Running to the beat: My Ottawa Race Weekend playlist for a PB

David Akin finished 9RunRun

This weekend in Ottawa is “Ottawa Race Weekend”. Tens of thousands from the national capital region and around the world will put on a pair of shorts and run around a variety of tracks as fast as they can. On Saturday, thousands will run a lovely 10K route that goes from Ottawa City Hall, down the Rideau Canal to Dow’s Lake and back.  On Sunday, the half-marathon and marathon are run. Both courses are terrific. The marathon course takes you right by 24 Sussex, the Governor General’s Residence, the Museum of Civilization, er, Canadian Museum of History, and has great views of Parliament Hill.

I’ve done the 10K event before but this weekend, for the first time in this event, I’m running in the half-marathon. [Course map]  I’ve run this distance — a half-marathon is about 21 kilometres — three times in my life, one of which was in another race event (that’s me finishing that event, the 9-Run-Run last fall, above), but I’ve always run it before with an attitude of “just finishing means you’re a winner.”  This time, though, I want to be faster than I’ve ever been. (My fastest is 1 hour and 57 minutes over this distance.)

Now anyone who runs or skis (or swims or skates or bikes) over long distances knows that pace is the key.  You go out too fast at the start and you will hit a wall well before the finish line and your final time won’t be pretty. So in my training ahead of this race, I’ve really been concentrating on trying to find the fastest pace I can maintain over a long distance without burning myself out. (Hydration is a huge key here but that’s for another day).

To help me “lock in” on a good sustainable pace, I turn to my years as a club DJ through the 1980s when we used to count beats-per-minute of any number of songs to make our dance floor mixes seem smooth.

A couple of years ago, I was running on a treadmill when U2’s “Refugee” came up on the iPod playlist I was working out with. I watched the numbers on the treadmill display and it showed that if I put one foot down after the other to the beat of that song, I was running at a pace that would take me around a 10K track in just over an hour. U2’s “Refugee” clocks in at 150 beats-per-minute.

So I’ve been scouring my iTunes library for music with BPMs that I can run to. As of this writing, my “Running Music” playlist has 867 songs with BPMs of between 145 and 184  and if you played that playlist from start to finish,  you would not repeat it for 2.2 days.

But I digress..

A couple of years ago, a 150 BPM would have me moving at a 6 min/km pace. If you’re just starting out to run a 10K, doing it an hour is very good.

But this weekend, to challenge myself and set a personal speed record, I want to be close to a 5:20 min/km race. For me, over that distance, that’s really fast. By comparison, the guy who set the course record at the London Marathon in April ran 42 km at a pace of under 3 minutes a kilometre! Crazy pace!

In any event, I’ve figured out that, for the way I run, getting down to a 5:20 min/km pace means I need to run to music that’s bopping along at about 165-170 beats-per-minute.  And so, after much tweaking among those 867 songs on my iTunes playlist I could choose from, I’m finalized my race-tape for Sunday. Given my time as an 1980s DJ, it’s fairly heavy on stuff from that era, but there’s a couple of modern numbers in there too. Here it is, in the order I’ll run to it:

Track Title Artist BPM
Telecommunication (Megabytes mix) Flock of Seagulls 156
Down In The Cockpit XTC 158
Wishful Thinking Joel Plaskett 158
Maria Blondie 159
Messages A Flock Of Seagulls 163
Hey Ya! OutKast 159
Catch Me I’m Falling (Extended Mix) Real Life 170
Folitician UB40 169
Serena Ryder Stompa 167
Let’s Talk About Us Van Morrison 169
The Pillow UB40 169
Hands Off She’s Mine The Beat 169
Just What’s Killing Me UB40 168
Twist and Crawl (Dub) The Beat 168
Steppin’ Out Joe Jackson 160
Got To Be There Toots & The Maytals 164
What You Think About… St. Germain 169
Wondering Where the Lions Are Bruce Cockburn 167
Come On In Brad Paisley Feat. Buck Owens 169
Mama Said Lenny Kravitz 164
Nadia Jeff Beck 164
A New England Kirsty MacColl 165
Major Tom Peter Schilling 163
Has My Fire Really Gone Out? Paul Weller 176
Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II) David Sylvian 172

Would love to hear from you, if you’ve got some fave music you’ve BPMed between 150 and 180. Throw it in the comments!


One thought on “Running to the beat: My Ottawa Race Weekend playlist for a PB”

  1. I tried doing that too. I found an app called Beatunes to analyze my iTunes library and found that most of my music is too slow. Also too slow for you. The only thing I found in your range that I have that you don’t is X’s What’s wrong with me? (Possibly not the best ear worm lyric for a race?)

    In the end I got one of those watches that tells me what my pace is and I just look at that.

    Best of luck with the race this weekend. I hope you make your goal.

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