music for running

Folk Music & Other Things I Used to Avoid

I have a tear trigger- its clean, simple, and mercilessly instantaneous. It’s John Denver’s version of “Leaving, On a Jet Plane.” Normally an easy enough song to avoid, it just happens to be in my iTunes library -masochist that I am.

I can only imagine what passers-by might have thought of me – running down the road, tears streaming down my face despite my best efforts to keep the waterworks in check. As soon as I hear the first 5 words,

All my bags are packed…

I choke out a sob and skip feverishly to the next song, but- and I can’t tell you why- I skip back to it. This is the risk you take with musically assisted runs- you sometimes end up in a head space you hadn’t planned on. Anywhere nearly.

A beautiful spring day, birds singing, sun streaming through the trees, maybe that’s what made it so despicably poignant –me bawling my eyes out all over it.

Every listen I’m brought back- in miserable clarity- to the first time I heard it. My overactive amygdala reminds me that as a very young child, near hysterics, I begged my Dad to turn it off, it hurt so bad to hear it. It was on a mix tape my parents were fond of playing, and I trained myself to anticipate its arrival so I could fast forward through it every time.

It’s probably been 20 years since I can first remember this song and the effect it has on me, and on this run, it smacked me in the gut that I’ve been running away, from a song, for almost 2 decades.

It also happened to be my birthday- so maybe I thought it was finally time to stop running away from our friend John. Somewhere in the sorrow that overwhelms me as soon as I hear the first few notes, it’s comforting to know that I still can’t not cry hearing it.

The hurt is good, and deep. Cathartic and sharply physical, it resonates in unreasonable cadence with my footfalls on the trail–It knows– I don’t stop at one listen– I can’t. I go from avoiding this song like the plague to looping it through my head for almost a half hour, all in the space of one run.

Disastrously dehydrated, hyperventilating, and such a snotty, teary mess I can hardly keep running- I finally have to turn everything off and call this run at 3 miles. It’s not the run I’ve planned- confronting my separation anxiety and mortality to the soundtrack of my parent’s hippy days, on my birthday- but maybe it was good for me in a whole different kind of way.

Listen at your own risk:

What’s your trigger song? Is it on your running mix?