July 19 2018
Professor Jennifer Golbeck uses running to balance a full roster of work, travel and her pack of famous pups.
I’m going to risk sounding like a hippie for a moment to ask this question: Do you believe nature has a sound? I’m not referring to the chirping of birds or the rustling of trees. No, this is a deeper sound—more of a personality, really.
It’s one of the things I love most about going on a run. As my legs stretch out and my lungs breathe deep, I feel the joy of nature all around me. I hear its sound. I feel its grip, pulling me mile after mile until I’ve become a wild child with no care in the world.
This is the song of nature, and no matter the weather or the company, I relish its melody. It is in the clear silence of a run that I am able to hold conversations—sometimes with others, often in my own head. It is in the clear silence of a run that I am able to process, to pray and to think creatively.
So call me old-fashioned, but I refuse to run with headphones. Aside from the rare treadmill run (which is miserable to me and warrants headphone usage), I like to tune into the world around me. I have hundreds of minutes to listen to music or podcasts each day. The 60 minutes I’m running are not up for grabs.
For any of the music aficionados who currently hate my guts, allow me to explain. I don’t hate music, not at all. In fact, the quiet runs I take are often spent singing to myself or writing a new song. Believe me, there’s no absence of music during those miles. There’s just an absence of prefabricated, prerecorded music. And I quite prefer it that way.
Inspirational? Yes, music is definitely a good way to pump yourself up during a run. But you know what else is? The mantra you are repeating to yourself, the memories elicited by passing memorable landmarks, the feeling of fresh air electrifying your legs. Nature provides more than enough motivation, if you’re looking for it.
I’ve scaled mountainsides to the sound of rushing waterfalls, and I’ve weaved through city streets that pulse with vibrant diversity. More frequently, I’ve padded down sidewalks and waved to giddy schoolchildren. Every run brings an exciting potential of its own, moments I’d likely miss if I were jamming out to the top 20 hits.
The next time you head out for a run, try taking out your ear buds. Turn off the music, the podcast, the incredibly insightful audiobook, and just listen. Listen to the heartbeat of the day, listen for the rumblings of excitement that come and go. And as you’re running, just absorb it all. The world around you and the humans that populate it can both inspire and delight you in incredible ways. If you don’t believe me, just try it.