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The music I find in running

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  May 13, 2013 06:25 AM

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Let's start today off with a fact you may not know about me: I have perfect pitch.

This little-known fact could explain something you already know about me if you read this blog regularly: Why I like finding a rhythm and pattern in everyday life; why some people's voices really grate on my nerves; and why I think running is as much like writing as it is like music.

Writing and music both have structures and patterns -- something that bring order to the chaos that is made up of words or notes.

Running has structure, too, just as a song has a chorus. There are a few things, in my mind, that a run comes back to time and again.

During my long run this weekend, I charted out these crescendos and refrains in an attempt to show you what a "normal" run looks like for me.

The first mile is like the first three notes of a song
Usually, I love or hate a song in the first three notes based on just gut reaction alone. Of course, three notes is not enough to get a true sense of a melody or whether or not it's the kind of tune that will stick in your head to resurface at the most inopportune time (say right before you close your eyes to drift off to sleep). While I generally either love or hate a run in the first mile, I know as long as I can just get through it, I'll have a better sense of how my run will go. Generally, the first mile is my ugliest.

The middle is the chorus, and it can get slightly dull
There are some songs where it feels like the chorus is repeated so often that when you think of the song that is all you can recall (I'm sure you can think of a song like this right now, right?). The middle part of my run feels familiar, but that familiarity can get a bit dull. This part of the run is the part where I am not tired yet, and I'm simply putting one foot in front of the other over and over. This is where I need good scenery to break things up -- or a hill (which, in my head, is akin to a killer guitar solo you weren't expecting). The chorus sounds easy, but it's likely the part of the song the artist spent the most time on. The chorus is the backbone that everything else leans on. If the middle miles of my run aren't strong, there's no way I'm finishing my miles in good shape.

The coda (otherwise known as end)
The musical definition of the coda is "the concluding passage of a piece or movement." But, it is not quite as simple as the end. Sometimes a coda can be something as short as a few bars or as complex as an entirely new section. Running is like that, too. For me, no matter what the distance, as soon as I get one mile past the halfway part that's where I feel like I am in the coda. It may still be a long haul, but the end is in sight, I'm more than halfway home and this section of a run can bring it's own beautiful, but complex, notes.

Often, it is not until I'm completely done with a run that I'll decide I actually enjoyed myself -- just like a song that grows on you after listening to it so often. In that sense, both running and music possess an almost magical quality.

How does a typical workout break down for you? What does it compare to in your mind?

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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