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Heart Breaker Half-Marathon: a Race Report Via Playlist

Stay tuned to find out why Lady Gaga is illustrating my race report

Having my playlist perfectly match my race--picking up as I speed up, providing motivating lyrics when I'm lagging, pumping me up for a final finish push--makes me almost as giddy as executing a great race. Yesterday I nailed it--the playlist part, anyway--at the Heart Breaker Half in Portland. My time goal was to finish closer to 1:50 than 2:00, but that didn't happen: I finished in 1:57:58 (sigh: getting older is no fun!). Yet I'm proud of how strongly I ran from start to finish, especially up a 2-mile climb, then pushing to the very end. The Marathon: Own It plan from Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity called for 20 miles yesterday, so I slowly ran 3+ miles from our house to the start, then the same route home, calling it good. Here is the race via a few song highlights. (I'll post the full playlist, along with a real race pic, later in the week--I'm running on fumes right now.)

Start: "Telling the World" by Taio Cruz
Given that my eyes are focused on the Boston Marathon and that this half-marathon was prep for it,  I wasn't feeling very "emotionally connected" to the halfsie. Yet as racers in red tees, compression gear, and funky knee socks surged en masse in the first  hundred yards and Taio serenaded me with the uplifting lyrics of, "Every part in my heart I'm giving out/Every song on my lips I'm singing out/Any fear in my soul I'm letting go," my heart soared. It was game on, and I was filled with a deep love of the scene as it was unfolding. (Fine, shoot me, but sappy sentiment flows as freely as sweat when I run.)

Nearing Mile 2: "Faster" by Matt Nathanson
I vowed to start out at a conservative pace, so instead of following the title of the song, I honed in on the refrain, "you make my heart beat faster," reminding myself this was a chance to warm up.

Mile 3: "Tonight's the Kind of Night" by Noah and the Whale
Mile III  is where I switch from warm-up to race pace. Rather than risk going into overdrive with a similarly themed song--"I Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas--I opted for a tune from a band I only discovered last week. My optimism for a speedy time was fueled by the lines, "Because tonight's the kind of night/where everything could change." (Okay, so it was morning...and maybe Noah was trying to tell me I could have a craptastic race instead of a fast one...but like I said, I was in full-on Optimist Mode.)

Nearing Mile 5: "Mr. Know It All" by Kelly Clarkson
The racers were well spread out by this point (the race had fewer than 500 participants so it never qualified as "crowded), and I was running on my own for more than a mile. But I caught up to a loose cluster of about seven racers as we ran through an industrial stretch. One fella didn't enjoy being "chicked" (passed by a woman), so he immediately sped up and re-past me. Well, that move was successful for about, oh, five steps, at which point Ms. American Idol crooned, "Baby, you should know I lead not follow." Grrrrrl power!

Past Mile 7: "You and I" by Lady Gaga
Stay with me on this one: I'd past the halfway point, but I knew two of the most notorious uphill miles in Portland lay directly ahead. As Stefani Germanotta (a.k.a. Lady Gaga) started singing about her busted, long-term relationship with someone from Nebraska, a vivid image of my younger daughter, Daphne, in her Nebraska sweatshirt shot into my mind. Suddenly the grammatically incorrect "you and I" became Daphne and me, running side by side. My whole body, including my feet, felt lifted up by love for my dear daughter.

Closing in on Mile 10: "Cheers" by Rihanna
Focusing on the climb made the music a bit of a blur--other than Jessie J directing, "everybody look to the left, everybody look to the right" in "Price Tag"--but when Rihanna and her backup boys started toasting each other, I felt they were celebrating my climb. I'd passed several runners, and managed to not let my per-mile pace drop more than about 30-40 seconds. My exuberance even bubbled over: When a woman with a thick, blonde braid, who I'd been tracking for miles, slowed to a walk, I encouraged her to, "stay strong," and when another one surged past me, I told her what, "a great hill cimber" she was.

Having 3.3 miles of almost all downhill sure gave me a good feeling

Mile 11.5: "I Like It" by Enrique Iglesias
This was the start of the most money set of gun-for-the-finish songs. Mock me all you want, but I love this song and how it never fails to rev me up. By this point of the race, we'd been cruising steadily downhill for more than a mile and a half, and the course was starting to level out somewhat. Just ahead the blonde I'd urged on at the end of the climb was slowing again. As I came up on her, I yelled out, "Braid, come on: Stay with me to the end." Hmmm, bossy or helpful? I meant for it to be the latter, and she kept up with me for about a half-mile. But then my booster-rockets were fired up by...

Mile 12.35: "Good Feeling" by Flo-Rida
Too perfect! If there's one song that gets my juices flowing more than "I Like It," it's this club mix. The feeling felt especially good because the course started to slope down again, boosting my pace.

Miles 12.88: "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" by Kelly Clarkson
By this point, my mind is being blown by the perfection of the playlist--which was good because it made me concentrate on something other than my lungs about to burst and my heart pumping overtime. I honed in on her words, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger/Stand a little taller [I straightened up my back, dropped my hunched shoulders, tightened my core]/Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone/What doesn't kill you makes a fighter/Footsteps even lighter." I needed my footsteps to feel even lighter, as a little dip turned into a quick climb before a final turn to the left. Then, helllllllo, finish line!

42 responses to “Heart Breaker Half-Marathon: a Race Report Via Playlist

  1. First of all, nice job on the race, those hills were killer, I wasn’t expecting first one that turned onto Barbur and of course it is my humble opinion that Terwilleager is evil. My race didn’t go well, partially since my midgets stole my IPod and I couldn’t find it race day morning, and partly due to the bird that pooped on my shoulder, and the one that pooped on my newly cleaned van.

    However, the best thing about a tune up race, is that I know what I need to work on before Shamrock. First of all, I am copying this song list, it sounds awesome and couldn’t come at a better time. Secondly, I am going to master that climb.

    So excited for you Sarah at Boston. I’ll be there someday…all my friends say the bird poop is lucky…maybe it will carry over to my fulls later this year.

  2. Those are GREAT songs, and many of them are on my ipod! I haven’t met an Enrique Iglesias song I didn’t like, and my other favorites for motivation are some by Pit Bull. I’ll have to check out the others on your list I haven’t heard. Great job 🙂

  3. I love a good playlist. It really helps, esp. during my solo track runs in the dark and cold. Will you post playlist on the site and not just spotify? I am in need of a new one and all your songs in the recap sound perfect (and I have some!). Non running related but song related: we are loving. loving. The Voice at our house (me, 7 year old boy, husband). It has us listening to new songs, downloading new music, talking about singing, songwriting, looking at videos, etc. Fun for the whole music loving family (and pop culture loving mama).

  4. Great playlist and enjoyed the remarks related to every song- don’t know if I could do that for the Full Marathon playlists I have run to. I’m slower so 4 1/2 hours of songs is a long to post on :). Great job with race- wishing you best with Boston.

  5. The power of planned connection—I love it! I make up all sorts of stories with music to get thru a hard run and especially a race. What ever it take to cross that line and then some.

  6. I, too, am working on perfecting my playlist for my upcoming half on 4/1. “Telling the World” is definitely on there, and is a sentimental favorite for me – my hubby worked on the movie Rio. I also have “Mas Que Nada” and “Take You To Rio” on my mix. All three make my heart soar with the knowledge that he worked many, many hours on a movie that his family can be proud of.

  7. Thanks for the song suggestions. I’m like you. I don’t even shuffle my playlist. I’m really loving Flo Rida’s Club Can’t Handle Me. My RP and I have changed it to “the Road Can’t Handle Me” We are thinking of getting shirts made up for our next race.

    Also keep encouraging other runners. When I was new to running a 5k race felt like it would never end, so having another runner encourage me to keep going always gave me strength. Now I get to be the one pulling another runner across the finish line and I love that feeling!

  8. First, I just want to say..I love the comment, ” One fella didn’t enjoy being “chicked”…” Too funny! I’ll definitely be re-using that line!

    And – I love that you put so much time and consideration into your playlists. I have been using RLAM playlists since you started publishing them on the page. I recommend them to all my fellow running ladies too. I used a combination of two different lists to make up my first Half-Marathon list and it totally rocked! I had a great surge at the end and was running a 7min mile to the finish – which is unheard of for me! Unbeknownst to me I was 4 week prego during that race too! When most say they get slower times that clue them into being pregnant before peeing on a stick – I had the best race ever – I credit that to the best running partner I had that day…my RLAM playlist (aka secret weapon!). It wasn’t until 3 days later when I felt I wasn’t recovering very quickly from my race that I counted the days on the calendar and had an “ah-ha!” moment.

    Keep up the hard work ladies – I can only hope my blog can someday be a fraction of the good you all put out here on a daily basis!
    You should offer a mentor program – I would like to be the first to sign up!

  9. Love it! Thanks for sharing the inner monologue in dialogue with the playlist! I have fond memories of the songs that have motored me up Barbur Blvd!

    1. Barbur is a rhymes-with-witch, eh? Steeper than Terwilliger with fewer plataeaus along the way.

      Having inner dialog with playlist takes my mind off the exertion. 🙂

      1. Thank you x 2, Julie. I love you saying I have “grit.” I’ll carry that comment with me to Boston.

        It was great seeing Megan Keim and Angie on course.

  10. Best race recap ever! Maybe I’m biased because I was there (I ran the 5k and the 10k), and man oh man did that industrial stretch seem like forever.
    And now I will be pulling together a new playlist on Spotify! 🙂

  11. Love racing with tunes and so glad you included my heart throb Enrique — not only does that song have giddy up but imagining him singing can take me away from any pain! Also love his more recent I like how it feels — but it is better if you watch the you tube video and then run to it since it features him quite nicely. Anyway – congrats on the run. A few to consider adding: That’s Not My Name by the Ting Tings, Calle Ocha (I think) from Pit Bull, and I love One Direction’s That’s What Makes You Beautiful (may come up on itunes as Cover Nation).

    1. Thanks for the song suggestions, Jody. I love finding new songs. I love the One Direction song, in particular. (I am listening to it on Spotify, the greatest invention since indoor plumbing and the sports bra, IMHO.)

  12. Congrats on your race! That looked like a fun event, well maybe minus the dreaded long hill! Love the recap with the playlist. I’ve had a hard time listening to music recently, maybe it’s just that I need to rearrange and add more. I already have much of what you mentioned.

    On a side note, my daughters boyfriend took first place overall in the Heartbreaker Half! I’m always so impressed with these fast runners, including all the women who finish sub-2 hrs! My goal for this year is to run a half in 2:30 or less (recently got my 10k time to just over an hour). I think it’s possible!

    1. SO exciting re: your daughter’s beau WINNING!! Yowza!! I’m assuming you live in Portland area. If so, pls. email us at runmother at gmail dot com. I have something I want to run by you.

      Good luck on nailing your sub-2:30.

  13. I am going to try all of these songs (I’m already a believer in Flo-Rida–that’s my current *favorite*). It was refreshing to read this because I’ve heard a lot of runners talking about how they don’t run with music any more, as if there’s something wrong with it. I don’t think I’ll ever not run with music, at least for part of my longer races. It’s part of the fun of the experience for me!!

    1. Funny you mention a lot of runners going sans music, Terzah, as yesterday I noticed majority of runners around me weren’t listening to tunes. I’m with you, though: I love, LOVE listening to music while running. I mean, when else can I listen to song and uninterrupted song?!

  14. How do you think you would have done without tunes. My girlfriend and i signed up for the Napa Silverado 1/2 i April. Read the policies later which stated “no earphones”. Im absolutely horrified of the thought of running that distance without my motivating tunes :/

    1. I’m shocked they say “no headphones.” Most races, except nighttime relay ones, seemed to have backed off that absolute rule. As long as you have your friend by your side, you should be fine. I am most likely running Boston w/o music so that I can soak in the atmosphere and cheering…but I’m keeping iPod in my Amphipod in case I need a jolt.

  15. Great job you hip Mama, you! I recognize about 15% of the playlist so you get huge snaps from me per keeping up with all of this on top of everything else you do.

    I’m thinking I should come up with an audio book playlist….some Charles Dickens to start off with, a bit of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” at the finish?

    Congrats on the race and now on to Boston!

    1. Yes, I fancy I stay somewhat hip by highlighting my hair, talking to our intern in person once a week, and listening to 107.5! Thanks for your support, dear E.

  16. Funny, I ran my half with music but I’m not sure I actually heard much of it. Maybe it’s because I only have 1 earbud in? I do remember when my wedding song came on…it’s called “the Patience of angels” and I smiled and thought, yes, be patient and then go for it! I have a shuffle so I never know what song is about to come on. Might be time for an upgrade so I can strategically place my Giddy Up songs in the right place. Congrats on your race!

    1. Huge congrats to you, Erica, for your 7-minute (!!!) PR! As I think you know, I’m anal about my music and the order it plays. The new Shuffle I got lets you play playlists in the set order. Might just have to fiddle with yours.

      And cute that your hubby tweeted me today: We are both stair-hobblers today.

  17. Congrats on the finish. I think I startled you at the start line… I came up and introduced myself and pointed to my hat (one from YOUR clothing line). You must have been in the zone after already running TO the start line. Don’t we live in the most beautiful place? NIce meeting you, and I really enjoy being helped along by another mother runner. : )

    1. No, no, you didn’t startle me, Michelle. I was tickled by you introducing yourself. (I also loved you calling me, “the GIRL who…” 🙂 I hope you had a great race in your BAMR hat. Please email us at runmother at gmail dot com. Quick question to ask you.

  18. no judgement here…’i like it’ makes me move it. And sadly, thats not even the ‘worst’ of it on my playlists. But, it gets the job done, so i have no shame! 🙂 Congrats on another finish line!

  19. No mocking here! I also have “I Like It” on my go to playlist. It has been on the list for over a year. It never fails to get my legs moving! Thanks for sharing your playlist picks!

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