“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” (On the Run, With and Without a Soundtrack)

Aldous Huxley.

It happened gradually, of course, but I felt a sudden shift. One day, running was a painful death march only to be managed fast and angry, on a treadmill, for 10 minutes, two or three times a year — totally impossible without an iPod overflowing with jams. Smash cut to 7am Thursday morning in the early fall, a canopy of fragrant acacias on one of those little side streets in the Castro, shoulders relaxed, listening intently to the quiet of the city morning. Running. Easy. Happy. Two episodes separated by years but maybe just defined by altered perspectives. In fact it was a substantive changing of states, like melted ice.

Somehow I’d become one of those dogmatic runners converted to an earbud-free existence. Only the rhythm of footfalls. The evenness of breath. An office worker, hidden away from the day, evangelizing the life-altering benefits of dashing over the outside world, oneness with the pavement, with the mind of meditation. Om.

All of this has been a big success and hugely helpful to my growth as a runner.

But last March the dregs of marathon training threatened to drag me under. Although physically capable and uninjured, a monkey mind plagued the once peaceful calm of my runs. After a sloppy and exhausting 19 miler, I spent a week in a cold sweat about a 20 mile Sunday. Suddenly, I remembered music.

The only possible solution would be everything I loved when I was 13 years old. Just one intensely personal, highly effective emergency 90’s rock mix. By track #1 (“Getchoo,” Weezer), the fog lifted. Ocean Beach sparkled, the Presidio dripped mysteries, the Ferry Building trembled with my stride, the road home spread forth familiar and warm.

Since then, I’ve gone back to mostly solitary and music-less running. But I’m definitely re-discovering how a solid set of songs can enhance the experience and break up training monotony. So I was intrigued by my boyfriend’s latest obsession with Beats Music, a streaming service recently in the news when Apple acquired it for an easy $3 billion. With various ways to browse, users can search playlists curated to specific “Activities”—  including  “waking up,” “pre-partying,” “getting it on,” among other ordinary events.


“Running” includes 53 playlists — 100 for “Working Out.” Last weekend I chose Christopher Tait’s very fun “The Road Runner,” a rollicking journey of 70’s-80’s punk and new wave. Sure, I appreciate the everyday Beyonce power-up mix, but this fresh take on running music really made my Sunday!


Users create their own playlists via a huge  library of songs. Here are some of the work-in-progress lists I’ve got going:

Running for Years: My go-to run mix since the first steps of Couch to 5k in 2011. AC Newman, El-P, Electric Six, The Hold Steady, The Knux, Les Savy Fav, and other indie-ish junk.

Haruki’s Run: Like “Logan’s Run,” but inexplicably weirder. I’m gaga for the surrealism of Haruki Murakami’s stories, and a little bit obsessed with “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” A selection of artists, albums, and songs that Murakami himself listens to on the run (Clapton, Stones), it also features music referenced in his novels and shorts, as appropriate. For the existential hardcore fanboy (or girl) runner.

SOS Emergency 90’s Rock Running Mix: As described above. Veruca Salt, tracks from the very first Foo Fighters album, Weezer, Ben Folds Five, Fiona Apple, Cracker, and some good ol’ fashioned Courtney Love circa 1994.

If you’re a beats user you can follow me at kathrynb.