after tuesday’s post about the three things that have helped me to finally enjoy running, i had a request to divulge the music i listen to while running. i was initially hesitant, because (1) there is no shortage of running song lists on the internet, and (2) several of the songs on my playlist are not good music, in my opinion, outside of running.
but i also know how long it took me to carefully curate this list (after scouring my massive music library and online suggestions for songs in the right tempo range, each has been on quite a few runs with me and have survived the never-skipped-this-track test). it seems a shame not to share it. so, in the spirit of my top 20 songs, i give you my top running tunes.
these are listed in order of tempo, meaning that they start out at 165 beats per minute and gradually move up to 180 bpm. if i feel plenty warmed up i’ll skip the few at the beginning, especially when i know i’ll be on a shorter run.
the whole playlist is 1.5 hours, which gets me through about ten miles on the (rare) days i’m really feelin’ it. but there are a few songs on here that i routinely either fast forward the first half (see #13) or skip the last half (see #28), plus a few songs need a quick FF to get through a dull intro, so a play-through usually lasts me around 75 minutes (about eight miles). that gives me some wiggle room to skip a song or two if i’m bored or tired and still get in a good six or seven miles. UPDATE: i’ve added a few essential songs, so the total time is now 108 minutes)
so, without further yapping, here are the songs that motivate me. maybe you’ll find something that works for you, too.
*fair warning: i try to keep this blog family-friendly, but a couple of these songs contain one or two potentially offensive words. if you’re not comfortable ignoring an expletive, avoid #9 and #21… oh, and #28 if you don’t skip the end like me.
1. “home” by marc broussard (165 bpm) – i just like this song, so the fact that it was close to the desired bpm secured it a place on my list. sometimes i’ll listen to it as i lace up my shoes and find my sunglasses, just to get in the mood.
2. “the march” by josh garrels (166 bpm) – i adore every song on love & war & the sea in between, but never thought i’d find a song to run to on it. this really is the perfect song to get your run started—a steady instrumental track with little variance.
3. “you’ll find a way” by santigold (167 bpm) – a good transition into the more uptempo tracks, and definitely fun for running.
4. “riot rhythm” by sleigh bells (170 bpm) – fun song. great for running or dancing in your bedroom.
5. “give it up” by lcd soundsystem (170 bpm) – i discovered this one on someone else’s list, and found i really like it when running, but not so much otherwise.
6. “helicopter” by bloc party (170 bpm) – i really like the part at the end of this song when (and this is where i show my lack of instrumental knowledge) the electric guitar hits the melody of high notes with each beat.
7. “hide u” by kosheen (171 bpm) – this song was popular in europe when i was studying there, and so i already like it for the personal nostalgia. but electronic music in general has a way of being repetitive and beat-driven…perfect for running.
8. “pink” by aerosmith (172 bpm) – truthfully, as much as i love this song, sometimes it works for me and sometimes it doesn’t. but i figured you probably have it in your music files, so you should give it a try.
9. “lose yourself” by eminem (172 bpm) – i think this song is on every running playlist out there, and i agree—it works. the undercurrent is steady the entire song, and his words really accentuate the rhythm. (just fast forward the first 30 seconds.)
10. “paper planes” by m.i.a. (173 bpm) – my husband is amused that i have this song on my playlist, because i always thought it was a dumb song while he (and tons of other people) loved it. well, now i am eating my words, because it is perfect for running. when those repeated gunshots sound on the beat, i may or may not imagine that my 007 shoes are firing as my feet hit the ground.
11. “only want you” by eagles of death metal (174 bpm) – this is another song i found on a online forum that i probably wouldn’t tolerate aside from running. i actually really like the multiple extended rests they take at around 1:55-2:15…each time it kicks back in i feel a little extra oomph.
12. “footloose” by kenny loggins (174 bpm) – how can i not recognize this as one of the ultimate get-off-your-tail-and-move songs?! i don’t care how anti-cheese you are…this is a good’un.
13. “monkey wrench” by foo fighters (174 bpm) – this song kinda gets on my nerves, honestly, but after the first two and a half minutes of the song there’s about 30 seconds of pure energy for me. i don’t care how tired i am, when dave starts yelling a syllable per beat, i feel like someone turned on my booster engines. so i usually end up fast forwarding through most of the song and reaping the benefits of the last 1:20
14.“umbrella” by rihanna (174 bpm) – it fits the tempo, and i don’t hate it. this song signals the beginning of my “coast out of the last acceleration” phase, with two mellow-ish songs following.
15. “yellow” by coldplay (174 bpm) – you’d be surprised how great this song is on a run. usually i’m running in cadence with drum beats, but the intro and transitions of this song offer some strong strumming to accompany each footfall.
16. “come undone” by duran duran (175 bpm) – when this song comes on i can just zen out for a few minutes before i hit my next turn-it-up song.
17. “miracle drug” by a.c. newman (174 bpm) – this has been a fave of mine for a few years, and i almost missed it when calculating beats per minute. good song, good artist.
18. “go!” by tones on tail (175 bpm) – this might be my favorite song to run to. i didn’t gain to many winners from my online searches, but this one made all the clicking worth it. more cowbell!
19. “a-punk” by vampire weekend (176 bpm) – usually, i am energetic enough after the last song that i hardly notice two minutes of a so-so song.
20. “jerusalem” by matisyahu (176 bpm) – another song that lee teases me for adding to the list, because he has always liked it while i made fun of it. what can i say? it keeps me moving when i run. and i’ve always appreciated the nice little moment at around 2:23.
21. “jesus walks” by kanye west (176 bpm) – if this song doesn’t make you want to push forward in time with the marching beat, i don’t know what will.
22. “can i get a…” by jay-z (176 bpm) – a nice consistent downbeat. (this is the “clean” version, but the lyrics are still…jayz-z.)
23. “dancing with myself” by billy idol (177 bpm) – too perfect not to include. the driving rhythm, the theme, billy idol… c’mon.
24. “no one like you” by david crowder band (177 bpm) – i was worshiping in my car and realized that this joyful song would be amazing for running…i was right. (“here we go!”)
25. “woke up this morning (chosen one mix)” by a3 (178 bpm) – once i started looking for songs with the right cadence for running, i realized that i was able to (fairly accurately) judge the approximate tempo of a song just by tapping it out on my leg as i listened. i found myself doing this any time i heard a song i liked that sounded close. yes, even while watching old episodes of the sopranos. (you’ll probably want to fast forward through the first 20-30 seconds of this one.)
26. “everlasting light” by the black keys (179 bpm) – i was thrilled when i discovered that one of my favorite songs from this album fell into the target bpm range. but be warned: although i haven’t tested it all the way through, i have the suspicion that the tempo fluctuates slightly throughout the song.
27. “kickstart my heart” by mötley crüe (179 bpm) – i was recently reminded of this band and just had to add this song to the list. how could i not? it’s energetic and nostaligic all-in-one. this brings back memories of my ten-year-old self listening to dr. feelgood all summer with my cousin and being surprised i liked metal.
28. “i’m not okay (i promise)” by my chemical romance (180 bpm) – another song i kinda hate when not running. but when i‘m going the distance it’s good for the first 2 minutes… then i usually skip to the next song, because the end gets all screamy.
29. “bang bang” by knaan (feat. adam levine) (181 bpm) – okay, i take it back about #18. this is my favorite song on the list. it’s SO perfect for the end of a run, because i never feel tired while running to it. i don’t get how that’s possible, but i’m not going to question the gift of a strong finish.
i hope some of the tracks on my playlist can bring power and stamina to your runs. if you have suggestions for adding to this list, please share in the comments. right now i’m not tired of these songs, but i know that can’t last forever.
BONUS (click to listen to a sample):