Top 8 Classical Music Pieces for Running

Hello reader and welcome to beethoman.com. Recently, I rediscovered my passion for running and that event led me to this article. Can classical music be a good partner in activity such running? If so, which pieces of classical music are suitable for it? On top of that, what would be my top 8 classical music pieces for running? These are the questions I will try to answer in this article. As a bonus, I will post a YouTube playlist of my top 8 classical music pieces for running.

Classical music and running

When we think of music and running, our first thought probably would be Rocky Balboa with Going The Distance by Bill Conti in the background. This is certainly a running classic, but, does it have to be the only way? Apart from movie scores such Rocky songs and bunch of adrenalin-rush popular music songs, does classical music has something to offer to a man who wants to go for a run? I think yes, it certainly does. But, is it going to be enough or not, depends on your understanding of running. In my opinion, it is extremely important to be aware of the reason why you are going for (on) that running in the first place.

“Why am I going to that running” philosophy?

If you are going to running only because you gain weight through the holiday season and now you want to deal with that, and you don’t particularly love running, then I would not recommend you to listen to the classical music during the workout. The main reason is that the benefit from listening to this kind of music does not give you the strength, the motivation and the adrenalin needed for such activity. It works quite differently from the popular music. Having said that, I would recommend you to listen the classical music while running only if you are in considerable form and you enjoy this activity. That way, you can get the real benefits from it.

What are the benefits of the listening to the classical music while running?

Running is an activity which unfolds in time, just like music. Moreover, development in the classical music pieces implies one long line of story evolution and progress. Just like you develop your stamina and will to go through your own limits by long-term commitment to the running. This is especially evident in the music since 1780’s onwards. Because of that, listening to the classical music while running may increase your focus, because there would not be many short segments, like it would be if you would listen to the popular music. Having said that, I think that longer pieces of music would be an ideal choice, since running has its purpose only when you can do it for at least half an hour (+- few minutes). So, symphonies, overtures, symphonic poems, even concerts for different instruments – these are the perfect musical forms to listen to while you are running.

As you can probably notice, these are all orchestral pieces of music. Why I think that would be an ideal choice you may ask yourself. Well, because different timbres, colors of instruments, and their treatment can significantly increase our imagination. You see, music since the late classicism have strong narrative potential, even if it does not have an official extramusical meaning. Our mind will always try to find some connection, some story to attach to the music, so our understanding of it would be more comprehensible. That narrative potential will spark an imaginative fire in your brain and you would be probably astonished by number of different scenarios you will be able to create in your head.

That way, you won’t even notice how quickly you’ve came to an end of your workout. Plus, you will work on your imagination. And in today’s world, that is an asset number 1.

My top 8 classical music pieces for running

Johann Pachelbel – Canon in D

This is not a particularly long composition, but it has one really important trait. Otherwise, I would not featured it on this list. Harmonic progression in this piece of music, which is so popular, even in many popular songs is based on a cyclic repetition. That cyclic repetition is evident in our breathing process, and breathing is quite important in the activity such running. It beautifully follows our breathing pattern and you can literary run for several miles while listening to this composition without any problem. Side note here – when I was preparing for my first half marathon race in 2015, this composition was one of my favorite when I was going to the distances. It just makes everything easier.

Jean Sibelius – Fourth symphony in A minor

This composition is completely different however. It will not make it easier for you. But it will make it really beautiful if you embrace it. Its musical expression is quite suggestive and if you are running through the forest or something like that, I think it will make you think about unusual topics. Its organic form development and strange sound, especially in the third movement will probably drive you straight to the road of inner comprehension. So many different characters appear in this piece of music, yet, every single one of them is connected to each other.

Richard Wagner – Tannhäuser Overture

A hero on the path of redemption through love. Seems like a legit leitmotif of Wagner’s entire opus. This Overture is glittering all the way, and with top notch orchestration it will definitely inspire you to think about mythological beings, fairies and such. If you really relax and let the music lead the way, the change of tempo and character will most likely create a unique 15 minutes of running, since the rhythm oscillates quite significantly through the Overture, as well as overall musical expression.

Maurice Ravel – Bolero

Similarly as in case of Pachebel’s Canon in D, Bolero is the kind of composition that really can hypnotize you and unite your breathing with the rest of your body. A unique harmony of the mind, soul and body can be established, which is not a trivial thing.

Frederic Chopin – Prelude Op. 28 No. 4

Even though I’ve said earlier that longer pieces are ideal for activity such running, I really believe that this Chopin’s Prelude has its place in the playlist like this. It can serve as intermezzo for example. In formal sense it is only a musical period, however, it speaks quite a lot when it comes to the emotions. It will surely make you think about something that really is your business only.

Alexander Borodin - Polovetsian Dances from "Prince Igor"

Again, openly programmatic music of the Romantic era. Quite imaginative musical expression which will gradually drive you through different tempos of running. It starts slow and innocent, however, as the music progress, it will pull you in in a heartbeat. You won’t even notice that you’ve been driven by the music and that you need to stop or you will collapse. 😊 Great music if your plan implies a relatively short distance with high tempo.

Bedřich Smetana – The Moldau (Vltava)

Do you remember what I’ve said about Sibelius’ Fourth symphony in A minor? Well, this piece is quite similar. The only difference is that musical expression here is much easier to listen to if you’re not a hard-core Sibelius fan. Smetana’s composition depicts a river from its beginning to its end. On that path this beautiful piece of nature goes through some astonishing scenes, and I am sure it will spark some imagination in your head as well.

Dmitri Shostakovich – Symphony No. 10

What a piece! If you get stuck with the motivation, there’s that second movement which will make you run like a madman any day of the week. Some say that it is the musical portrait of Joseph Stalin. So, there’s your motivation. 😊

The final words

So, the full playlist is here. I hope that you will enjoy listening to these pieces of classical music while you run. Remember, the real benefit from this music is not adrenalin or strength, but stories that you will be able to create in your head while listening to them.

If you like this post, please share it. It you would like to know something about Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 Op. 23 in G minor, click here. Until the next reading, stay safe and enjoy music.

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