Any kind of distance running is a psychological game, and music is one of the great mental hacks. So as I’ve gotten deeper into running – and now trail running – music has been an important ally.
Given that our brains are motivated and stimulated by a whole range of things that music can provide (nostalgia, mental associations, beats, melody, thought), it makes sense to try and experiment and hack around with music combinations.
Enter my trail running playlist.
I’ve had a few running playlists in my life already, and this is the latest evolution. This arrangement (well, most of it) has already served on a recent Appalachian trail hike/run, on the run to Panther Creek Falls, and at a half-marathon trail race.
It has some odd selections:
- “The Ecstasy of Gold” by Ennio Morricone, from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Perfect epic showdown music.
- Several Lindsey Stirling tracks, which combine EDM electronic music with madcap violin instrumentals. Excellent for leaping down tricky trails.
- Tracks from the Rudy film score by Jerry Goldsmith give that touch of athletic underdog grandeur you need to finish strong.
- A couple of Hillsong United tracks provide some religious (Christian) music well suited for spiritual uplift and reflective running.
- “Back in Black” and “Highway to Hell” are just badass tracks to boost your general feelings of cockiness and badassery.
- “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahantas because who hasn’t wanted to “run the hidden pine trails of the forest” like a graceful Native American princess?
- John Williams’ “Journey to the Island” from Jurassic Park captures all of the sheer joy and natural beauty of a great trail run. Other Williams scores from Star Wars and E.T. are great for adventure runs.
- Akira the Don’s spoken word music lays the hardcore sayings of Navy SEAL Jocko Willink over electronic beats for psychic motivation.
- “You Belong with Me” and several other groovy or high-energy pop songs from Taylor Swift and Dagny are great for lightening my mood and boosting my energy.
- Of Monsters and Men’s “King and Lionheart” and Mumford’s “Now with Haste” and other folky footstomping anthems of the early 2010s are made for athletic feats over gorgeous, nature-filled distances.
This combination may sound crazy, but it works. Trust me. Go ahead and take it for a run – and make it a long one.
What else should be on this weird playlist? Tell me in the comments! Or share your trail running playlist with me @JamesLWalpole on Twitter.