Now, the inherent injury risk, fortunately, isn’t enough to keep people from staying active (nor should it be). If you need proof of this, you needn’t look any further than the vibrant running community here in Austin!
Since numerous runners throughout the world love to listen to music when they run, we’ve decided to compile an ultimate running playlist of suggestions.
The Ultimate Running Playlist
No matter which of our local trails you decide on for your run, be sure to queue up the following tunes on whatever portable listening device (phone, smartwatch, Walkman) you use:
11 Pop Hit Motivators
“Stronger” – Kelly Clarkson (2011). This hit single from the original American Idol is certainly inspiring and will help you find inner strength when you need it. And when you do, you’re sure to relate to her line about “Footsteps even lighter!”
“Born This Way” – Lady Gaga (2011). In her hit anthem of personal acceptance and celebration, Lady Gaga sings “I’m on the right track, baby.” But it doesn’t matter if you prefer running on a track or on a trail – “Born This Way” is simply an energetic, pick-me-up song to include on your playlist.
“Look What You Made Me Do” – Taylor Swift (2017). Just like TSwift, you got smarter and got harder in the nick of time (nick of time).
“Breathin” – Ariana Grande (2018). A synthpop smash about a very relatable topic—dealing with stress and anxiety. Good breathing technique and anxiety management happen to be pretty good habits for runners to develop, too.
“Fight Song” – Rachel Platten (2015). A staple on pop music radio stations and satellite radio channels since 2015, this is another inspiring selection to help prove you’re stronger than you think.
“Get Outta My Way” – Kylie Minogue (2010). Sure, Kylie’s song is actually relationship-related, but “Get Outta My Way” is the right mindset if you want to take a competitive approach to the Texas Switchback Trail Race in May. (Start training now for your choice of the 10k, half-marathon, and marathon!)
“Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (2014). An instant classic that never fails to get the blood pumping.
“Roar” – Katy Perry (2013). Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” was too obvious a choice for our list, so instead we decided to include Katy Perry’s “Roar” as a pop music substitute. When you really get into a running groove and feel like a champ, nothing’s wrong with letting ‘em hear your roar.
“Robyn” – Missing U (2018). The first solo single for the Swedish singer-songwriter in eight years, its driving-yet-minimalist beat and spacious synth loops should help keep you firmly in the zone.
“Wake Me Up!” – Avicii feat. Aloe Blacc (2013). This collaborative effort between Swedish DJ Avicii and American soul singer Aloe Blacc was a smash hit, both here in the US and on the international scene. Now, even though the lyrics are told through the perspective of someone who “can’t tell where the journey will end,” we strongly recommend you have a plan in mind when heading out for a long run!
“No Excuses” – Meghan Trainor (2018). When it comes to taking responsibility for, and control over, your personal health, there ain’t no excuses, excuses babe!
10 “Running” Songs
“Run” – Collective Soul (1999). Some inclusions on an ultimate running playlist need no explanation.
“Run Run Run” – The Velvet Underground (1967). Three times as much “run” as Collective Soul’s alt-rock hit puts this one from Lou Reed and company on our running playlist. That being said, it’s important to note this song was produced by Andy Warhol and skews pretty heavily on the “artistic” side—and less so on the “pop” side—of the spectrum. So on one hand, probably not for the conventional-minded. On the other, the title is “run” three times in a row.
“Born to Run” – Bruce Springsteen (1975). Every teen dreams about escaping his or her hometown, but few capture this so well as The Boss. An absolute rock classic, this song has become the theme for more than a few runners.
“Runnin’ Down a Dream” – Tom Petty (1989). We certainly understand why someone might make the case that Petty’s “Free Fallin’” is actually a better selection, but the song title doesn’t feature the word “run” (or any variance). So save “Free Fallin’” for your next road trip mix and run down your own dream with this Petty classic instead. (Note: The song does appear on the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits album, but was initially from Petty’s solo album Full Moon Fever.)
“I Ran” – Flock of Seagulls (1982). ‘80s New Wave has had a bit of a revival as of late—which invariably means it will be on its way out in a week and a half. But who could resist putting this one-hit wonder on the list? Not us. (You may want to have this as the very last song queued up, so the use of past tense is accurate.)
“Running on Empty” – Jackson Browne (1977). How could we possibly leave off the song playing during the Forrest Gump running montage? We couldn’t. Much like the case with our previous entry, this is a “running” song you might want to put towards the end of your playlist.
“Runnin’ with the Devil” – Van Halen (1978). Great rock song, but we’d recommend finding a more trustworthy running partner (perhaps through the Austin Runners Club).
“Run this Town” – Jay-Z (2009). As all the cool kids are saying, Jay-Z is an absolute boss.
“Run the World” – Beyoncé (2011). Of course, Jay’s wife Beyoncé lets him know who’s the real boss!
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – Patsy and Elmo (1979). There are probably very few, if any, lists in the world that go from Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Patsy and Elmo, but here we are folks. This running playlist is intended for any season of the year, but it’s being posted just before the upcoming holiday season. As such, this Christmas staple is a great inclusion if you plan on participating in the Austin Jingle Bells 5K.
7 Quintessential Hip-Hop/Rap Tracks
“Lose Yourself” – Eminem (2002). No matter your thoughts on Marshall Mathers as a person, his talent for rapping is undeniable. The genius of this particular track for your running mix is the fact the song implores you to “lose yourself to the music” as you lose yourself to the music. As an added bonus, the beginning chords of the song build anticipation and are perfect for taking those first steps.
“Stronger” – Kanye West (2007). Another artist who can be rather divisive, Kanye’s reputation as a producer is perhaps stronger—no pun intended—than his lyrical abilities. That speaks volumes—we swear, these puns are not planned!—about his producing skills, since Kanye has had some dope rhymes as well. The sample of techno duo Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” does some of the heavy lifting—final pun!!—and just listening to the song can make you want to start working out.
“Still Not a Player” – Big Pun (1998). Okay, the puns have finally gotten way out of control.
“Remember the Name” – Fort Minor (2005). We’ll forgive you if you don’t, in fact, remember the name of this particular artist. Going under the moniker of Fort Minor, “Remember the Name” is a track from Mike Shinoda’s side project. (Shinoda is more often associated with his main band, Linkin Park). The name of the artist might escape you, but the odds are good you’re familiar with this track from 2005 (since it received extensive airplay and was featured in various forms of media).
“Mama Said Knock You Out” – LL Cool J (1990). LL Cool J wrote this tune in response to critics who felt his career was waning—and that was almost 30 years ago. Safe to say he got the last laugh, and this track is plenty feisty enough to get you through the toughest part of your run.
“Heart of a Champion” – Nelly (2004). Just like Nelly, you too could have that can’t stop, won’t stop in your veins. Cranking this one to get you pumped up during the closing stages of your run will definitely help.
“X Gon’ Give It To Ya” – DMX (2003). Because any running playlist is better when a little DMX is included.
9 From the Nineties
“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys (1994). The pioneering rap trio of Ad-Rock, MCA, and Mike D absolutely brought the rock when creating this 90’s classic. No matter if you need a “pump up” song before heading out for your run or an energy boost in the middle, make sure you have “Sabotage” included in your playlist and you’ll be good to go!
“Lightning Crashes” – Live (1994). This particular song had a somewhat rare path to “hit” status in the fact it wasn’t initially released as a single (which was more necessary to become popular in the ‘90’s than it is now). At the time, “Lightning Crashes” received ample airplay. The song starts out mellow and builds as it goes along, which is a lot like how certain runs turn out. And everyone knows what follows a lightning strike…
“The Thunder Rolls” – Garth Brooks (1990). In the final decade of the previous millennium, Brooks was on a roll of his own – setting all kinds of records for album sales and concert attendances. Keep “Friends in Low Places” for your karaoke setlist and make “The Thunder Rolls” a staple for when you run.
“Regulate” – Warren G (1994). Few—if any—rap songs have sampled Michael McDonald nearly as well as “Regulate” samples “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near).” Few songs—if any—ever will again. This smooth track is really bolstered by the guest performance of Nate Dogg and his deep, distinctive voice.
“Even Flow” – Pearl Jam (1991). Most people probably associate 90’s grunge music with flannel shirts, but some of the artists had a very social-conscious bent, and especially Pearl Jam. “Even Flow” provides social commentary on the homeless and how they are viewed by other members of society. That said, the music absolutely rocks and will put the wind back in your sails if the going is getting tough.
“Summertime Blues” – Alan Jackson (1994). With all due respect to Eddie Cochran’s original version, Jackson’s cover version of the song is too much fun.
“Too Much Fun” – Daryle Singletary (1995). Someone had to question what it means to have “too much fun,” and Singletary was up to the task. (His ultimate conclusion? There’s no such thing!)
“Bitter Sweet Symphony” – The Verve (1997). The British band scored a major hit with this song featuring a mesmerizing string arrangement. In the accompanying video for the song, lead singer Richard Ashcroft walks along a sidewalk completely undistracted by anything happening around him. When you are running and fall into your zone, it can be a lot like that. This song has a consistent rhythm that can lull you into a real sense of focus – perfect for an evening run when you need to destress!
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana (1991). There’s a decent chance it’s against the law to have any list of 90’s songs and not include Nirvana’s game-changing homage to teenage angst.
8 Odds & Ends
“Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis (1981). The official theme song to probably the best (and certainly best known) film about running and runners, and therefore the unofficial theme song to running in general.
“Back Pocket” – Vulfpeck (2015). This bouncy, bright, sunny bit of retro Motown from this grossly underrated progressive funk outfit is sure to brighten even the most grueling run. Be sure to watch the music video after the run—it’s straight adorable.
“Die Right Now” – KNOWER (2016). Despite what the title might lead you to believe, this upbeat indietronica song harbors no ill will toward anyone. It’s about making the most of every moment and living life to the fullest.
“Tainted Love” – Gloria Jones (1964). Did you know that Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” was actually a cover? While that song is a worthy enough choice, the original version by the Northern Queen of Soul should help you kick it up another notch.
“Bodhisattva” – Steely Dan (1973). Okay, granted—you’re generally more likely to hear Steely Dan at your dentist’s office than on a list of workout classics. But this classic, with its old school rock and roll sound and two driving guitar solos, is a big exception.
“Cruisin’ For Burgers” – Frank Zappa (1978). There are a couple of officially released versions of this song; we’re choosing the 9-minute instrumental from the Zappa in New York album. A great, driving beat and brass rhythm section is matched by a typically searing guitar solo from Zappa himself.
“Giant Steps” – John Coltrane (1960). Make sure your strides don’t get too long as you run to this searing composition by the legendary jazz composer and saxophonist. By the time the piano solo kicks in you might need a break—just like poor Tommy Flanagan, who struggles to keep pace with Coltrane’s insane tempo and angular key changes.
“Better” – Khalid (2018). A bit of a slower jam, this one is great to play when you’re winding down the run. As they say, nothing feels better than this.