I listen to voices in my head. Not in a mental way. Not in a ‘They’re all out to get you!’ type way. I mean Podcast voices. Intelligent voices that talk about science and design, movies and sport. Voices from Radiolab and 99% Invisible. Interviews from Desert Island Discs. Voices that make you smarter.
I used to listen to the music in my head until, a few years ago, I ran the Lossiemouth half marathon while listening to Radiohead’s King of Limbs.
Music should make you run faster. You feet should follow the beat as you pound the streets in time with the music.
Unless you’re listening to Radiohead.
Unless you’re listening to Radiohead at their most experimental, which in this context means: “without any hint of a tune, melody, beat or any sense of where one song finishes and the next begins”.
I swear the first mile of the half marathon felt like I was running in ultra-slow motion. 10 years passed while I passed just one house. Another decade passed and Thom Yorke’s only just sung his first decipherable word. A century passes and, in the distance, I can just see the one mile marker.
I stopped. I had to. I wouldn’t normally take out my phone during a race but I had to change the music. It was treacle. It was the aural equivalent of queuing at the Post Office. (Which I always thought was the worst thing to do in all the world until I realised there was one thing worse than that – working at the Post Office).
I switched to Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Fantasy’.
“HE’S A MUTHA*********ING MONNNNNNSSSSSTTTTTEEEEERR!”
It was an instant boost. I was flying. It was the aural equivalent of whatever Sir Mo Farah’s on – which, for the avoidance of doubt and for any of Sir Mo’s lawyers reading this, is only Quorn sausages and hard work.
But I have a problem with listening to music. I count the songs as I run. If I’m listening to an album I know that I will need to run for 50 minutes to hear it all and I don’t like thinking “Oh, that’s the first song finished, that’s three minutes done, just another 47 to go. Groan…”
I had to stop listening to music. Instead I switched to Podcasts, to speech, and not knowing how long I was listening to it.
But, this last month, I’ve been trying a new idea. I’ve been listening to… nothing.
I’ve left my phone at home.
Because I have this idea, that I’ve been concentrating on the wrong thing. I’ve been concentrating on the latest scientific news, the six songs you’d choose on your desert island, but I’ve not been concentrating on running. I don’t think about form or technique or anything other than what I’ve been listening to.
So, instead, I’ve tried to run without headphones. An experiment, now three weeks old, and one I’ll report back on in a few weeks – and you’ll be the first to hear how I’ve got on.
(But not while you’re running, obviously).