Monday, January 1, 2018

What Music Would You Listen To on a 100 Mile Run?

Adena running at Fort McDowell State Park, outside Phoenix, at about mile 30, well before the blue hour.
(Photo by Howie Stern, race photographer)
—by Adena Schutzberg

I’ve observed a connection between my running and the music we play in the Concord Band. You could even say that my running is what brought me to The Concord Band. When I started running seriously, I found myself in a quandary. My running club, The Somerville Roadrunners, held track practice on the Tuesday nights. That was the same night the Woburn City Band held its rehearsals! It was on a rare Tuesday night that I didn’t have track practice, that I visited with my bandmates and learned that the Concord Band needed a clarinet or two for an upcoming concert. I was invited to rehearse, on Monday nights, and perform in the concert.

I was honored to be invited to join the band officially after the Holiday Pops concerts in 2005. Our Winter Concert featured The Gum-Suckers March by Percy Aldridge Grainger. It was the first time I’d played it and it was quite challenging. I’d rehearse one passage of about ten measures over and over. In February 2006, I traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to run a 20 mile race. The race was very cold and long. And what was the soundtrack in my head? Those ten measures of The Gum-Suckers March! I recall mentioning the experience to then Music Director Bill McManus who was not sure what to make of it, but was pleased I was practicing!

More recently I’ve begun to consciously select Concord Band music to listen to while running. For each new concert members receive a “Practice CD,” with performances of each piece. It’s been valuable for me to get more familiar with the music, to follow along on my own part, and sometimes to “play along.” I like to move the music to my iPod and listen to it a few times during training runs.

I listen to audio while doing training runs, but I rarely listen to anything when racing. Some races do not allow earbuds for safety reasons bit I just prefer to focus on a new location and my fellow runners. That said, I changed my practice, just a little, after this year’s Winter Concert titled Shades of Blue. While I loved all the pieces, I could not get John Mackey’s 2010 Hymn to a Blue Hour out of my head.

The blue hour refers to the time of day after twilight but before total darkness. I read about the piece online and was excited to learn that Mr. Mackey accepted our invitation to attend our concert. After chatting with the composer at the reception after the concert, I came up with an idea. I was training for a 100 mile race a few weeks after our concert. I decided to put a recording of the piece on my iPod and carry it with me. I’d wait until just the right moment and try to experience The Hymn to a Blue Hour at the blue hour.

A few weeks later I was running in Raleigh, North Carolina in a lovely forested park on smooth, wide dirt roads. I looked forward to the blue hour from the 6 am start and finally pushed play at about 5:30 pm. I remember listening and looking up at the sky through the trees. At one point, after I’d put away the iPod, I caught up with a runner who’d passed me during that time. She said, “I’m not sure what you were listening to when I went by but you had a huge grin on your face.” After that experience, I decided, if at all possible, I’d play Hymn to a Blue Hour during every 100 mile run.

As we played through our music for our Fall Concert (Songs and Dances), I noted a piece called Cantus: Song of the Night. When we played it, we all got the Hymn to a Blue Hour vibe, even though this piece was written two years earlier (2008) by Austrian composer, Thomas Doss. Cantus is performed with an accompaniment of ocean and seabird sounds. I grew to really like that night piece, too, and was ecstatic about how well we performed it at the concert, the week before my next 100 mile race, scheduled for Phoenix. I added it to my playlist.

This race was in a desert park on trails with loose rocks, some soft sand and cactus that sometimes got uncomfortably close. Again, I looked forward to the right moment to press play, this time listening to Cantus before Hymn to a Blue Hour. Again, I had a very enjoyable transition into night.

Now that I’ve added this little bit of music to my 100 mile runs, I’m beginning to understand why I enjoy it so much. First off, it’s simply something special to look forward to during a run that will typically take me more than 24 hours. Second, it’s always fun to listen to music you like. Third, the music, this music, helps calmly introduce the night. Running at night can be especially stressful. Runners don headlamps to light the way and often slow down to prevent getting lost or falling. Somehow, I feel more ready to take on the night with night music in my head. I plan to continue this tradition of playing appropriate “night music” during the blue hour.

Adena Schutzberg has been a member of the Concord Band clarinet section for 12 years. This year she completed the Umstead 100 Endurance Run in April and the Javelina Jundred (Hundred) in October of 2017.