5 Running Songs That Start Soft Then GO BIG

I was a total music geek growing up. First piano, then viola, then percussion, then saxophone. By the time I got to high school I was a full-fledged band and theater geek.  And while I wasn’t a music major, my love of music has carried me through more life events than I can count. A life without music is a life not worth living, in my book. I love it all…most genres, anywhere, at all times. In the car, while I’m cooking, in my classroom, and of course, while I’m running.

When I started running, I couldn’t NOT be without music. Now, there are times when I do prefer the sound of my own breath, or when it’s not safe to run with earbuds. But mostly, I run with music and I create playlists like it was my job. I lean toward alternative rock, but you’ll find just about every genre on my playlists. I wrote a post last summer about which Vampire Weekend songs should be on your running playlist, and that got me thinking about other favorite music that I could share with you. I love discovering new-to-me music. I use my SHAZAM app all the time – even in spin class. I still give running mixes to friends and call them “mixtapes,” as there’s not much more personal than giving a mixtape to someone. Sadly sharing a Spotify playlist just isn’t the same, but I’ll do my best.

Consider this post a (mini) personal mixtape to you. This small collection contains songs that you wouldn’t at first think about putting on a running mix. They start soft, sometimes just a single instrument and a whispering vocal. Then they build gradually, coming up to a hard-hitting crescendo that will leave your heart soaring and your feet moving faster. Some of these songs are even my “clutch” songs – the ones I use toward the end of a race to put myself into 5th gear cruise home.

Philadelphia Marathon music running playlist

Mile 25. Clutch-song fueled.

“All I Want” – Kodaline

Notable lyrics: You brought out the best of me / A part of me I’d never seen

I’ll admit this sad siren call for a lost love is not exactly inspiring for a run, at first glance. But this song came on my ipod just as I was summiting the peak of that crazy mountain at Ragnar, so I can vouch for it as a legit push song. The top of the song bursts you into an arena-rock, fist-pumping, oh-my-god-I’m-doing-this frenzy. Have patience with this song, it’s worth the wait.

“Roll Away Your Stone” – Mumford & Sons

Notable lyrics: It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart / But the welcome I receive with a restart

The beginning of this song reminds me of an old 70’s toy commercial (which I am dying to find on youtube, please let me know if you find it, or even if it rings a bell, ’cause it’s bugging the crap out of me). Anywho, this song starts with a nice, innocent banjo/guitar duet. Then, in classic Mumford & Sons style, it jumps like a tramoline into your brain and suddenly you find yourself pushing faster. Being that it’s a song about forgiveness and becoming a new person, you might even shed a tear after this song cleanses you with it’s awesomeness.

“Jigsaw Falling Into Place” – Radiohead ( Sorry no album cover here, the song is available on Spotify, but not the album)

spotify:local:Radiohead:In+Rainbows:Jigsaw+Falling+Into+Place:248

Notable lyrics: You’ve got a light / you can feel it on your back / Jigsaw falling into place

Kind of a gritty, mellow start, but then it builds into a hazy, pulsing roller coaster. It’s about a guy meeting a girl at a club, but I also think it’s about EVERYTHING IS STARTING TO MAKE SENSE – the jigsaw is falling into place. Isn’t that what running does for us?

“Pride” – Syntax (Sorry in advance for the gross album cover – not my doing)

spotify:track:0XPI8AwLnyjgk24HxSLePo

Notable lyrics: Do you believe in reinvention? / Do you believe that life is holding a clue?

My spin instructor played this and I SHAZAMED it right in the middle of spin class. It starts with a simple guitar and electronic beat while the laconic singer emotes. Then about halfway through, the beat doubles up and now you’ve got yourself a full-fledged pumping rhythm, and ends with an old-school R&B backup-singer flare.  Weirdly, it’s from the Nip/Tuck Soundtrack, so it ends with this strange scissors-like sound effect that freaks me out so I trimmed the song in iTunes.

“Below My Feet” – Mumford & Sons

Notable lyrics: Keep the earth below my feet / For all my sweat, my blood runs weak

Holy smokes. If this song doesn’t get your heart soaring, there might be something wrong with you. Kidding! Not really. If there were ever a song that epitomizes spirituality of running, this is it. It starts like a quiet walk in a wintery forest – all tingly and ethereal. Bit by bit, a beat forms and escalates, to a bit of angelic harmonizing of the above lyrics, like a prayer. For anyone who has stumbled through a funk or depression, it’s a call of hope to stay grounded and well – easily translatable to your running life. Unexpectedly, an electric guitar joins the arrangement, and then its just pulsing, jamming, straight to your feet, finally to a delightfully dramatic crescendo that cries to the heart of every runner, or person with a soul. This is another a great clutch song. For all my sweat, my blood runs weak = I’ve worked hard, and I want to stop but I won’t. I will dig deep and power through. I will keep going, through this run/race/life.

There is is, friends. Feel free to add to this list. Do you have any favorite running songs that start deceptively soft and then smack you in the head with their running-song awesomeness? Have you added any of these on your list? Leave your comments below.

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One thought on “5 Running Songs That Start Soft Then GO BIG

  1. Great post! Nance, I’m a piano/violin/sax player who loves percussion and was a thespian all the way in high school. We continue to have a lot in common! I have to say, for me, Let’s Dance to Joy Division by The Wombats totally jacks me up!!! And a new fave, thanks to American Idol, is Tightrope by Janelle Monae. If you like percussion, fast beat, some brass and a cool message, give it a listen. The “solo” version is my fave.

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