For 25 years of my running life, whenever I ran, there was a song being heard aloud. Sometimes, that song involved a cargo plane. Other times, a song about where everyone was at during the run could be heard. These songs were cadences and very familiar to anyone who has been in the military for more than a couple of weeks. Cadences are rhythmic and set to a beat that is roughly 180 beats per minute. That sounds fast, but it is really just a beat that strikes every time the left foot hit the ground.
Cadences keep the military in step because whenever you have a large mass of people moving in the same direction, the most efficient way to do so is to have them in step so as to not have random people trip over each other and create some Looney Tunes falling scenario. With the double-time march, each person starts by leading with their left foot as they move forward. When I ran in formation, we usually had three or four columns of troops, depending on how many people were available and how big the overall operation encompassed.
The cadences themselves would sometimes entertain the runners, but more often than not, everyone would end up with a “C-130 rolling down the strip,” and be one of “Sixty-four paratoopers taking a one-way trip.” A few times, an adventurous person would sing this cadence with gusto or change up the routine a bit.
Cadence calling and cadence singing are a part of life in the military. If you are running by yourself one day, you might mentally hear a running cadence in the back of your head and your feet adjust to the cadence rhythm. I know my feet have… on multiple occasions. I eventually hit a certain rank in the military where I could just do physical training on my own and my preferred choice of exercise is always running. Weight training by myself? Uh, nooo. Plyometrics? I’ll pass. Run? Heck yeah! If I wasn’t running with a select group of people, I would venture off and knock out six miles on my own, which probably scared some of my company commanders because in Texas, the temperatures creep up and we’ve heard reports of single runners getting hurt or even having a heart attack and no one was around. But I would run and sometimes that mental C-130 would visit me.
Which brings me up to my current running situation. I usually run to music now. I slap my Zune into my right armband (because it still works and I love that thing), and I set out on workouts or 5k and 10k races with a preset playlist. My running playlists have a tendency to be dance songs while I’m out there. As much as I love genres like classic rock, old Motown, and current top 40, dance songs have a range of beats between 110 and 180 a minute. Those beats help push me to go further and the slower dance songs help with a guy who has slowed down over the years.
I’ve had quite a few people tell me that I should listen to podcasts while running, but I just can’t. For me, podcasts are reserved for non-exercise activities, to include driving. But the biggest thing that stops me from doing podcasts and even audiobooks during a run is the lack of a beat. I can’t run to someone conducting prose or explaining how the latest Intel processor will benefit a third world country’s school system. But having Avicii and Carly Rae Jepsen going? Yea, that helps a lot more.
Though, I have been known to start a race or two with the theme to Halo 3, or even the opening song to Chariots of Fire.
But that C-130 is always going to be with people like me.