My ‘shuffle’ is trying to kill me. On my last run it gave me Foo Fighters, Foo Fighters, Foo Fighters and, just as I was beginning to feel that something had gone radically wrong with it, Muse, more Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, Seasick Steve and Wishbone Ash. I am no aficionado on BPM, but I do understand what happens to my heart rate when my loping run is spurred on by the kind of tunes that have no place in the ears of a sixty-year old in the advanced stages of hyperventilation. Don’t get me wrong here, I love all of the tracks it gave me, but it does normally mix them up a little here and there. There are currently only four Foo Fighters songs on the entire playlist, because they tire me out. I can accept that I may get more than one per run, but back-to-back? It had a few Muse tracks to choose from, but it chose Stockholm Syndrome; Led Zep, it chose Rock & Roll; Seasick Steve, Back In The Doghouse and Wishbone Ash Runaway. You cannot tell me that it was not being wilful; it has Bryan Ferry and Elbow lurking about on there somewhere for goodness sake.
I have plenty of plodders on my list: great tracks, but with a beat that eases me along rather than driving me on. They give me the opportunity to get my breath back to some extent (that being the extent that I do not actually expire) and ensure that I do not melt my bobble hat from the inside. The weird thing about the tracks I got today is, although they exhaust me, they do not actually speed me up. My pace is metronomic. If running were a dance it would be slow, slow, slow, slow, slow. Like the ancient couple you see at Blackpool tea dances, but without the twirling. I’m not good with time signatures, but it feels like my running playlist songs are all the same. If they’re not, I find a way to make them so. Somehow they all fit in with ‘plod, plod, plod’.
My brain, no longer filled with ‘fifty reasons why I shouldn’t be doing this’, has decided to take in the music and allow entrance to nothing else whilst I run. I don’t know where my conscious mind goes off to, but it is seldom with me whilst I run. I can feel it emptying as I take to the streets. I am a brainless man on a mission – although I’m not alone in that respect, am I? If I carry on for long enough I could end up running a country (into what, I could not say). It’s interesting – to me it is, however, you may choose to pick lint from your navel or trim the hairs in your ears instead – that something up there takes the opportunity to de-clutter whilst the sitting tenant is out. I’m not conscious of it happening, but I am conscious of the mess between my ears when it has not done so. Going for a run has become my way of allowing me to make sense of the world without my brain sticking its oar in. Unfortunately, even though my running capacity is very time-limited, by the time I get back home I have already begun to realise that, actually, there is no sense to it all.
And that brings me back to my shuffle because, whilst this piece sat half-finished on my computer, I went out for another run. (Perhaps I should explain here that pieces often sit around on my laptop for days before they get finished. Sometimes they are only a first sentence. I don’t want you thinking that, short of the house being on fire, I would ever go out running twice in the same day.) Today my shuffle gave me Bryan Ferry, Blue Oyster Cult, China Crisis, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, John Martyn and Judie Tzuke; altogether more sedate, I’m sure you’ll agree. And yet I was quicker than my last run and less tired at the end of it. Answers on a postcard please…