On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do you "feel" or do you "float"? AKA MY MONTHLY RUNNING TIMES LOVE FEST

After the little snafu where I realized I had accidentally let my subscription to RT lapse, I post-haste renewed and was very psyched to get the March, April, and May issues in my mailbox in quick succession. Phew! There was balance restored to my world. I've been savoring them slowly, drawing out the goodness.

I've been savoring them so slowly, in fact, that I haven't much gotten past the editor's note in the April issue - and yet, it's been crazy food for thought. I've been puzzling over it for the past few days. You can read it online. Go, do that. I'll wait.

If you didn't read it, Jonathan (I can call him that, right? I mean, we're friends, right?) begins with a brief discussion of shoe design and then goes on to discuss a division that Brooks has begun making in the styling of their shoes, viz. whether the runner wants to feel their run or to float through it. As Jonathan says:

It also helps explain who the Running Times reader is: While we appreciate and often enjoy floating during easy runs on an otherwise tough day, we are dedicated, lifetime runners because of the feel. The runs that motivate us and addict us are those that absorb us--we want to feel the road or trail beneath our feet, the rush of our blood in our veins, the sweat on our bodies, the breath in our lungs, even the pain in our muscles. Running for us is a destination, not a means to an end, and we have no desire to be coddled from it or distracted from it. The feel of running, really running, and the quest to find it in training and racing unites the diverse ages and disciplines of our readers.

As soon as I read this, it bothered me. I've been struggling to articulate why exactly it is that this has gotten to me. Because it did. And it's because he hit on my secret shame.

In theory, I'm a total feeler. But in practice, especially lately, I've been a floater. So much so, in fact - and this is a total secret and I'm ashamed of it - I've begun listening to music on my runs. I've always been anti-music during runs. Ostensibly, I've claimed I was anti-music for safety reasons. But in actuality, I've always cherished my runs as quiet me time when I could be engaged with my thoughts, with my body, with the road. Turning on music is shutting all that off. And yet, music has gotten me through most of my runs lately. So I feel like I've been copping out on running. Selling it, and myself, short. Going through the motions.

What do you think? If you have an opinion on music or no music during your run, what is it? And am I wrong for feeling like feelers are somehow more legit than floaters?


  1. I actually haven't listened to music on a run in over a year (even on long 20 milers)! I think I really started enjoying the sounds around me, quiet time with my thoughts and yeah, I guess the whole "feel" of the run. I definitely don't think there's anything wrong with music - sometimes I wish I had Jay Z yelling in my ear - if it helps you get through a run. Whatever works, you know?

    I rarely float - I think I crave the feel much more!

  2. It's all just bull*&?*, a way for people to sell magazines and books, and apparently shoes. Some days I'm a feeler and some days I'm a floater. I almost always listen to music (don't when I'm running a race), so I don't see how these have anything to do with each other, or that I would need to wear different shoes for each type of run.

    Some days I listen to my fast-paced hard core 'running' playlist when I run and some days I just put on my Pandora station that plays 'light' music. I don't ever listen to music in races because there is enough people around to keep me interested and occupied.

    Why do we need to label everything...

  3. "Why do we need to label everything..."

    Perfectly said. If you are out there running - feeling it, floating, struggling, going easy, whatever - who cares. There's no right way or wrong way. You just run :-)

  4. Honestly? That right there is exactly why I keep this blog. Thank you - you're so right!

  5. To think that someone, namely Running Times subscribers, paid Jonathan to wax phiolosophically about shoe design.

  6. I feel like you're criticizing my life choices. Are you suggesting he's NOT the next Nietzsche? of running?

  7. Feelers vs. Floaters? What ridiculous terminology. Running is an extremely personal thing and it means different things to us on different days and during different seasons and phases in our lives. Seems pretty presumptuous of him to make those claims -- I thought that kind of narrow "racer vs. hobbyjogger" view was limited to the doofus corner on the Letsrun forums.

    I have no idea what he means by this line: "Running for us is a destination - not a means to an end." Huh? Thoughts?

  8. Oh, I'm so glad that you're all commenting. I'm so glad to hear this.

    I guess what I think he meant with the destination v. means to an end thing is that we don't run JUST to train for a marathon or JUST for weight loss... but I do agree absolutely that his argument is simplistic.

    Okay. I'm feeling much better.

  9. I was just going to say that maybe the music has helped you to put in so many miles lately, and now I want to add a great big "amen" to the labeling thing. So true!

  10. I run the track and the street with headphones. I never wear them on trail runs. I'd either kill myself on a tree root when I took my eyes off the trail to hit the change song button or somehow manage to dislodge the damn thing and propel it into a freezing cold creek. :-) Plus, I need to hear the folks coming up behind me to pass on single person trails... and, um, I'm sometimes scared of nature, so I keep an eye and an ear out for any evil rustling.

    I also admit, it takes the edge off at races. I hate running with people. It's something I usually do on my own. The music centers me. It reminds me that while other people might be concerned with personal bests, I'm just concerned with enjoying myself. I check into my music and move to the beat and P!NK and B.o.b. keep me happy and engaged and moving forward, even on cold, rainy Saturday mornings where I'm swearing that I should have stayed in bed.

  11. Music that you love will boost your mood more than running alone, I believe. But I've gone through extended phases with and without headphones. And I have 2 way faster friends--one swears you shouldn't run with anything--including even sunglasses (in Florida)--the other wears an MP3 player without giving it a second thought. So I don't think it will slow you down, although I agree no headphones during races or on off-road trails.

  12. No labels should be put on running or runners. Totally agree with the comment that running is personal. Everyone runs for different reasons and has different motivations. Just because someone likes to listen to music doesn't make them any less of a runner than the person who runs without music. We all sweat the same (some more than others).

  13. Thank you guys so much. Seriously. I love the feedback.

    BUT - I'm stunned at a friend who doesn't run with sunglasses! The wrinkles!!! The horror!!