I have been running again lately. Not a lot, just weekly for about 40 minutes. And I have a running playlist for when I do the running.
David Goggins says listening to music while running is cheating, and I am inclined to agree. It is much easier to run when you’re listening to the right music. But everything about my running feels like cheating at the minute, because it’s not an exercise in gruelling endurance and therefore ‘what’s even the point?’. So, I shouldn’t be having such a nice little time, but I’m trying to stick with it anyway. Including the music.
Luckily, the music has added some complexity for me to ruminate on. Because as well as being able to affect my state, I notice music can be changed by my state. Or, rather, my experience of it can be changed. And when it changes, things are revealed.
There’s a song called Black and Gold by Sam Sparro. It’s kind of old now, I guess. But not old enough to be cool. I have always peripherally liked it but when it came out I was too metal to pay it much attention. For whatever reason, it came to mind quickly when I was assembling my playlist; presumably an indication of my repressed youth.
On the first run through, when Black and Gold started playing, I gleefully and over-exuberantly bounced my way down a long straight stretch of road until it faded out and I realised I had made a rather serious pacing error and thought my heart might explode. I nearly took the song off the playlist, but I persevered.
On the second run through, it coincided with the steepest hill I’ve ever run up, and so I was very careful not to make the same mistake again. The running part, it turned out, was easier than expected, but the music part wrecked me. Instead of glee, this time I was hit with a desperate loneliness and longing, and the familiar sensation of a part of me dying. I would have sobbed, but that didn’t seem physically feasible. Locked in this song was something I didn’t want to admit to myself. Now Love and God were taking new forms; forms I’d been resisting for years, despite thinking I embraced them. Well fuck.
A newer addition to the playlist was Wait For It from Hamilton, introduced on the third run through. I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve listened to the Hamilton soundtrack, but it’s a lot. And Wait For It has probably received the most repeat plays. I did not expect to be making Hamilton-inspired revelations as I ran along the seafront. But instead of hearing the crescendo of the song as an affirming piece of wisdom from a complicated and flawed character, now I heard it as a convincing self-justification for cowardice. Now I contemplated whether my resonance with the song was a crutch I had used to avoid facing my own fears and taking right action. Whether I’d fallen for it because I wanted to fall for it. How wisdom to one can be idiocy to another, depending on context. And how waiting wasn’t something I needed more of. Ah, fuck.
There is one song on my playlist that doesn’t feel like cheating, and it’s because it tempts me to cheat. The outro to my running session is You Fckn Did It by Jason Mraz, and as soon as it begins to play, I think I’m done. But I’m not done – I have five minutes and five seconds left. And five minutes and five seconds of having to keep running while Jason Mraz tells you you already fucking did it is a five minutes and five seconds where you really start questioning why you’re still fucking doing it if you already fucking did it. It wasn’t until the fourth run through that I began to appreciate the genius of this, because I’d hitherto been focused on the stupidity of it.
So I will keep my false summit, and my uncomfortable realisations. And I will eagerly await what the fifth run through has in store for my ears, mind and heart.