A weekly look at the iPod of a regular dude trying to run himself out of an early grave.

"Cold Night In Virginia," The Blacktop Cadence

Well, we are getting down to the nitty-gritty. My race is a week from today. I did 11 miles last week and I will be doing 12 tomorrow. I hope. I am a little concerned that I seem to be getting gassed during these long runs. I had to stop somewhere around mile nine and walk for a bit before finishing up. I keep telling myself that I will be all jacked up come race day so that won't be a problem—and I'm probably right—but still, I'm worried.

I think of it like the Iverson situation. So far, it hasn't been for keeps; it's just me out on my own practicing. When I know it's showtime I think I'll be OK. I'm not trying to set any personal records here —"PRs" as the Runners call them—my personal record will be finishing the thing. That's all I really care about. I want to finish and I want to have run the whole thing; I don't give a rat's ass how long it takes me, I just want to be able to say I ran a half-marathon. That's what we are doing here: managing expectations, one song at a time.

"All Along The Watchtower," Jimi Hendrix

"Wild Horses," Mazzy Star

OK, I know what you are thinking: This is a terrrrrrrible song choice. And I agreed almost instantaneously when it came on. I don't know why I do this; I always try to experiment and add off-beat choices. It almost always backfires. This one, strangely, did not and I'll tell you why. Like I said, I almost immediately recoiled when this came on but soon found myself going down a crazy train of thought.


First I thought man, you have got to stop experimenting with these songs. I like this song; as a song that one listens to, it's pretty good. But this is not good for running. Then I started thinking about things related to the song. Oh yeah, this was in that movie Fear with Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon. It's in that scene when he's fingerblasting her on the ferris wheel. What a fucking weird movie that was. Marky Mark just terrorizing the dude from CSI's family, saying things like "Now I've popped both your cherries" and snaps that poor guy's neck in the woods. From what imagination does a film and lines of dialogue like that come from? Crazy. And then I transferred trains.

Oh yeah, and Witherspoon got arrested the other night. And Reese is not her real name. That's disappointing. I guess? What do I really care about actors' and actresses' real names? God Hollywood is the fucking worst...

"Just Breathe," Pearl Jam

"Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't," Brand New

...so many phonies running ar-hey, a new song! Holy shit I just killed five minutes without realizing it. Turns out Wild Horses by Mazzy Star was a perfect song choice. OK, don't forget this.


Don't forget this.

Don't forget this. Fear, Wild Horses, fingerblast. Fear, Wild Horses, fingerblast. Fear, Wild Horses, fingerblast.

That's the worst, by the way. I think of tons of crap to mention in this space while running and I always forget like 95 percent of it. I wish I could take audio notes or something like Captain Kirk. Captain's log: stepped in horse poop. That is the worst, think of funny bit involving stepping in horse poop.


"5-3-10-4," Alkaline Trio

After my long run this week, I was craving a sno-cone. I have absolutely no idea why, but at that moment it sounded like the greatest thing ever: refreshing and tasty. Usually water is good enough for me. Well, let's get serious for a second; it's not good enough, it is spectacular. Halfway through any run, usually all I can think about is how delicious some ice cold water will be when I'm done. It's kind of crazy when you think about it, that what is basically wetness can be delicious. But it is. Anyway, that wasn't the case this week, this week I really wanted flavor. A sno-cone would have been dynamite, but even a Gatorade would have hit the spot. My wife said it had something to do with science-y stuff, something about electric lights, but I just think I wanted to treat myself to something delicious after a long, hard run.

"Fury Of The Storm," DragonForce

I have this shirt that I bought ages ago and it's kind of been a representation of my whole existence since I bought it. Almost immediately after I got the shirt, it no longer fit. I really liked the shirt, so I kept it, but it just got pushed further and further back in my closet. It was still there, I knew it was still there, I just never looked at it. Every once in a while I would come across it and think, I really want to wear this shirt, this will be my goal. And it would stick around for a bit, I would never fit in it but I was more cognizant of it as I dipped my toes in the water of fitness and then ran away frightened. With each relapse, it would get moved to the back of the closet again. But I still always had the goal of fitting into that goddamned shirt.


"Someday," The Strokes

Finally with my latest rededication, current longest time between relapses or whatever this is, I was getting very close to fitting into that shirt. I would periodically check, and when once I couldn't even button half the buttons, I was buttoning more buttons. They were hanging on for dear life, but they were buttoned. It was like standing on a scale, but with less math. Finally one day I could button the whole shirt and it didn't look ridiculous. Only it did look ridiculous because the shirt was so long I looked like a kid playing in his father's closet.

"The Birth And Death Of The Day," Explosions In The Sky

That's the problem, if you want to call it a problem, with being a large man who has since lost weight. All your clothes have been designed to fit over your massive gastrointestinal factory that all that fabric—that once went out, perpendicularly—now has nowhere to go but down. Basically all my shirts go down to my thighs now, which just looks so slovenly. I want to get new clothes, but I still have weight to lose before I'm done and I worry that buying new clothes will make me complacent. It's like an acknowledgment that I'm done or something. Either that or I'm just wasting money on clothes that will not fit me in a few months if all goes according to plan. I'm already a complacent person, I don't need to reinforce it and I certainly don't need to waste money.


"Don't Look Back in Anger," Oasis

"Quarter Past," The Fall Of Troy

A related problem, sort of, is seeing people you haven't seen for a while and they're surprised by your appearance. "Oh my god, you look great," "You've lost so much weight" and the like. It's what I imagine reading the paper is like for guys like Tom Brady or Derek Jeter. Yeah, I am pretty great, aren't I? It totally blunts your edge because it's a really nice thing to hear and makes you feel good, but you also start to believe it while simultaneously and completely disregarding the implied parenthetical that they are commenting on relative changes. Yes, yes, you look good. Compared to the slob you were 12 months ago, you should be in the goddamned classical Greek sculpture wing of a museum. But you're still a chunky guy with work to do. Don't buy the hype.


"Old White Lincoln," The Gaslight Anthem

I've mentioned before that my neighborhood is very hilly. Based on a very scientific inquiry into various factors including living here, the Bronx, outside of Staten Island—which isn't really a borough anyway—is probably the hilliest borough in the city. The "Bronx" is actually dutch for "a great many hills, exasperatingly spaced out." Despite my best efforts, it has been virtually impossible to avoid hills when running outside.

So, I do the next best thing. I run down the bigger hills and up the smaller ones. I've lived here long enough that I know exactly which ones are the worst and happily run right down them every day(ish). I know I should be pushing myself to accept and conquer new challenges but running is hard. Running uphill is even harder. I am OK with doing just the hard things. [eyes shift to the left, then to the right.]


"(I Am) What I Am Not," Idlewild

To be serious for a second, though: fuck hills. Fuck them right in their stupid climbing faces. Oh are you sweating? And panting? And barely alive, basically? Cool, try this, then. [tectonic shift rearranges road at a 45 degree angle]. Just keep doing what you are doing, but also climb. Oh, that feeling? Those are alveoli being expelled from your lungs. Don't worry, you can spit on the pavement. Yes, that is a cemetery and, yes, that is a headstone shop.

It doesn't matter what kind of hills they are either. The short (in distance), rapidly climbing ones are just as bad as the longer, more gradual hills. And they probably take the same amount of time to overtake. The thing about the gradual ones, though, is that if you don't actually run or walk them, it's hard to appreciate just how devastating they can be. If you only drive up a road with a steady incline you have no way of truly understanding just how much it will make you want to puke while running up that road.


"Alone," Heart

I should mention here, and perhaps elsewhere on this playlist, that the songs I select for these playlists are selected for one reason. It's kind of like the relevance test in evidence: Does this song have a tendency to make my run less miserable? Like with evidence, the test is not "does this prove the case." It's much, much smaller than that. It's not, is this a great song? or does this make the run awesome? If the entirety of human emotion is on a linear graph and 1 is running and 100 is, like, puppies giving you a Christmas present of more puppies then we want our song choice for a running playlist to just move the needle from 1 to 1.1. That's it. Does it tend to make this not as horrible as possible.

"Moonpies For Misfits," Hot Water Music

Sometimes that means you choose a song you really like and would listen to at any time.


"Breakfast at Tiffany's," Deep Blue Something

And sometimes it means...not that.

"Whole Lotta Love," Led Zeppelin

Apparently lots of Runners bring water with them, or plan routes around known water fountains, when they are going on long runs. It goes without question that I don't do this because it is ridiculous. First, I would never willingly carry anything more than what is absolutely necessary. That means, me, myself and my iPhone. I don't want shit in my hands while I'm running. It's actually one of the reasons I was hesitant to run outside in favor of the treadmill. At least with a treadmill you can stow a water bottle and only pick it up for the few seconds you take a sip. I knew that I would never carry water with me and I had previously used water as a sort of reward: Run a mile, get some water. It was a nice way of breaking things up. All that went out the window as soon as I started running outside.


"Helena," My Chemical Romance

"Napoleon Solo," At The Drive-In

I've seen all those weird Batman utility belts with secret compartments for all manner of accessories including keys, water bottles and, I don't know, underwear? Again, I'm not carrying anything and I'm definitely not wearing a fanny pack born of Mountain Dew and skateboards.


And the water fountain thing is the craziest thing I've heard. I don't need built in excuses to stop running. I need ways to finish running as quickly as possible. I can't see spending time the night before a 12 mile run trying to figure out where all the water fountains are so I can know in my head exactly where I will stop and rest and prolong the already too-goddamned-long run I am currently on. I would rather turn into an actual California Raisin than spend any longer time running than is absolutely necessary. Planned stops sound like admitting defeat, or at the very least inviting it inside the door.

"Helicopter," Bloc Party

I run like I eat vegetables. I try to get it all out of the way as quickly and tolerably as possible. So, I stuff my mouth with as many vegetables as I can cram in at once while still appearing to be an adult person with table manners, and minimize my time spent eating vegetables. Much like fitness, I spent a great deal of my life avoiding vegetables. I now realize this is silly and immature and counter to a healthy life. So I eat vegetables. But I don't like eating vegetables (although I do perversely enjoy the asparagus-pee phenomenon, like the smell of gas). I tolerate eating vegetables because I know I should have regular poops and stuff. I'm told there are other health benefits. But it's always a means to an end—never the end—so I complete the task with a surgical strike. Entire serving of vegetables, crammed in mouth: done! 12 mile run, no stopping: done!


"Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt," We Are Scientists

"Happiness Is A Warm Gun," The Beatles

This time next week, I'll be running 13.1 miles all at once. It's something that even six months ago sounded downright preposterous to me. Actually, no, it did not have a sound because it was never even a thought that entered my mind. But here I am. I'm interested to see how I react to it all. I don't expect I will become addicted to races or anything. I don't get the same release from running—the Runner's high—that you always hear about. Or, maybe I do, but I don't crave it. I do get a sense of satisfaction from having completed a goal, though. Hopefully I feel it next week after I run all 13.1 of those miles in however-many-hundred minutes it takes me. And hopefully the process is slightly less terrible than it could be.