Musicalisation of Running: Experiencing Pleasurable Escape


On Sunday 13th April, around 36,000 runners will be taking to the streets of London for the 2014 London Marathon and there are many important decisions to make when running 26.2 miles. Research by Birmingham Business School’s Dr. Finola Kerrigan discusses the role of music with regards to running, and how some may use it to create soundscapes in order to enhance their running experience.

In the paper ‘Gimme Shelter’: Experiencing Pleasurable Escape through the Musicalisation of Running, Finola examines the nature of music in the context of the running community.

The advancements in technology and the reduction in size of music players has meant that music can be listened to on the move and allow it to infiltrate spaces where it was previously unable to be consumed. People can now easily listen to a good quality reproduction of self-selected music on portable music devices while running.

The study found that ‘escape’ was a key element of the running experience, but found that it is multi-layered as some runners use running as a means to ‘escape’ the humdrum of life, with music layered on top of this escape in order to assist the runners to escape further; from the pain/noise of the body, from the urban soundscape, from the mundaneity of a long run or lack of fitness.

It was also highlighted that the notion of escape should not always be interpreted as escape ‘from’ but that escape ‘to’ is equally important. An example of this is achieving a level of fitness where the physical and psychological benefits come more easily and without such physical pain, could be interpreted as an escape ‘into’ running.

Dr.Kerrigan says:

Our findings suggest that these soundscapes play an essential role in providing and supporting the experience of pleasurable escape when running. Through the musicalisation of running, people escape their humdrum existence, the Cartesian dualism of mind/body, the very act of running and the urban environment.”

The use of music and soundscapes, which conjures up memories, distraction and inspiration, can allow runners to escape into their run for longer or to escape the physical pain that can often be experienced when pushing the body.

Find out more

Paper: ‘Gimme Shelter’: Experiencing Pleasurable Escape through the Musicalisation of Running

Academic profile: Dr. Finola Kerrigan