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Music for Runners

Legs of runners during a race.
Tong Su

It doesn’t matter what the weather is, serious runners have a mission: get in as much training time as possible to qualify someday for the country’s major marathons. But even if you’re a casual jogger, music is a great training partner, helping you keep up the pace and inspiring you to keep up the spirits.

Here are some classical music pieces that will help you do just that!

Let’s start with a morning run. Here’s the “Morning Dance” from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Claudio Abbado conducts the Berlin Philharmonic.

The “Bourrée” and the “Hornpipe” from Handel’s Water Music Suite will keep you at a good steady pace. Here’s the Berlin Philharmonic again, this time with Riccardo Muti conducting.

The fun that saxophonist Jess Gillam has playing the “Brazileira” from Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche is infectious and will help you run a little faster. Here she is with the Tippett Quartet.

Another good tune for running is the fourth movement (Allegro con fuoco, which translates as “cheerful, with fire!”) to Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 1. Fabio Luisi conducts the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.

Don’t give up! You can do it! The third movement to Aram Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto is played here by pianist Lorin Hollander. André Previn conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Let’s add the “Trepak,” or “Russian Dance,” from Peter Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker to your playlist. John Williams conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

And what is the music that will push you over the finish line? The final part of Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture! Here’s Myung-Whun Chung conducting the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Wishing you all the luck in the world, and when the going gets tough, dig deep and turn up the volume!

CODA:  The 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, winner of seven Academy Awards, was based on a true story of two young men who both turned to running while in college. Although their motivations for running were different (one ran for the “glory of God,” and the other to fight antisemitism), through determination and hard work both qualified to represent England in the 1924 Olympics. Instead of using period music, director Hugh Hudson turned to a Greek composer of electronic music with whom he had worked before. When Vangelis (who worked professionally under a single name, his first) had finished the main theme for the score, he told Hudson that his father had been a runner and the theme was an anthem to him.

Laura Carlo is the Morning Program Host for CRB.