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The Running Playlist You Need To Unleash Your Inner Sonia O'Sullivan

John Balfe
By John Balfe
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Admit it, you know the feeling well. You're at the gym, feet pounding on the treadmill and your brain is trying everything it can to try and come up with an excuse for you to stop.

'Imagine how great it will feel to not be doing this?', it tells you. 'If you just stop now you can go to that place you like and have a cheeseburger'.

But then that song comes on in your earphones and you get that extra burst of energy to make you hit your goal, banishing all thoughts of a cheeseburger to the dark recesses of your brain.

What exactly is going on there? As we get ready for the Affidea Rock 'n' Roll Dublin Half Marathon, we thought we'd examine the relationship between exercise and music and how that one perfect song can improve your athletic performance.

You have no doubt heard the phrase 'in the zone' bandied about by all types of sportspeople. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was little more than a sporting anachronism in the same ballpark as 'a game of two halves' or 'at the end of the day' but this zone that you've heard about is a very real thing.

For as long as sport has been around its top athletes developed an ability to harness 'the zone', or the flow state as it has become known. Everyone from former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida to Ayrton Senna have, at one point or another, spoken of their ability to access the flow state.

After qualifying on pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix in 1988, Senna said to the media:


I was already on pole, [...] and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel.


Now, Senna was about as focused a sportsperson as there has even been and you might think that it would be impossible to get into this same zone for your own marathon. Think again.

Music has long been of huge importance to sport. Whenever you see inside a boxing or MMA gym, everyone is training along with music. If you walk up any of the canals in Dublin with any regularity you'll no doubt see a procession of runners charge past you, all of them fueled by their own personal soundtrack.


Dr. Costas Karageorghis is the deputy head at the School of Sport and Education at London's Brunel University has spent a significant part of his career analysing the connection between music and athletic performance.

Speaking to BBC News, Karageorghis said:

Music helps induce alpha brain wave activity which is responsible for our dreams and our rest states. This leads to a state known as ‘flow’, which is an ultimate motivational state in which sportspeople are completely immersed in what they are doing and feel as if they are functioning on autopilot.

Music lowers your perception of effort. It can trick your mind into feeling less tired during a workout and also encourage positive thoughts. It can reduce it by as much as 10%. A 66 minute cycle can feel like a 60 minute cycle with music.

But what songs should you listen to in order to get the most out of your run? Well, that very much depends on personal preference. For some it would be aggressive rock, others might prefer shiny pristine pop. Haile Gebrselassie, the famed long distance runner, would listen to Scatman John's 'Scatman' as he trained as the song perfectly matched his running rhythm.

Other songs which have been known to increase performance are Katy Perry's 'Roar', 'Get Lucky' by Daft Punk and Lady Gaga's 'Applause'.


So, with all of this in mind, here is the official Balls.ie 10 Song Soundtrack, brought to you by Affidea Rock 'n' Roll Dublin Half Marathon.

  1. 'Roar' by Katy Perry
  2. 'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor
  3. 'Lose Yourself' by Eminem
  4. 'Mama Said Knock You Out' by LL Cool J
  5. 'Thunderstruck' by AC/DC
  6. 'Let's Go' by Calvin Harris
  7. 'The Rockafellar Skank' by Fatboy Slim
  8. 'North American Scum' by LCD Soundsystem
  9. 'Welcome To The Jungle' by Guns 'n' Roses
  10. 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger' by Daft Punk


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