Monday, July 28, 2014

The Power of Music

"Music only makes me stronger."

I almost titled this blog, "A Terrible Run". Because that's how it started out. Tonight was an incredible evening for New York City. Cool, calm, quiet for a Monday. I'd just come out of an hour and a half of ping-pong with my impressively-talented-on-the-table Italian friend (play with the best if you want to improve!), and I wasn't ready to call it quits for the evening, as I mosied home from the 116th subway stop. Late summertime in New York City is absolutely fabulous. And up by where I live, next to Riverside and Sakura parks, there's never a shortage of dogs and their owners, new parents with their baby strollers, and oh, of course, the ever-inspiring runners and walkers who are indulging in every ounce of non-gym-time before the summer finally shuts its doors. I trounced into my apartment, semi-folded my work clothes back into their corners, grabbed my new favorite Nike "Miles Ahead, Worries Behind" tank, training shorts, headphones and headed out.

Within a few steps, the ankle that I'd destroyed in soccer last Thursday night, huffed, puffed and moaned at me that this run wasn't going to happen. I limped through my first two blocks, convinced that I would push through it. What did I do? I turned up my music. Should I have been running? Nope. Does loud music cause long term damage to your inner ears? Yep. Was I going to resist a beautiful night out on the Hudson River? NOPE.

Don't run this late on unlit paths. Like I did.

Wow, this city. Well, OK, so that's actually Jersey that you see. But, you know what I mean. Limping along, I wasn't sure which direction to go. I ended up running from 130th Street, down the water's edge to 96th street and back up through Riverside Park. As I usually do in races as well, my body naturally starts to run faster and faster once I've reached my halfway point. When my music is pumping, I stop listening to my body and concentrate on the instruments composing the song. Since most of my workout music is house and techno beats, there's not too much to dissect, but focusing on each measure of music takes my mind off of how far I have left to run.

The paths through Riverside Park are open and breezy. Local security patrol the paths, but in remembering those horrific stories of runners being attacked in NY parks, well in ANY park ever for that matter, I ran with my car key between my pointer and middle fingers, ready to mercilessly stab it into an attacker's neck. (Hey, you can never be too careful.) By the time I made it up to 116th street, I was audibly panting and moaning, practically dry heaving. My ankle was killing me, and I had to stop for traffic lights to cross through Columbia University. But I couldn't stop. The music was driving me. I wanted to run faster and faster. I sprinted across campus and finally slowed down about a block from where my car was parked on Morningside Drive (New Yorkers have to move their car four times a week to opposite sides of the street for the street sweepers.) It ended up being just over 4.5 miles-not bad for a Monday! Best of all, I could go guiltlessly hoark down some pasta and dark chocolate.

The funny thing is that my soundtrack tonight was my slower music. I remember the first time a slower song accidentally snuck itself into one of my playlists. I realized that the beat of the music wasn't what necessarily kept me going. It was the lyrics. Depending on what mood I'm in, what kind of a day I've had, what parts of my life I need to reflect on, the lyrics of the music can be what will motivate me through a run. When I run, I don't worry about troubling things in my life. Running is an escape. A source of freedom. I let the music pierce my body and surge through my veins. It has a way of finding a worry or concern, and smoothing it out by reminding me that there's only so much ever in life that's truly in my control. Sometimes, all you need to do is let the music empower you. Whether it's slow or fast, it will touch you in ways you never expected. Just listen. 

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