13 Songs for 13.1 Miles

Today, in honor of 99% Fit’s return from a short blogging hiatus (there have been a lot of exciting personal and professional developments over the last month), I’m breaking form a little bit and bringing you a fun, music filled post. For 99% of us (see what I did there?) music is an important partner to physical activity. The right tunes can be revitalizing and energizing, and give us the extra oomph needed to get a good workout in. I’m running the Brooklyn Half Marathon on Saturday – what follows are 13 songs from my playlist, one for each mile. Whether or not you plan to run an actual half marathon, you might be grappling with something that *feels* like running a half marathon, so one or more of these songs might help get you in the right state of mind to rise and meet whatever physical or mental challenges you're facing. Enjoy!

Mile 1: Breathe, Stretch, Shake – Ma$e ft P. Diddy

Races bring with them nervousness and anxiousness right before the starting gun fires – what many runners refer to as “pre-race jitters.” A little excitement is good and actually helps fuel you through the run; too much though, and you might start out too fast, which can create problems for you towards the end of the race. The mantra that powers the hook of this song helps keep me calm and relaxed so I can maintain a conservative pace right at the start of a nearly two hour run.


Mile 2: Hypnotize – The Notorious B.I.G.

A Brooklyn Half Marathon playlist wouldn’t be complete without representation from one of Brooklyn’s most iconic residents. “Hypnotize” is one of Biggie’s best known jams, and its laid back, mid-tempo beat helps maintain a good starting pace during this early part of the run.


Mile 3: King Kunta – Kendrick Lamar

The funk influenced beat of this jam continues the hip hop-dominate first half of the playlist. Kendrick’s unparalleled lyricism with allusions to the rap scene’s hierarchy and the novels of Chinua Achebe gives me something to listen to and think about in addition to just moving my legs.


Mile 4: Diamonds from Sierra Leon (Remix) – Kanye West and Jay-Z

The Brooklyn Half’s major hill makes its appearance at Mile 4, so it’s time to start bringing out the big guns, musically speaking. Kanye West’s diatribe about corruption in the diamond trade will propel you up the hill, while Jay-Z’s verse about business acumen in the face of adversity will help you to the summit: “The pressure's on, but guess who ain't gonna crack? Haha, pardon me, I had to laugh at that. How could you falter when you're the Rock of Gibraltar? I had to get off the boat so I could walk on water. This ain't no tall order, this is nothin' to me. Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week. I do this in my sleep. I sold kilos of coke, I'm guessin' I can sell CDs. I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man! Let me handle my business, damn.”


Mile 5: I Feel Better – Hot Chip

Time to enjoy the downhill with some uptempo synth-pop courtesy of the British group Hot Chip, since you will in fact feel better as gravity takes a little bit of the pressure of your legs.


Mile 6: Love Generation – Bob Sinclair

Confession: Bob Sinclair is a staple of my running playlist. I would absolutely never go to one of his shows live for fear of encountering a crowd full of rejected Jersey Shore cast members, but his House mixed with Dance Hall EDM style is perfect for cardio. And, “Love Generation” is a sweet little jam that will make you happy and feel more peaceful and kind to your fellow man; a good attitude to cultivate as you’re trying to make your way through a crowded field of runners.


Mile 7: Too Many Men – Wiley

This song is great for two reasons 1) it’s pulsating Grime beat helps the transition from Prospect Park to the endless stretch of Ocean Avenue that makes up the second half of the race 2) it’s an accidental feminist jam: “We need some more girls in here; there’s too many men, too many many men.”


Mile 8: Running Behind – HOLYCHILD

“Running Behind” was tailor-made for a running playlist. I mean, the song has “running” in the title. The claps and drumline-inspired beat make it particularly perfect for Mile 8, a tough mile that needs a little injection of fun.


Mile 9: Til I Collapse – Eminem

Miles 8 and 9 are always the toughest in a half marathon – you’re over half way done, but you still have a ways to go, and your second energy goo hasn’t quite kicked in, so you might be feeling a little sluggish. Eminem’s spoken word intro is a great reminder to “not give up, and not be a quitter, no matter how badly you just want to collapse and fall on your face.”


Mile 10: Flux – Bloc Party

So close, and yet… so far. If you’ve stuck to your race strategy, you should be getting your second wind right about now and feel good enough to start powering up for the last three (point one) miles. “Flux” has a great guitar riff and synth beat that compel you to run fast.


Mile 11: Demons – Sleigh Bells

“Demons” is another song that makes stillness impossible. Lead singer Alexis Krauss is basically a combination of Ozzy Osbourne and a high school cheerleader, and her insistence that “you had a vision; you’re on a mission” helps get you hype for that finish line.


Mile 12: Focus – Ariana Grande

“Focus” is a sassy and fun self-empowerment song from Mariah Carey’s funnier, more self-aware mini-me. And, focus is a good end of race mantra; you have to keep your mind in the right place to finish strong.


Mile 13: A Million Voices – Otto Knows

The last tenth of a mile can feel longer than the rest of the race, so good thing this song is basically sucrose in sonic form. It’s all electronic beats and wordless android vocals, and exactly what’s needed to sprint across the finish line.



I said this post would have 13 songs and I lied! It has 14! This song will always have a special place in my heart. While running the New York City marathon, I passed a bar in Williamsburg that was blasting this song. Since I had my name on my singlet, spectators could cheer me on if they so wished, and one particular bar patron shouted at me “WHITNEY! THEY’RE PLAYING YOUR SONG!” Even if your name is not Whitney, “I Want to Dance with Somebody” is a pretty great celebratory song.