Sarah with her ever-present headphones after a recent, sweaty long run (where she finished covered in gnats. Summer running, sigh!).

AMR Creative Coach Sarah Wassner Flynn shares the tunes that put a pep in her step and the lyrics that inspire her to dig deeper.

If you know me, you know I love a good playlist. Despite my high school coach telling me that “real runners don’t listen to music,” (he wasn’t right about much), I have been toting my tunes around since the days of the Discman. There’s just something about the cerebral endeavor of a solo long run that makes music hit different between my ears.

Before a run, I’ll carefully curate a playlist with songs that don’t just put a pep in my step, but have lyrics that serve up truths and motivation when I need it most. And during this Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon training cycle, certain songs have been played on repeat as they’ve helped me course correct when I’ve struggled during the hardest—and hottest—efforts, or they simply open up a space in my cluttered and distracted mind to let me reflect on this journey as a whole. Here are some of those songs and the lyrics that inspire me. 

As It Was By Harry Styles

Sure, this is a slower song, but I’ll pop this on at the beginning of my runs to keep the initial pace chill. And as Harry sings you know it’s not the same as it was, it reminds me of how much I’ve changed, both physically and emotionally, over these past few months of solid marathon training. Sounds dramatic, I know. But as I wrote before, I never really allowed myself to chase my marathon dream due to my (inaccurate) assumption that I didn’t really have it in me. Now, less than two weeks away from the race, I can soundly say that discipline and grit have been there all along. I just had to change my mindset to find it. 

Light On by Maggie Rogers

Perhaps not the most obvious pick for a running playlist, this song brings me All. The. Feels. Yes, Maggie’s singing about leaving open the possibility of rekindling a past relationship. But to me, it calls to mind my relationship with running, which, to be honest, I’ve thought about ending several times due to frustration with injuries, burn out, and, well, getting older. But when I hear If you keep reachin’ out, then I’ll keep comin’ back…I think about the gamut of experiences I’ve had as a runner that have shaped me and made me more resilient, more confident, and happier—and how different my life would look if it hadn’t been such a constant in my life. Running, I just can’t quit you. 


A killer playlist helps Sarah smile through all the miles.

Break My Soul by Beyonce 

When Beyonce belts out You won’t break my soul…over and over, you feel it in your bones. Her powerful words about rising up when you’re feeling beaten down has willed me through many tough patches at the end of my 16, 18, and 19-milers. Like an injection of adrenaline, the song—with motivating lyrics like If you don’t seek it, you won’t see it…if you don’t think it, you won’t be—saturates my body with an electric energy that makes me forget the inevitable exhaustion that hits hard on a long run. 

This Is Me by Keala Settle (from The Greatest Showman soundtrack) 

If this song doesn’t make you want to burst into a full sprint (or a puddle of tears), then I don’t know what will. A stirring anthem about being unapologetically authentic to yourself, it silences the tiny–but still audible–voice inside my head that crops up on occasion during harder runs, whispering “you’re not good enough, you’re not fast enough, you’re not as strong as you were before.” Because when I hear, when the sharpest words wanna cut me down, I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ‘em out, I’m empowered to do just that.

Dog Days Are Over by Florence + the Machine 

This has been a staple on my running playlists for years, and it will remain a permanent fixture. Not only does it offer a quick beat matched with Flo’s ethereal voice, but the lyrics bring to mind my biggest supporters in running and in life–especially during this marathon journey. Because when Flo sings Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father, run for your children, for your sisters and brothers…I can’t help but think about my loved ones and how much they believe in me. And that’s just motivation I need to dig a little deeper or give just a little more. 


Sarah with two of her biggest supporters–her son and husband.

I Ain’t Worried by OneRepublic

A new addition to my playlists, it’s quickly becoming a go-to. Off the bat, the peppy, whistling melody sprinkled throughout the song reminds me of the theme music from the AMR podcast–which always brings a smile to my face. And lyrics like Way too busy for them problems and problems to feel/No stressing, just obsessin’ with sealin’ the deal prompts me to stop stressing about everything else I’ve got going on in my world and just focus on the miles in front of me. And yeah, keeping dreams alive and sealin’ that deal at Twin Cities in (eek!) less than two weeks. 

Tell me: What’s your favorite go-to running go-to song? What should I add to my marathon playlist?