Looking for running playlists? Look no further.
It’s a question often asked on social media – what are the best running playlists?
Now, I think music and running make great bed fellows. The right tunes can connect mind and body in perfect harmony. They can lift our spirits – particularly on longer runs where mental fortitude can take a battering. And they can inspire us to new PBs.
I don’t always listen to music when I run – I’m a big fan of a good podcast. But there are times when only music will do. On those days, I need well-crafted, carefully considered running playlists.
So, I’ve created some. And, since I’m such a generous man, I’ll share them with all you Ordinary Runners out there.
My music taste isn’t for everyone, I know that.
I consider myself something of a musical omnivore. But quite a fussy one. Always willing to take a nibble, I have no qualms in spitting out anything I don’t like. On the other hand, I’ll greedily devour good music until I’m sick of it – even as a forty-something-year old (I’ll never learn).
My taste takes in indie pop, rock and grunge. I like a bit of ambient techno, downtempo trip hop and, when the mood takes me, some drum & bass. I’m also keen on jazz and funk and a little bit of hip hop – again, favouring the older stuff. Then, of course, there’s dub and reggae, and the uniquely British two-tone. Plus lots of other stuff that doesn’t fit into any of these categories.
Not all of it is suited to running. But across every genre you can find tunes that will put some pep in your pace.
You might find nothing to suit your tastes here. But don’t be put off. I’ll keep creating new running playlists. And, who knows, maybe your ideal selection will turn up. One day.
Musical taste isn’t the only consideration. We all have cadences (simply: the number of steps per minute) that are either comfortable or optimal. And, as with everything running related, these vary from person to person.
Cadence doesn’t necessarily equate to pace. Upping the number of steps per minute won’t always result in a quicker time. In fact, you could increase your cadence and reduce your pace – some would argue that’s what you should be doing.
This video explains it far better than I can.
While not 100% accurate, your GPS watch (if you wear one) will give some insight into your cadence. The Garmin app shows this data clearly and you can overlay pace for comparison.
Short as I am, my cadence should be higher than it is. I don’t think my form is very good! But, if you ignore that, you’ll see from these two pictures how cadence and stride length can affect pace.
An early morning five mile plod (left) vs my parkrun PB (right)
This is a roundabout way of saying that these playlists range between 160 and 170 BPM, which is ideal for me.
I’m going to try a 120 (ish) BPM playlist. It might not work, but there are many, perfect running tunes around that tempo, so I’ll give it a go.
My running playlists
1) Rock & Indie (v1)
This, my first effort, was inspired by The Cure. It was a sunny, breeze-less day when A Forest found its way into the shuffle. Feet and beat fell in step, my pace lifted, and inspiration struck – as soon as I get home, I thought, I’ll create a running playlist to match my cadence.
A selection of killer songs, all in the sweet spot around 165 BPM. Body and soul in tune, lifted in harmonious celebration of music and running. This, I genuinely believed, was my ticket to a brand new 10k PB.
It couldn’t fail.
The idea was great. The playlist quickly filled with banging tunes. And yet, the PB of my dreams failed to materialise.
It’s unashamedly guitar heavy and sets off at a comfortable 160 BPM, rising steadily throughout. From Wombats to Doves, via Foals and Artic Monkeys, this playlist also includes bands not named after animals.
While it didn’t deliver the PB I’d hope for, it is a great selection of tunes.
2) Drum & Bass (v1)
As a man in his mid-forties, Drum ‘n’ Bass featured heavily from late teens and into my twenties. Back then, in loud, sweaty raves, the only running of interest was the running man. Looking back, I surely could have put in some impressive parkrun times, with all the “training” I did.
Unfortunately, parkrun didn’t exist and, even if it had, it didn’t suit my lifestyle – I don’t remember many Saturday mornings from those days. Certainly none where running was an option.
Much has changed over the intervening years. An “all-nighter” sounds like a punishment. Dancing is reserved for being silly with my daughter. And the idea of a noisy, sweaty club gives me the fear – and not in a good way.
But the music holds a special place in my memory. Lifelong friendships were nurtured amongst clichéd platitudes swapped with strangers.
I rediscovered some amazing tunes and recalled some faint memories while making this playlist.
Kicking off with Goldie’s Inner City Life (a little slow at 155 BPM), pace builds through the rough, the smooth and, at one point, the shamelessly cheesy. Roni Size rounds it off with his Brown Paper Bag, neatly bringing us home at 170 BPM.
Look out for version two, coming soon (ish).
3) Downtempo (v1)
These lazy tunes are the soundtrack to your long run. Half tempo. Unobtrusive. Metronomic. You can lace up, plug in and let the music guide you, without troubling your heartrate.
You know those days where you just want to run? Pace, time and distance don’t matter. Maybe it’s warm. Perhaps it’s your weekly long run. Or, you just need to get out for a couple of hours and pound the streets.
This playlist is for that (it’s also good for those slow Sunday mornings when you have no interest in running).
It’s a playlist of two halves. The first takes you from a downright slow 152 BPM, courtesy of Red Snapper’s One Legged Low Frequency Guy, to a laid back 172 BPM, with Kruder & Dorfmeister providing the beats. From its peak, the tempo slows, bottoming out where we came in, at 152 BPM.
This playlist won’t get you a PB. But not all runs are about pace, the same way that not all music is about meaning. Sometimes, it’s just about a feeling. And this playlist feels great.
More running playlists
Lazy placeholder in lieu of future efforts. There will be more. I promise.
As ever, I’m open to suggestions and recommendations. If they fit with my broad (yet highly selective) taste, I might even try to build a playlist around them.
Head on down to the comment selection below and fill your boots.