Music on the run
Tip 4 minutes

Music on the run

August 10, 2020

I see lots of people with their earbuds in while running, most likely listening to music to keep them going, listening to a podcast (to do some multitasking) or perhaps following a guided training.

What are the pros and cons of running with earbuds in?

Benefits of listening to something

Some studies suggest that listening to music distracts from pain and/or make you go faster without changing your perceived rate of exertion (a subjective measure of how hard you think you are working).

During my first marathon in Amsterdam around the 35K mark I signaled my father to hand me the pair of headphones I left with him before the start. It was getting seriously hard and I just needed the distraction the uplifting music brings in hopes of getting some strength back.

Only a couple hundred meters to the finish. Photo by @joepvanurk.

Another reason can be that you see the benefits running can bring but are leading a busy life. You want to combine two activities so you are listening to podcasts or (educational) audiobooks while out on the roads or trails. Excellent too!

Maybe you are just using the time to socialize with friends by way of calling them. Please, do make sure to explain at the start of the conversation why you are panting though!


I find running to be a time to just focus on me and on the process. Even though I'm often occupied by thoughts during a run, listening to a podcast or music is even more distracting. When you are free to listen to what is happening around you, maybe you are noticing the rhythm of your breathing or your cadence.

Safety is another concern. If your music is too loud you might not be able to hear traffic coming. Even though they might swerve out of the way for you, it can startle you causing a misstep, which in turn can lead to injury if you land badly enough.

Another issue I found is that you become dependent on the music. On multiple occasions I've forgotten to charge up my wireless gear and had it fail on me halfway through the run.

My current choice

Currently I don't take any music or other audio with me on my runs. I just like it that way, it is one less thing to carry and think about, plus it lets me be more present in the run. But in the past I've definitely had weeks where I ran to the rhythm so to speak, mostly to distract me on long runs when I was struggling with them.

It lets me be more present in the run.

It's a different story entirely when doing strength or mobility exercises though. In more than half of those sessions there is some music or a podcast on my ears. Somehow I need the distraction most during those moments.

It's up to you

Let's call it a matter of preference. Maybe like me you sometimes have a phase where you do one thing or the other. Perhaps for you it helps you get through long runs.

This topic is one where you can easily try one or the other. If you are normally running with sound on, try running without for once and see what your experience is. What new things you may notice.

Koen van Urk