Sound vs Silence

Few topics divide the running community as strongly as the question of running with music. For though firing up the MP3 player can be a fun and exhilarating way to crank up the tempo for some, others argue plugging yourself into a playlist simply detracts from the simplicity of the running experience.

It's not just us runners who are getting hot under the collar either: the relationship between music and running is receiving increased attention from sports science experts too.

Here at RW - in association with Nike - we've decided to stage our own investigation into the pros and cons of running with music. Over the next four weeks, we'll be following two hot-headed journalists as they swap their usual running habits for a taste of life on the other side of the fence. Read on to learn more about the rationale behind the project, acquaint yourself with our resident guinea pigs and get stuck into the first instalments of their training diaries.

The Science Behind the Debate

Wise up to the research with this growing selection of articles

  • Tune Up Your Performance
    Studies suggest that the effect music has on your running performance could depend on your personality. Athletes who tune into how they feel while they run are less likely to find music a helpful distraction while, for those who prefer to externalise their thoughts, plugging themselves into an MP3 player is just one of the ways they can get the most from their training.
  • Are you an 'associator' or a 'dissociator'?
    Will music help fine-tune your running? Take this quick quiz to find out.
  • The Perfect Playlist
    Runners who listen to music know its motivating power, but what exactly does a great running song sound like?
  • Extended Play
    Learn how to compile a compelling playlist to keep you running stronger for longer.

Nike+ Cassius Sport Mix

What’s your favourite music to run to? Classical, boogaloo, dance? Well, it’s not the genre that’s important – it’s the bpm (beats per minute) of the music that helps determine a runner’s pace.

Which is why French band Cassius, in partnership with Nike, have created CassiusPlay, a 45-minute track specifically designed with runners in mind. Comprising six rhythmically different sections, the varying bpm aims to mirror a typical workout’s pacing, including that all-important warm-up, a final push to the finish and a two-minute cool-down.

Listen to a five-minute clip (MP3)
To download the file, right-click on the link and select "Save Target As". Then select where on your computer you would like to save the file.

Like what you hear? Then don't miss your chance to download the full 45-minute CassiusPlay track for free (RRP £7.99) as part of this exclusive RW giveway. Alternatively, you can buy it right now from iTunes.

Exclusive Paula Radcliffe Video Interview

Is there a time and place for listening to music within the training regime of an elite athlete? Fire up this never-before-seen video interview to find out what Paula Radcliffe - female marathon world record holder - has to say about the role of music in her race preparations.

Meet the Journalists

It’s a brave soul who agrees to adopt an alternative lifestyle for a month in the name of journalistic research, but that’s exactly what these two intrepid runners have done.

We’ve confiscated self-confessed music nut Andy Richardson’s iPod, and given it to running purist and RW Publishing Director Steven Seaton for the next four weeks. And it’s not just their training they’ll both have to adjust. At the end of Week Three, they’ll be going head-to-head in the monthly Serpie 5K in London’s Hyde Park as we see how they fare with (or without) music under racing conditions.

Trust us, if their initial reactions to this experiment are anything to go by, the month ahead promises to be a real rollercoaster ride for them both...

Running with music: Steven Seaton

Latest Blog Entry (Updated 25/06/08)
I imagined that racing with music would be easier than training. After all races are hardly social experiences. I can't remember ever striking up conversation with anyone mid-race. It's all about you in your own little world and your own performance. So what's the big deal with further distancing yourself from the rest of the field with an iPod? Read more

More about Steven
Margaret Thatcher was still the Prime Minister when Steven Seaton first started working in the running business. After starting life as a junior reporter, he rose through the ranks to spend 12 years as the editor of Runner's World - a period which saw 12 consecutive increases in circulation and the launch of its award-winning website - before moving up to the role of Publishing Director. He's a serious runner with limited talent. He's run more marathons that he cares to remember (mostly slowly), numerous ultras (slower still) and completed a host of multi-day adventure races.

Running without music: Andy Richardson

Latest Blog Entry (Updated 30/06/08)
In the final analysis, one thing counts. Will this commited audiophile run without music in future? The answer, quite simply, is yes. Read more

More about Andy
Andy decided against a stag night when he got married. Instead he flew to Singapore and ran his worst ever marathon. An award-winning writer who started his journalist career 20 years ago, he has raced trains, run along the Mekong River and completed a 240-mile unassisted seven-day run during an eight-year association with Runner's World. His work has appeared in New Musical Express, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent On Sunday in addition to many other lifestyle magazines. A former Tipton Harrier, he lives and works in Shropshire with his family.

Have Your Say

OK, so you’ve heard what our two journalists think - now we want to hear from you.

Are you the sort who would rather commit to 10 extra hill reps than leave your MP3 player behind? Or maybe you prefer to soak up the natural sounds of your surroundings and shudder at the thought of stuffing headphones in your ears?

Whatever role music plays (or doesn’t) in your running career, get your views heard in our special forum debate.