Band music? No thanks.

Here is a question that trail runners don’t spend much time pondering. Do you like lots of bands, cheerleaders, cowbell-ringing and other live entertainment along a race course?
 
I was thinking about that over the weekend, after talking to a friend who had run the Indy Mini on Saturday. It was his first half-marathon, and he was happy that he finished. I felt good for him, although I’m not a fan of that race, to put it mildly. (See here and here.) 

I asked my friend how he liked running the big, 2 1/2-mile loop around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a highlight of the course.    

“That was the worst part!” he said. “It’s such a long loop, with nothing to see. There should have been a few bands on that section. The music would have given us a little boost. ”    

I thought about that comment for a long time. And here’s what I concluded: If you need a band to get you through a race, then it’s probably a lousy race.    

Race courses should be designed to engage your mind and senses, with few if any humdrum, lifeless spots. Sure, races should be tough. But they shouldn’t be tedious.    

I’m not saying a little music is bad. Lots of people enjoy bands along some of the biggest marathons in the country, including several rock ‘n’ roll theme marathons.    

But the entertainment should be an extra, not the main event. The course should be the main thing, and it should stand or fall on its own.    

This 2 1/2-mile loop around the Indy Motor Speedway is a dull, deadening way to run a half-marathon.

Do these runners look joyful -- or ready to jump in front of a moving car?

Do these runners look happy -- or ready to jump in front of a car to end their misery?

That’s why I love trails. One moment, you’re running alongside a river. The next, you’re climbing a hill. Then you’re running deep into the woods, up and down ravines, through gorges and meadows and high ridges.

Who needs a band to keep you going when Mother Nature is giving you a extravaganza? On the trails, you’ll hear the best sounds ever: songbirds, woodpeckers, waterfalls, gurgling creeks, wind whistling through trees. It’s a symphony that will make you feel alive, mile after mile.   

If you don’t care for trails, well, OK, find a good road race. Just beware of courses that take you along freeways, parking lots, industrial parks — or auto racetracks. You’re probably in for a tough, miserable haul. And what’s the point of that?    

So run for joy! The day I need a band to get me through a race is the day I need to find another race.

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