Guilty Pleasures

Given the slippery winter mixes on the forecast and the fact that there is still a week and a half to go before the recommended 18-week marathon training period begins, I’m taking it easy. Translation: moderate jogging followed by intense bubble baths, keeping the tea kettle on and the wine glass full, and uploading hours of hit songs onto my So You Think You Can Run a Marathon playlist.

There is no rule in the Vermont City Marathon handbook that says runners aren’t allowed to listen to music during the race, although it does say that “headphones are strongly discouraged.” I understand the reasoning, since the event takes place mid-day on busy Burlington streets and safety is critical. But just the same, I wonder and worry: how will I ever finish the 26-mile, 385-yard race without a little help from my friends Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, and Abba?

A major reason I run is that it enables me to explore my great passion for mindless pop music. There comes a point in a person’s life when she reaches her late 20s and it’s no longer acceptable to turn up the volume when, say, the same Black Eyed Peas song she’s already heard 200 times comes on the radio. When I’m around other people I try to be sensitive to what they want to hear, which usually means tuning in to VPR or whatever sounds most like Bob Dylan. On the surface I may seem like any ordinary person humming along to “Buckets of Rain” or weighing in on the presidential candidates, but if I had it my way, I’d always be rocking out to songs that only 11 year olds who watch the Disney Channel should know. Like X-Men’s Wolverine, I feel compelled to conceal my identity to appear normal and protect the innocent.

Fortunately, exercise is an equalizer when it comes to people and the music they want to hear. Whether you’re 5 or 50, the best way to get moving is to break out the latest Jock Jams album and match your rhythm to a peppy, repetitive beat. I knock minutes off my daily run every time I have a new dance mix to listen to, and it’s one of the only times when I don’t have to worry about people overhearing and judging me for choosing Taylor Swift over James Taylor.

As Shakespeare wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.” Should I follow the advice of the marathon handbook and ditch the headphones? Or instead heed the great playwright, embrace my favorite guilty pleasure, and play on my music mix come race day?

Mari Zagarins

When Mari isn't running, biking, hiking, or jumping-jacking in and around her home in Montpelier, she is practicing her facial expressions in the mirror and contemplating whether she should learn to swim.

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