Yesterday I ran 14 miles. I ran those 14 miles without any music, but that is nothing new these days. It was a crappy run, but that had nothing to do with my lack of music. After mile 1, I was too focused on not stepping on any snakes (since I had jumped over a little guy at around mile 1). Then between mile 2 and 5 I was in a desperate search for a bathroom. At mile 4, I was battling the gale force winds to get myself to a porta potty I had set in my sights. At mile 5, I was determined to find a porta potty that actually had toilet paper. By mile 6, I was just freakin’ relieved to have the wind at my back and a calm tummy. Why the heck would I need music to keep myself entertained?
Then today I went for a 7-mile run up a mountain. I still had my mind focused on snakes. Since I had seen one the day before I assumed that today would be my most unlucky day to meet a rattler lurking in the bushes along the trail. As I ran into a canyon (with no other human in sight) my thoughts turned to mountain lions. As I descended into the thick brush and along the narrow path, I scared myself so bad that I had to turn around and opt for the trail that was more open, but went straight up. On my way, I traversed ice and puddles of oozing mud and then soon found myself staring up at an incline of loose rocks. At that point, it was a matter of using the run-walk method to get up the slope while dodging rocks. Sure, it seemed like forever getting up to the top (and I am still not sure if I actually reached the top because it kept going), but I was soon delighted with the thoughts of going down. The delight turned into determination… determination not to fall or trip on one of those loose rocks during the sketchy descent. Why the heck would I need music to keep myself entertained?
I won’t lie. I used to be one of those runners who always needed to wear headphones during a run whether I was inside or outside. If something happened and I forgot my music, then I would be pissed off during the entire run. I remember that it wasn’t recommended during the Team in Training runs, but people would still wear them even if it meant keeping only one ear bud in. It didn’t really make sense to run with a group while listening to music, but we did it anyway. I don’t think that was always the case, but it wasn’t uncommon.
It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado just nearly 2 years ago when I decided to try running sans music. Most of the people in the run club didn’t wear headphones and we ended up talking a lot more on our social runs. There soon came a point when I stopped wearing headphones even if I went for a run by myself. Like I mentioned, I always seem to find a way to entertain myself. I think I had reached a new level in my mental strength. I could run fast and run far even without music. I understood depending on it before when I needed a distraction from the pain and boredom (or so I thought it was boredom when I think it was actually my lack of true joy for running). I do have that sense of pain and boredom when I run on the treadmill, so the headphones are still my crutch as far as that goes. Either that or a magazine or t.v. show. I haven’t quite gotten to that level of mental toughness yet.
Maybe introverts are better able to adapt to running alone without music. I don’t mind being inside my own head for 3 hours or more. I can always find something to talk about… with myself. I make plans. I develop ideas. I solve problems. Not only that, but I feel like I have more of a connection with nature when I am not trapped in a music bubble. I can hear that squirrel moving around in the bushes (or at least I imagine it is just a cute, sweet little squirrel) or the birds chirping in the trees. I can even make contact with the other runners who pass by and respond politely to their friendly “Good Morning.”
If this doesn’t convert you, then maybe the idea of overall safety will. I would not be able to hear the rattle of a snake, the grunt of a bear or the flick of a switch blade if I had headphones blasting music into my ear. Even if you don’t run in the wilderness, keep in mind that it is more difficult to hear cars and psychos when you listen to your music out on the roads and sidewalks in your neighborhood. At least keep one ear bud out. There are just too many cases of runners being molested, kidnapped and killed. There is no point taking chances that just aren’t necessary. You could be smart like me and run alone on a wilderness trail and get mauled by a mountain lion. At least I carry a knife and leave my headphones at home. Stay safe my running friends!