Face The Music

Brooks Shoe Finder

If music could actually make you run faster then I’m sure that by now Calvin Harris would be on WADA’s list of banned substances.

However, there is growing evidence that the right music for you can play a big part in making sure you are ready to race at your best. Numerous studies have shown that, in controlled experiments, participants listening to music were able to out-run those who ran in silence. Runners, like Mo Farah, put this into practice. He describes in his autobiography that he listens to music before every race. “Depending on my mood, it’ll be some Tupac or maybe Dizzee Rascal,” Farah wrote. “If I want something a bit more chilled, I’ll put on some Somali music. The older stuff from the 1970s and 1980s has a really good beat to it.”

It also worked in other sports.

A 2003 study on cyclists, for example, found that those who listened to 142 beats per minute (bpm) music – tunes like things like The Cave by Mumford and Sons and Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars – cycled faster for longer.

We decided to take a look at why music has this impact…


The psychology of music is fascinating. When Professor Andy Lane, a sports psychologist from the University of Wolverhampton, looked into the effects of music, he found it helps to regulate positive and negative emotions in runners.

And extensive research by Dr Costas Karageorghis, a sport psychologist at Brunel University, has shown performance benefits of up to 15% for some.

“As well as enhancing performance, music lowers the perception of effort”, Karageorghis says. “It dulls or masks some of the pain associated with training. We know from scanning the brain that when athletes are played loud upbeat music there is an increase in activity in the ascending reticular activating system.”


Misha Botting, a former dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, is now a sports psychologist at the Sport Scotland Institute of Sport. From experience working with elite athletes and cyclists, Botting is convinced music plays a vital part in race preparation.

“Music has extraordinary potential of redirecting the mind and lifting the mood. The holy grail of sports psychology is self-regulation and music can be a good starting point in helping athletes achieve that.”

One of the ways it can help is by reducing your perception of fatigue. “Instead of thinking about your competitors or the consequences, it’s better to focus on the music and allow it to distract you from things beyond your control,” says Botting.

Perfect playlist for the Great Run?

Listening to your perfectly tailored playlist on your training runs is great, but we’ve got you sorted for your event day playlist!

New for 2022 at the Great Run events, we’ve introduced People’s Playlist. We know how important music is to runners. Just look at all the evidence above! So this year you can look forward to powering through this section of the race with tunes chosen by runners. This is your playlist for your run. 

Throughout the race they’ll also be Beats Boost zones powered by DJ trucks to keep motivation levels sky high and local bands to provide a soundtrack to your run.

Image credit: by Filip Mroz on Unsplash 

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