The sounds of my harsh breaths are muffled by a small device attached to my shorts. A wire runs up my back, appears at the top of my neckline and drapes around the back of my head. The wires form into a headset that rests over my scalp with two small speakers pressed softly against my inner ears. Sounds emanate from the speakers as I run briskly to the beats echoing in my head. The strains of my breaths are absent. I am oblivious to the world around me. I am running and somehow I think I’m free.
That was my world from the day I decided to become a runner. I sought refuge from exhaustion and fear within the confines of my iPod. I believed that without it I was nothing. I often wondered how runners ever ran without iPod’s in the past, because for me it was my sanctuary, my saving grace. It accompanied me on various 5k races and the beats of the music often propelled me into faster strides. It set my mood and pushed me forward when I no longer felt like running. I became reliant on it, so much so, that I nearly freaked out when it stopped working the day before a 5k race. It was then that I realized I was no longer running with my iPod, but rather, my iPod was running me.
I still refused to stop using my iPod, mainly because I got it working the day of the 5k race and, of course, ran with it. I was aware that I had become too dependent on my iPod, but I feared the ramifications of quitting cold turkey. I would imagine hearing my laborious attempts at breathing without the sound of music in my ears. I knew I would hear my feet hitting the pavement reminding me of every step I was taking, which would likely lead to me becoming fatigued much sooner. It was these thoughts that allowed me to remove any possibility of running without my iPod.
When I began training for the half marathon I noticed a lot of people were running without the aid of an iPod. Thus, I began to entertain the idea of running to the sounds of nature and learning to pace myself by listening to my breathing. I had never attempted such a thing and I figured since I had already made a new playlist it would be idiotic for me to try. Basically, any excuse to run with my iPod was permissible. However, one day I noticed something. All the ducks in the park made no sound. The rustling of the trees in the wind no longer rustled. Each breath that I took went unheard and I no longer felt alive. I was a zombie running with the emotions of the songs playing in my ears. I was running to the memories provoked by each tune or the beats that generated feelings of confidence and courage that I should have been able to create on my own.
I have been iPod free for about a month now. The transition was much easier than I anticipated. The first time I ran without my iPod I felt lighter, and although my breathing distracted me at first, it has become the tempo in which I now run. I can hear the ducks quack, which often feels like their cheering me on as I pass by or simply saying “hello.” I can hear the wind rustling through trees as I feel the cool breeze brush against my face. I have even had the opportunity to hear fellow runners say, “Keep it up,” as they run by. Those moments are priceless and there is not an iPod out there that can replicate the sounds or the feelings they supply. I’m not saying I would never run with an iPod again, nor am I saying it is wrong to do such a thing. All I know is that I ran my fastest 3.1 miles without my iPod. Maybe it was just that I ran faster or harder. I would like to think it’s because I allowed myself to enjoy the sounds and beauty of the world around me, instead of putting it on mute.