The Planet Wave: A Running Debate: To Run With Music Or Not

January 09, 2014 Posted By: Bob "Wish" Wischnia

There are times when I feel like my running world is neatly divided into two distinct camps: Those who run with music on a daily basis and those who don’t.

Let me state right off that I love music (rock, country, bluegrass-roots) and listen to it all day while working. (Thank you Pandora.) Just not when I run.

To be completely transparent, I have never actually listened to music on a run so maybe I don’t know what I’m missing. If so, that’s an acceptable loss.

Even though I don’t ever run with music, I have nothing against runners are unable to do a single run or race without their Earbuds. That is, runners just like my daughter.

She’s similar to many casual runners without a set routine who takes off on a whim a few days a week for three or four miles. Whether she’s running through her San Francisco neighborhood to Golden Gate Park, on a treadmill or in an occasional 5-K, she needs to be plugged in to get her up and moving.

Good for her.

Aside from the obvious safety-factor, I’m thrilled she enjoys running and the fact that she runs with music is just fine with me. But, she doesn’t know what it’s like to run without music and can’t understand how I can do so.

Actually, it’s quite simply to leave my iPod at home as it would block my symphony of morning sounds. First, on my play list is my breathing which plays out based on my effort. After that settles down into its normal rhythm, I pound a couple of hills and monitor my running system for any abnormal effort.

After a couples of miles, I enter a greenbelt with a rocky deer trail. Here, is where my senses go on high alert. I call this short section Rattler Alley. It’s usually too dark to see them, but I’ve stepped on enough big boys down here in the high grass that my ears are tuned for any rustling in the grass.

As I emerge from Rattler Alley onto my favorite golf course, the danger has passed, but my play list continues. The north wind is rustling the bone dry Live Oaks and cedars that line the fairways and I tune into their crackling branches.

There aren’t any golfers at this early hour, but the Mexican greens keepers are already out in the darkness, tending to the sand traps and greens. They never stop their work to chat with me, but every morning we greet each other with a simple “Buenos dias” that I would never have heard if I was plugged in.

The whitetail deer are oblivious to me—and continue their feeding. Mostly they are silent, but occasionally one of the herd will sound some type of snort to his grazing friends. That usually means Mr. Coyote is lurking nearby. He isn’t a threat to the grown deer, but they monitor any quick movements. As do I.

After hopping across a couple of dry creek beds, I take a shortcut through a heavily wooded area. Doves are often nesting here and with my noisy approach, many noisily take flight.

This is dangerous turf. Not for me, but there’s always a hawk or eagle gliding along the course on a thermal, searching for breakfast. Occasionally, they nail a dove or quail, but squirrels and rabbits are more of a mainstay.

As I swing up a long par-5, I approach a hidden spot where some of the workers sneak a smoke. I hear them riffing in Spanish and even understand snippets of their conversation if I listen closely enough. Nearby in a thicket, is where a family of armadillos live who delight in digging up the fairways and greens, clawing for something to eat. They don’t have much to say, but scatter as I cruise by.

One more fairway and I’m done with the golf course. I emerge from the solitude of the golf course into a new development which used to be part of a cattle ranch. Once I hit the pavement, my pace (and breathing) picks up as I head for home. At the top of my final hill, on one corner, I pass the deaf kids waiting for the bus.

Some of them interrupt their signing to wave as I run by. Unlike the other school kids, the deaf aren’t plugged into anything, but their own moods, feelings and senses.

Just like me.

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