For years now I’ve associated particular music with individual races. Usually these are races that have a particular significance to me, ones that I’ve taken part in many times and over a number of years. Although I don’t usually have the time to do so any more, for a long time I used to compile CDs of music which I would play in my car on the way to important races. I’m not sure exactly what the process was, whether it was a track on one of these CDs that stood out, or a particular lyric that seemed relevant, but I soon came to associate particular songs with races.
The first one was a little obvious, but perfect nonetheless. The Connemara Marathon and U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ are a great match – “I want to run, I want to hide…where the streets have no name”. If the Connemara Marathon had a national anthem, it would have to be this song.
Another race that means a lot to me is the Dublin Marathon. I was lucky enough to run there each year from 1999 through to 2008. I didn’t take part in 2009 as my daughter Grace was born the week of the race – I think that counts as poor planning. It was the first marathon that I ever took part in and as I’m Dublin born and bred, it’s my ‘home’ race. Both are good reasons why the event will always hold a special pace in my running heart. The journey from where I live now in Galway over to Dublin is usually tinged with a mixture of happiness, anticipation, apprehension and excitement. If things have gone wel, l I’ve trained hard and want to run fast. The song that I’ve always associated with Dublin is AC/DC’s ‘For Those About To Rock!’. For me that song, played as loudly as possible, sums up that feeling of being ready to roll – “Stand up and be counted, for what you are about to receive” – and absolute respect for everyone else in the race that has chosen the same challenge – “For those about to rock, we salute you!”
The next one is a little more difficult to rationalise, but it just is what it is. When I travel to Ballycotton in Co.Cork for their famous 10 miler each spring, I have Willie Nelson’s ‘Sad Songs and Waltzes’ going around in my head. I’d love to have a nicely polished story about how I came to associate the two, but the reality is much more prosaic. Perhaps the reason that the association has endured for mefor so long is because I belive the song is about enduring nature of quality and the passing relevance of whatever is fashionable at a given time. The Ballycotton 10 is ‘quality’, it always has been and, for as long as it continues, always will be.
Just recently another association was born for me, beween a different race in Connemara and another U2 song. The Connemara 100 Mile Road Race was organised last year for the first time and I hope to take part in the second edition which will take place next weekend. Running 100 miles through the mountains of Connemara is such a ludicrous proposition that the race almost defies any association with music. It was while I was on holidays last week, running down small roads in the wilds of West Kerry, that U2’s ‘I Still Havn’t Found What I’m Looking For’, was thrown up by the randomiser on my MP3 player. I made the connection immediately. Training for and running for 100 miles along mountain roads, for no reason other that the personal challenge that it poses, is as good a way as any of representing the beauty and essential pointlessness of the sport. There’s no place I’d rather be than in Connemara next week.
I might even find it!