Is this a Good Running Song? A Points System to Help You Decide

How do you know if a new (or really old) song will be a great addition to your running playlist? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a points system to help you decide? A lot of factors go into determining if a song will be a great song to run to, or if it might make the cut as a power song. Sometimes one that seems perfect just annoys you in the moment and always gets skipped. Others that are first overlooked get your pace up each and every time they’re played. Plus you’ll find some tips on assembling your own running, long run and race playlists. Plus there are some examples of my favourite running songs from each play list!

I joke that I should put a clause in my will stating that my iTunes playlists are to be deleted without looking at them or disclosing their contents. They look like they were assembled by someone with bad taste and multiple personalities. They span every genre from old school dirty rap, to country, to golden oldies, indie folk and show tunes.  When I finally set up home sharing and my music collection was visible on the Apple TV honey flipped through it and declared, I knew it was bad but this is just…. and then he trailed off. Perhaps he couldn’t find the words to accurately describe taste that bad, and so much of it.

running song

This post was insipred by a funny page I read years ago assigning points to jeep wranglers and therefore who should initiate the jeep wave. It’s been duplicated many places since then if your curious you can check it out here.

How to assign points to a running song:

Select Genre

  • Top 40: 30 points
  • Rock: 25 points
  • Rap/ Hip-hop/ Urban: 25 points
  • Metal: 20 points
  • Country: 20 points
  • Classical/ Other : 10 points

Beats Per Minute (BPM)

  • 160 BPM: +10 points
  • 160 + BPM: +5 points, 15 if its at the end of a race playlist
  • 120 -150 BPM: +5 points
  • -120 BPM -5 points

Song properties

  • Girl group: +10 points
  • Inspiring theme: + 15 points
  • Could actually be about running: +15 points
  • Guilty pleasure song: +10 points
  • Sung by fit celeb: +5 points
  • Too repetitive: -15 points
  • Jagged beat: -10 points

Bonus points

  • Makes you smile: +10 points
  • Tells a funny storey: +5 points
  • Matches today’s weather +15 points
  • The word run, anywhere: +25 points

Scoring your song

Less than 10 points: This isn’t a running song, it might actually be elevator music

10-20 points: Possibly a long run song, but probably not worthy of the running playlist

21-30 points: This is a decent running song put it on your running playlist, maybe your long run playlist too.

31-40 points: This is a good everyday running song, you’ll be happy when you hear it. Probably too much for your long run playlist though.

41-50 points: Great running song, maybe include it twice if your list is getting long. If it’s fast enough it could start a race playlist when you’re pacing yourself.

50 points +: This is your moving musical happy place, probably race playlist worthy! Possibly power song material!

All jokes aside, why do you need three playlists?

You actually might like to have more if you have the space, you might also want an interval or fartlek playlist too.

My great big 64 gb iPhone didn’t quite make it through marathon training last summer. Sad face 😦  That one held all 7 days of my collection stored on the phone. So I got a used 16 gb one and space is an issue, but I still need three playlists for running in addition to one for biking and yoga. Why do you need it on your phone rather than streaming it, well you don’t really if you have enough battery and data to cover you. In Canada we have the highest cell rates in the developed world, add that to two hour plus runs and well that bill can get out of hand fast. Just GPS and 200 km a month pushed me over my data limits alone last year. Plus your phone’s battery can be an issue it might be sending bluetooth signals to your watch and headphones already as well as GPS in your running app so it might not handle streaming too. Check out some other tips for saving your phone’s battery and the music fartlek here.

PS I’m looking for places to legally download music to my phone singe the iTunes Store went to a streaming only model.

The long run playlist: If you’re anything like me and I’m not unusual in this regard you do your long runs in your best/race shoes. The hardest part then becomes holding yourself back to that slow, steady pace about a min/km or 1.5 min/mile slower than your normal training pace. Having a long run playlist full of slower singable songs helps to hold you back. I try to hold myself back by keeping myself in the closed mouth breathing, happy to be lip-synching effort level. Set to shuffle. Some songs on mine are:

  • Build me up buttercup – The Temptations
  • Ex’s and oh’s – Mia Love
  • The gambler – Kenny Rogers
  • Ho hey – The Lumineers
  • Our song – Taylor Swift

Running Playlist: This list probably has the most songs on it. Some faster, some slower as I’m a fan of the music fartlek. It might have a lot of over lap with your long run and race playlist particularly if your building it for a 1/2 or full race. Leave off the slowest from your long run list and all but the slowest from your race playlist. You’ll use this list for most of your runs and so variety is your friend. Set to shuffle. Here are some on my running playlist:

  • Blurred lines – Robin Thicke
  • Get rhythm: Johnny Cash
  • I got it from my mama –
  • Love you like a love song – Selena Gomez
  • Save a horse, ride a cowboy – Big n Rich
  • Shut up and bounce – Sunidhi Chauhan
  • Short skirt, long jacket – Cake
  • The way you move – Outkast

Race Playlist: Ok so this one is pretty self explanatory usually you will build this specifically for each race or tweak it for each race. Unless your going all out in a 5k (maybe a 10k, maybe) you probably want it to be more than just your fastest songs. All the songs should get you pumped but build up for longer distances. If you have a problem going out too strong you could start with a few long run songs to hold you back. If you put enough effort into the order, way easier to order on you computer BTW, don’t set it to shuffle. Here are a few that will be on my 10 k list for Bluenose in 2 weeks:

  • Crazy bitch – Buckcherry
  • Haven’t had enough – Marianas Trench
  • Bring it home – Swollen Members
  • Shake it Off – Taylor Swift
  • Dirty little secret – The All-American Rejects
  • Get My Drink On – Toby Keith
  • Get Naked – Methods of Mayhem

Are we starting to see just how all over the place and some might argue terrible my musical tastes are. Sometimes for 5k’s or 10k’s I’ll make the playlist when we’re all queued up and waiting for the race to start. Then I hear the music I’m in the mood for that day. It can also distract you when your lined up and super cold.

So what are your favourite running songs for long runs, general running and for races? And how on earth do I get legal music on my iPhone.











Is there a way to download music to your iPhone now that the iTunes Store is all streaming that is both legal and pays the artists?

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