Running with Music: Devices

This week’s article takes a look at running with music. I never use my walkman during a race or when training with other people. But when you need that extra bit of motivation during those long runs on your own, I find a bit of music can be perfect. Especially in the morning when you really want to be back in bed. For this article, we’ll focus on how to listen to music on the road. What device to use.

cliff wired

Sir Cliff Richards, wired for sound with the original Sony cassette walkman

The concept of running with music began in the early eighties as first jogging craze was heralded by the invention of supper padded Nike running shoes and chunky Sony Walkmans. Walkmen(?) I dunno, whatever they were called, the experience was painful. The tape would constantly jam as the hundred or so integrate moving parts ground together with any sort of serious movement. Eventually, normally after about a month or so, the device would self destruct and your favourite tape would be wrapped around the insides. This inevitably happened before the good bit of a song leaving the owner disappointed and frustrated, contemplating what might have been if he or she could hear the start of that guitar solo again. And there were no in-the-ear headphones. You had to balance a flimsy metallic thing with the sound quality of a tin can over your head. This was probably why joggers went so slowly, just to try and preserve their equipment. Dull. The music on these devices was typically Phil Colins, Men at Work and Kim Wild.

The nineties didn’t bring much of an advancement. While the advent of the portable CD player now allowed us to skip tracks and in-the-ear headphones pushed the sound quality up a notch, the equipment was still pretty sensitive. If you moved, breathed on or looked at a portable CD player it would skip. This effect was something like a robot with a stutter. It sounded kind of cool the first few times. After the hundredth time (normally within about a week) you wanted to throw the thing at a wall. The music was Nirvana, techno etc.



The early late nineties brought the MP3 and MiniDisc. MP3 players were prohibitively expensive to start with and still pretty chunky. They were basically internal hard-drives with a plastic case, a screen and a headphone socket. The MiniDiscs were more compact and cheaper but didn’t really catch on apart from with me, my brother and a guy at my work. The first time my brother pulled it out of his bag on the top of the number 15 bus I was amazed. It looked so compact and hi tech. Better value and sound quality than MP3 with removable media. It was the third way. I bought one and left the MP3 crowd behind. So long, suckers. You could run with the MiniDisc, just about, but it was just that bit too heavy and it would jam. The music for MiniDisc was stuff like Dr. Octagon and the Hives.

sony nwz

The RoboCop ED-209

During the 2000s, MP3 players rapidly started to become smaller and more affordable. I hung onto my LPs and MiniDisc as long as I could though. It reached the point where people would point at me in the street and laugh. Eventually my brother and the bloke in my work even turned away from the Minidisc and I was alone. To avoid becoming a social outcast, I cracked and bought my first portable MP3 player. Ironically this was a Sony Walkman again, the NWZ-A826KB (R2D2 C3po). It played video, held about a hundred albums and I could put it in my pocket. You could run with it too! Although, it was probably just a bit too heavy and eventually it died from the strain.



My next device was the SansaClip. The clip fits in the palm of your hand, weighs practically nothing, is dirt cheap and holds about a couple of thousand songs. It also has a handy clip to fix it onto your belt or t-shirt. The SansaClip is pretty much perfect for running and I’m currently onto the latest model with the colour screen. The only drawback of the Clip is the headphones. I replaced these early on with the Sony ones. It’s also impossible to buy the SansaClip in Mexico and the clip at the back can break off. I’m praying that my current model holds together until I get back to the states.

Next week, music to make you run faster.

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