5 Things Bob Dylan Can Teach Us About Running

fri5Last week, the Nobel Committee announced that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Although this announcement provoked substantial controversy, I was thrilled. My love for Bob Dylan knows no bounds, so much so that his songs make regular appearances on my iPod playlist during my casual runs. At first, Bob Dylan seems like a strange choice to include on a running playlist, but if you listen closely, you just might think he was singing about running!

Here are just a few of my favorite pieces of sage running advice, a la Dylan.

1. “The slow one now will later be fast.”

This advice is courtesy of one of Bob Dylan’s best-known songs, The Times They Are A Changin’. I just happened to be listening to this song one day during a particularly bad run, and while I was beating myself up for running so slowly compared to last year’s paces, this line reminded me of the importance of easy running. If you neglect easy running and try to race every workout, you’ll never get faster. What a good reminder that I’m taking it easy now so I will later be fast!

2. “We’ll climb that hill no matter how steep/ When we get up to it.”

Dylan sings this line in the original version of You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, and I like it because it helps me remember to take running one mile and one hill at a time. Hill running can be largely mental, so it’s really all in your approach. I find if I don’t worry about a big hill until I get up to it, it’s not nearly as bad as it otherwise would have been had I spent time dreading it beforehand.

Bob Dylan: Running coach.

3. “How does it feel?”

This line, from the classic Like A Rolling Stone, is a good reminder to listen to your body while running. If you’re supposed to be running easy and it doesn’t feel easy, then back off. Similarly, if you feel like you’re on the verge of injury, your body might be trying to tell you something, and you should probably listen.

4. “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Okay, so the reference to “weatherman” in Subterranean Homesick Blues eventually took on a different meaning, but I’m a compulsive weather checker, especially if I have a key workout or a race coming up. When I’m wondering what the weather is going to be like, I don’t need to wait for the weatherman on the local news; all I need to do is hop online to one of the countless weather websites. And if the forecast calls for wind, I don’t need to worry; all I need to do is hop on Salty Running for the best tips on how to cope. Likewise if a hard rain’s a-gonna fall: I just try to accept it that soon I’ll be drenched to the bone and move on with my run!

5. “If dogs run free, why not me?”

Running doesn’t need to be all serious all the time. Sometimes, like Bob Dylan sings on If Dogs Run Free, you just want to, well, run free. And sometimes, you might find some inspiration from your dog!

Are you a Bob Dylan fan? Do you find unexpected running inspiration from your favorite musicians?

**And Bob, since you haven’t responded to the Nobel Committee about your prize yet, maybe give us a “thanks” for our tribute to you at least?

A former field hockey goalkeeper, I discovered a love for marathons in 2014. I'm a three-time Boston qualifier with a 3:18 marathon PR and a 1:30 PR in the half. When I'm not dodging tourists while running on the National Mall, I work as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. I write about training, competition, and everything in between.

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  1. HUGE Bob Dylan fan — was introduced to him as a high school student by a very hippie science teacher. Infidels has always held a special place as my favorite album, and it’s maybe a little bit less well-known, so I’ll throw in a line from the opening song.

    “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Sounds like marathoning. 🙂

  2. I really like his 2006 album Modern Times, and my favorite from that is “Someday Baby.” It’s such a no-fucks-given song. It was def on my marathon playlist! 😉

    I don’t care what you do
    I don’t care what you say
    I don’t care where you go
    Or how long you stay
    Someday baby you ain’t gonna worry for me anymore