Never Underestimate a Good Running Playlist

by Lindsay Ritenbaugh

I completed a task. I accomplished a goal.

I ran a 10K this past weekend.

If you remember my Perseverance not Perfection post from September, I talked about how I was not a runner. Two months ago, I lacked the endurance to run a mile or even an entire song. I realize now that beyond practice and perseverance, I was missing two very important components: accountability partners and an awesome playlist.

During my training I was lucky enough to have a friends keep me accountable, both in Chicago and electronically. My friend Kelley lives in Indiana but had also signed up for Chicago’s Perfect 10. This would be her second 10K and my first, but she was completely supportive of my efforts and promised to go at my pace. In my last running post, I had a clear goal in mind. I would finish the four weeks I had left on 8 week Couch to 5K app and then use the remaining four weeks until the 10K to increase my distance. Then life happened. Work got busy, I got sick, then Kelley got sick, and I wasn’t able to complete the app in a timely manner. Sure, I was still running. I just wasn’t where I had wanted to be in terms of my training. I was starting to get really down on myself since I had signed up for something and had not given enough attention to the training it required. Kelley again encouraged me to just do the best I could and that she wouldn’t leave me behind.

In an attempt to hold myself more accountable on my weekly training, I started running with a co-worker at 5:00 PM. Nicole offered to be my actual running partner (in addition to running with Kelley in spirit). She, like Kelley, offered to go at my pace but offered gentle challenges as we navigated Lincoln Park. I appreciated her built-in walking breaks since we were running in a place that had lots of intersections. This accountability of going three times a week with an actual person made the training seem more real. Still, my level of endurance wasn’t near to where I had hoped it would be. According to the app I was only on week 5 of 8 (to get to a 5K without stopping). How in the world would I double that in just a few short weeks?

On my last practice run before the race, we experienced a 5:00 PM run after daylight savings time. Not only was it dark, but also the Windy City was in full force. It was COLD! My lips were chapped and self-doubt continued to creep in. What if the weather was like this on Saturday? How would I keep up without coughing or my muscles cramping up from the brisk weather? Nicole was still supportive of my need to run/walk but I was still fearful since I hadn’t been able to run more than 7 minutes at a time without needing a break.

Then I made a playlist.

Everything changed there. On my previous runs, I had just hit shuffle on my iTunes and let my phone decide what to play. The problem with that is my music hadn’t been updated in quite some time. It was mostly Glee, Justin Bieber, and the Twilight Saga soundtracks from when I got my first iPhone in 2010. While those songs were great in their own way, they weren’t exactly motivational. I created a Chicago’s Perfect 10 playlist of 42 songs that would last over 2 hours. This made the actual race so much better than all of my previous attempts during training. Instead of hoping the next song would pump me up and keep me going, I was actually looking forward to hearing the next one. Each song had a personal connection to either a life experience or person in my life. I actually smiled as the songs started to play and was able to reflect on the people and events of which they reminded me.

Personal favorites of the 10K soundtrack were: “I’m on a Boat” (ironically starting as I ran across Navy Pier), “Eye of the Tiger” (as I passed the Field Museum with lots of stairs to channel my inner Rocky), “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson (which was conveniently playing about when I wanted to stop running), “Roar” by Katy Perry (empowerment at its finest—I may or may not have teared up when it said I am a champion), and even Salt n’ Pepa’s “Push It” when I needed it most during mile 5. Sure, we took brief walking breaks, but this time it was different. During my trainings, I literally needed to stop running so I could catch my breath. I was shocked when we passed mile marker 2 and I felt completely fine. I looked down after the next song finished and realized I had been running for over 26 minutes without stopping. And out of the 6.2 miles, we had run close to 5 of them at a reasonable pace. This was quite the personal achievement for someone who couldn’t run for longer than 5 minutes a month ago.

As we got closer to the finish line, “Ready to Run” by the Dixie Chicks came on. Admittedly, I’m not much of a country fan, but had picked this song because it had the word “run” in it. I had no idea how inspirational this song would be. I completed the race as they sang the words, “I feel the wind blow through my hair, I’m gonna be ready this time.” I kid you not. How perfect is that? As I crossed the finish line, I was actually a little sad that there were still close to 45 minutes that hadn’t played. I guess I’ll just have to save them for next time.

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