Jordan Cooper: NYC Marathon Playlist

By Jordan Cooper
Music Journalist

On November 6, 2016 I was lucky enough to be one of 50,000 people who got to run the New York City Marathon. The race began in Staten Island, and made its way through all five boroughs including Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and ending in Central Park in Manhattan. Throughout almost the entire 26.2 mile course, there were crowds cheering us runners on, which is why the NYC Marathon is referred to as New York’s biggest block party. It was estimated that over one million people came out to cheer us on.

Despite the overwhelming crowd support, occasional on-course live music and epic views of one of the greatest city’s in the world, there was no way I could have survived the four and half hours it took me to complete the race without a playlist rocking in my bluetooth headphones. The night before, as I tried to get some rest in the Airbnb I was staying in, I had to figure out what I wanted to be included in this playlist.

I knew I wanted to avoid starting the race too fast, which is a common mistake for first time marathoners such as myself. So I started off my NYC playlist with Tycho. Their new album “Epoch” was the perfect ambient soundtrack to keep my mind and body away from moving too fast as I made my way over the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge. I got to enjoy the view of Manhattan off in the distance across the bay as I made my way into Brooklyn.

finisher
Jordan Cooper at the finish of the NYC Marathon. Photo by Amanda Simonton

In Brooklyn, I wanted to keep the chill vibes going, but also find my rhythm as we entered the crowds on the roads cheering us on. I stuck with the electronic feel and went with ODESZA. Their album, In Return has long been one of my favorites to run to during training, as it provides melodic beats to find my pace with and soak in the neighborhoods like Bay Ridge we were running through. By the time we got to the infinitely hip Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn’s best bands came on as if by fate: LCD Soundsystem’sThis is Happening provided the soundtrack for the rest of the second borough, and I may or may not have run one of my fastest miles to “Dance Yrself Clean”.

As we passed over the Pulaski Bridge and into Queens, passing the halfway mark of the race, Glass Animals’ newest album: How to Be a Human Being took over, and it felt like perfect timing for this upbeat album as the crowds grew larger, louder, and rowdier. I was feeling great, smiling from ear to ear as I occasionally even sang along aloud to some of my favorite tracks like “Youth” and “Poplar St.” As we crossed over the Queensboro bridge and into Manhattan for the first time, my playlist got a little grittier for the first time, as Queens of the Stone Age blared guitar rifts into my ears for most of my trip up First Avenue.

As I made my way into the Bronx, with it came my all-time favorite band Radiohead, whom I have already written a lengthy blog post about for KTSW earlier this semester. As much as I love everything Thom Yorke touches, it was almost ironic that this would be who I would be listening to as I hit the wall as runners call it, and began struggling in the race for the first time. Although it only lasted between miles 21 and 23 of the race as I returned back to Manhattan, I will always remember how terrible I felt when I heard “Everything In Its Right Place” during my first
marathon.

At mile 23, I was surprised to see my wife cheering me on, and even coaxed her into running a couple of blocks with me, which provided me a much needed pick-me- up (along with the energy gels I had consumed a few minutes earlier). As I entered Central Park to finish the last two miles, my favorite album of 2015 was there to take me home. Tame Impala’s: Currents is one that I continually find myself coming back to, and I sped through the crowds to “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”

I finished the race in 4:34:15, running negative splits (meaning I ran the second half of the race faster than I ran the first half) which is hard to do on a challenging course like this one. I could not have done it without the amazing volunteers at the water aid stations, my beautiful wife surprising me towards the end, and the playlist I put together just a few hours before the race. What are some of your favorite albums to run to? Which ones should I include in my future races? Let me know in the comments below!

James Jordan II

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