1. Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball


It’s probably no surprise to see “The Boss” at the top of a runner’s motivational tracklist, although the choice of song may be a bit unexpected.


I am a fan of the more traditional Born to Run anthem, which would probably be in my top 10 if I was to extend the list, however there’s something in the lyrics of Wrecking Ball that really hits the note whenever I need a bit of inspiration.


New Jersey’s greatest songwriter starts to provide the stimulus I need right from the opening lyrics of the song;


I was raised outta steel…


Immediately the song starts to bring out words to help support mental toughness and provide the resilience needed to see a tough run through to the end. The theme continues as the song progresses;


So if you’ve got the guts mister

Yeah, if you got the balls

If you think it’s your time

Then step to the line

And bring on your wrecking ball


Line by line each one helps set the scene for battle, shifting me in a mindset of making it through no matter how hard things get until ultimately the song reaches it’s climax;


Hard times come and hard times go

Now bring on your wrecking ball…


If ever a couple of lines summed up what I find great about running these are it – a race will be no doubt be difficult and there will be some suffering as you push yourself to the limit.


But you will get there and ultimately feel immeasurably better for doing so.


©2020 by peterunsmarathons.