In all sports, any athlete will tell you that the preparation is almost as important as the actual event. Most athletes use music to help them get pumped up. Cross country is no different. I listen to the following 24-song playlist before every cross country meet. What you listen to when you run is imperative, as it is nearly impossible to change what is stuck in your head once you get going. So here it is:
1. “Hunting For Witches” – Bloc Party, A Weekend In the City. I have to be honest, I don’t really like Bloc Party. They maybe have two other good songs (“Banquet,” “Helicopter”), but this one joins them. The guitar riff is simply amazing, combined with the panning of the vocals throughout most of the song. There is keyboard present throughout the song, but it does not really bother me as the guitar riff starts to blend in. The vocals, which are panned between speakers at many parts throughout the song, are superb, as his (I forget his name) voice fluctuates between high and low. The first song on my playlist I listen to. The rest of the songs come on in a random order.
2. “We Used To Be Friends” – The Dandy Warhols, Welcome To The Monkey House. A casual listener passing by would not regard The Dandy Warhols as something to listen to get you pumped up, but I beg to differ. Even though Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s vocals are pretty relaxed, they do not lack the edge I search for to get pumped up. The verses of the song are all bass and keyboards, but when the chorus of the song hits, a heavily distorted guitar comes in. However, the guitar is not overpowering and it provides a very nice balance. And of course, in the verse, the clap-clap provides a rhythm that I somehow am addicted to.
3. “I Am Over It” – The Dandy Warhols, Welcome To The Monkey House. As a runner, you have a lot of time to stew over different events. I should have said this, I should have talked to her, I shouldn’t have done that-type of things. This song helps me get all of those distractions out of my head by telling myself that I actually am over it. Part of the Zen to running is clearing your mind of things that could be distracting during a race. The simple drums, bass, and guitar help get that point through to me and clear my mind. The Dandy Warhols really put me into a peaceful mood as I feel like I could fall asleep to a lot of their songs, but they somehow still pump me up.
4. “Exorcising Demons” – The Features, Exhibit A. This song basically serves the same purpose to me as “I Am Over It” does. I use the idea of exorcising the distractions for however many minutes I am running as a release. The song really clears my mind while pumping me up, not to mention how insane the bass is while the guitar plays a catchy yet heavy rhythm.
5. “The Heinrich Maneuver” – Interpol, Our Love To Admire. This song is good no matter what. From the catchy vocals to the unusual bass riff to the guitar, this song really gets me pumped up. I have had this song stuck in my head for a few of my races and they have been some of my best ones. The drums really get stuck in my head and the pre-chorus really pushes me and makes me get through the race. Interpol is a great band, by the way. This song has the urgency and frenetic energy you need to push you as a runner.
6. “All Fired Up” – Interpol, Our Love To Admire. This song does exactly what it says: it gets you fired up. The simple guitar riff combined with the repeated chant of “I’ll take you on/I’ll take you on/I’ll take you on/I’ll take you all on” really makes me feel like I can, well, take all the runners on. This is another song that frequents my head and creates a “me-against-the world” feeling. And it works. This song is fantastic. It really fires me up.
7. “Obstacle 1” – Interpol, Turn On The Bright Lights. I don’t really have much to say about this song, besides the fact that the repetitive lead guitar combined with the bass really creates a great rhythm to have in your head. The lyrics can be somewhat questionable (“Stories are boring and stuff/She’s always calling my bluff”) but it is one of my all-time favorite songs. The drums in the chorus provide for the urgency for me.
8. “Disorder” – Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures. I don’t really know why this song pumps me up. I think part of it is the bass, but other than that, this wouldn’t be a song that would pump a lot of people up. Probably only because it’s one of my favorites. Ian Curtis’ vocals are haunting and that contributes somehow to my pre-race psyche.
9. “She’s Lost Control” – Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures. Ditto what I said for “Disorder.”
10. “Charmer” – Kings of Leon, Because of the Times. Anyone who has heard this song knows that it really does pump you up. The heavy guitar and bass and drums contribute, but the real catalyst is the vocal talents of Caleb Followill. His inhuman screams really get the juices flowing. Makes me want to go out and just run fast.
11. “Four Kicks” – Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak. The drums push this song faster and faster which pushes me faster and faster while I run. Not to mention I think about the video, which is a huge fight, and that pushes me even harder.
12. “Atlantis to Interzone” – Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future. When I first heard this song, the one thing that struck me were the vocals and synth, but after listening to the song with headphones, I discovered what makes this song amazing: the bass. Just listen to it. The bass part is amazing. Just thinking about that is something that gets in your mind and doesn’t leave.
13. “Gravity’s Rainbow” – Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future. The bass is very good in this song, but not to the same extent as in “Atlantis to Interzone.” Other than that, and the guitar part somewhat, I don’t really know what gets me so pumped in this song.
14. “Four Horsemen of 2012” – Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future. Now I know why this song gets me pumped up. The screaming vocals with the low harmony combined with the keyboard and hi-hat part on the drums just make me want to run faster, as if I am running from the Four Horsemen. Listening to this song and really getting pumped can look pretty intimidating, I’ll tell you that much.
15. “Glass Ceiling” – Metric, Live It Out. The descending guitar and bass riffs are really the only reason I listen to this. I really like Emily Haines’ voice, too. Again, another one that pumps me up without me realizing it. Still a good one.
16. “Something Against Me” – Pixies, Surfer Rosa. Another “me-against-the world” type song as it makes you want to run the people that have something against you into the ground. The vocals are incomprehensible but the static guitar provides a good backbeat to have in your head. Yay for running!
17. “I’m Housin’” – Rage Against The Machine, Renegades. Well, it is Rage. Listening to RATM really just pumps you up. It is pretty self-explanatory.
18. “How I Could Just Kill A Man” – Rage Against The Machine, Renegades. Ditto to “I’m Housin’,” except it is even faster. Yeahhhhhhhhhh.
19. “100%” – Sonic Youth, Dirty. Well this is my favorite song of all-time, so it does deserve a spot on this list. That’s about it. This song probably gets stuck in my head the most out of all of them, and I like it, so I won’t complain.
20. “Chapel Hill” – Sonic Youth, Dirty. This song has the urgency behind it to get me through my running, and it is just a rockin’ song. It is tame compared to some of the other songs, but it has meaning behind that really, really makes me think. The guitar solo gets stuck in my head occasionally, and it rocks.
21. “Death Valley ‘69” – Sonic Youth with Lydia Lunch, Bad Moon Rising. Sonic Youth seems tame compared to some of the stuff that pumps me up, but the thing that gets me in “Death Valley ‘69” is Lydia Lunch’s vocals. They are really haunting and urgent, and her scream at the end really sets me up for my running.
22. “Nature of the Experiment” – Tokyo Police Club, A Lesson In Crime. The bass riff is the best part of the song, and the song talks about “Taking me in increments” which is what you really need to do to succeed in running. Whether you’re taking it a mile at a time, a half-mile at a time, or a quarter-mile at a time, to succeed you have to take it little by little.
23. “Citizens of Tomorrow” – Tokyo Police Club, A Lesson In Crime. “Citizens of Tomorrow” has only really gotten stuck in my head once, at Bull Run after I fell, and the line that was in my head was “This is not how we planned it.” It was fitting for that race, as it did not go how I planned. The song is quite somber, as it is about getting blown apart by robots, but it puts the idea that every race could be your last in your head and that you need to really race your hardest every time out.
24. “White Noise” – The Vacation, The Band From World War Zero. First off, the guitar riff is super-catchy. Not catchy, super-catchy. The screaming vocals feel like an adrenaline rush. Yeah, it gets me pumped up.
Well, my analyzing skills really fell of there at the end, but I stand firm by my claim that running is the one sport where you can be affected the most mentally. You have to have your mind cleared and something that is not distracting, but something that will keep the distance you are running out of your mind. It’s a delicate balance. If you don’t believe me, join a cross country team.