, Salem, MA

March 21, 2014

On The Run column: The strange sounds of running

On the Run
Jay Kumar

---- — The next time you go running — whether it’s on the road, trail or treadmill — try this:

Just listen.

Specifically, listen to yourself. What do you sound like when you run?

Those runners who listen to music while they run probably never hear what they sound like. If you were to record the audio of yourself running, it probably would sound pretty strange out of context.

I ran a 5K in Cambridge last weekend and for distances that short, I never listen to music. All I could hear was my own breathing and footfalls — and those of all the runners around me. And we all sounded different.

I’ve got big feet that tend to clomp when I run, and in a race like a 5K I breathe heavily because I’m pushing myself harder than I normally do. Then there’s the spitting; I spit a lot when I run. So it’s quite the cacophony of not-very-pleasant sounds when I’m on the road.

The sounds vary, depending on where you are in the road race food chain. The elite runners aren’t carrying as much weight as the rest of us and are also much more efficient with their breathing, so you’re not going to hear as much noise from them. Most lead runners tend to almost glide when they run; it’s all about economy of motion. They even look smooth as they chug along. Watch the lead runners at the Boston Marathon next month; for most of the race, it doesn’t even appear as though they’re breaking a sweat at they tear through those sub-5-minute miles.

The middle-of-the-pack runners are more muscular and tend to carry more weight than your elite runners, so there’s more going on. You might hear more grunting and the occasional huffing and puffing, especially when a hill is involved. Form is less of a concern. You see a bit of arm-flailing, some serious foot-pounding and a whole lot of sweat after the first few minutes.

Runners in the back of the pack are less concerned with their race time (although they may have a goal time they’re trying to hit), so things may appear and sound a little calmer. There isn’t the urgency to sprint; these runners may actually be enjoying themselves. In addition to the requisite heavy breathing and panting, you may also hear conversations as they chug along toward the finish line. In some ways, they’re as calm as the elite runners.

If you’re just out for a run by yourself, the sounds are different as well. You may notice differences in your breathing depending on how hard you’re running, how much sleep you had the night before, what you ate or drank the night before, and of course your fitness level. Sometimes when I’m running, I swear I sound like a wheezy old man. Other times, it all comes together and I sound like I’ve got speed to burn.

There’s not much you can do to change how you sound when you run. And unless you bray like a donkey while you’re running, you really shouldn’t worry about it. As strange as it sounds, that combination of noises during a run makes you unique.

Starts and stops:

The North Shore Striders are offering a second bus to the Boston Marathon from locations on the North Shore; the club’s first bus is sold out. The Striders have requested a parking pass from the BAA so the bus will be able to park in the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton before the start of the race. However, if the BAA cannot find parking spaces to handle the additional bus, the runners on this bus will still get to the starting line, but will be required to switch to a shuttle bus at a point close to Hopkinton, which the BAA will designate. If you have any questions about these arrangements, please contact Anne Pelletier at

The second bus will board at the same locations as the primary bus: 6 a.m. in front of New England Running Company in Beverly and 6:20 a.m. in the temporary parking lot (due to construction, the main lot is currently closed) of the Salem MBTA Commuter Rail Station, 297 Bridge St (Rt. 107) in Salem. These times are subject to change if the BAA requires buses to arrive earlier in Hopkinton. All passengers will be notified by email of the final details. Cost is $36 per person, but $27 per person for members of the North Shore Striders or the Wicked Running Club.

On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to

Upcoming races


Hibernian 5K, Hibernian Hall, 105 Federal St., Lynn, 11 a.m. Fun 5K loop course, prize money to top 3 males, females, youth, and costumes. Contact: Karyn Coulon (Ancient Order of Hibernians) at 781-598-6020 or

Salem 5K Cross Country Run at Olde Salem Greens, 75 Wilson St., 9 a.m. Cross country run, challenging hilly course. Contact: Katie Duffey (Salem Park Recreation and Community Services) at 1-978-744-0180 x20 or email

Wednesday, March 26

Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Thursday, March 27

No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact

Sunday, March 30

Witches Wellness 5K Run/Walk, Salem High School, 77 Willson St., Salem, 10 a.m. Inaugural 5K to benefit SHS. Awards, t-shirts, post-race food.

Contact: Ashley Steeves (BNS EVENT MANAGEMENT) at 1-978-836-0271 or

Wednesday, April 2

Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Thursday, April 3

No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact

Saturday, April 5

Lynn Woods School Wolf Trot 5K, Lynn Woods Reservation, Great Woods Road, Lynn, 11 a.m. 5K and 3K kids’ race. Contact: Margaret Mannion (Lynn Woods School PTO) at 1-781-718-5468 or

Sunday, April 6

Fools Dual Half Marathon, O’Maley Middle School, 32 Cherry St., Gloucester, 8 a.m. Beautiful and Scenic Coastal Half Marathon and 5K; you can also run both races back-to-back. Contact: YuKan Sports LLC at 1-978-879-9007 or

Visit for more race listings.