What do you listen to when you run? It could be as simple as our favorite band or it could be the hum of the city, the symphony of the woods, or the voices in our heads. We all listen to something as we move through the world.

Music can be beneficial to your running by helping you maintain a consistent cadence. It can help keep your speed up by distracting you from the fire in your lungs and limbs as you push yourself beyond what you thought was your limit.

There are runners who never pull on their shoes without their ear buds first being placed snuggly in their ears. They scroll through their playlists and find one that fits their run and mood. The right song can motivate, empower, and infuse us with confidence. If you are a runner who runs music, you know how important it is to have the right songs on the list and when you come across one that doesn’t work… You know.

What about other runners who don’t run with earbuds? I’m one of these runners. Well, not entirely. I use music very selectively. I use music when I run on the road or treadmill. The other time I use music is when it is a very difficult run such as uphill in 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the road. When I’m on the trail, I listen to the wind and the birds. For me, music gets annoying when I’m on the trail.

When I’m on the trail I want to let my mind wander and find whatever is wandering the mental paths in my head. Music interferes with my exploration and discovery.

I have nothing against people who run with music. I have many friends who run with music and as I’ve said I use it in very particular situations. I’ve also listened to audiobooks during runs when it’s a slog through the rain and mud through the night and no one else is around.

For many music adds to the experience of running, but for me and others like me, it takes something away. I love the simplicity of running and for whatever reason, music other than that played by the mountains themselves, dilutes the experience of putting one foot in front of another.