Ask any athlete who’s completed an Ironman, and we will tell you that there’s always that one tune that is as much a part of our race experience as hearing the announcer declare “You are an Ironman!” when we cross the finish line.
Maybe it’s that jam you listened to a thousand times in training. Or the song some spectator was playing at the exact moment when you wanted to throw in the towel- The one with empowering lyrics that helped you press on. The music that motivates is as diverse as the athletes themselves! But there are a handful of tunes that seem to capture the Ironman experience for so many of us, from Louisville, Kentucky to Kona, Hawaii. Even if you don’t want to take on a 140.6 mile triathlon, you’re sure to feel like anything is possible when you listen to these Ironman-inspired songs!
Just hearing anything from a U2 album conjures up memories of my first Ironman experience. I was in Lake Placid to cheer on some friends. As they waded into Mirror Lake at 7am the song “Beautiful Day” echoed across the rippling water. That evening, as I waited for my friends to finish, “Where the Streets Have No Name” played while athlete after athlete crossed that epic finish line under the Adirondack stars. The impression this race left on me will forever be captured in the line “I wanna run, I wanna to hide. I wanna tear down the walls that hold me inside." I DID want to run… and swim and bike. So I signed up to do an Ironman the very next day!
You don’t have to be an Iggy Azalea fan to reap the benefits of training to “Impossible is Nothing!” When Katy Kurtessis of Albany, NY was struggling with training through a back injury, she listened to this song hundreds of times. “ ‘You’ve got to hate not having it more than you want to obtain it’ is how I felt when I thought I might not be able to race. This song seriously got me through the last bit of training, and racing Ironman!” So put this three minute tune on your playlist when you need a good reminder that nothing is impossible!
Ironman finishers Tracey-Ann McGee and Sharon Strodl both agree that "Fight Song" is an Ironman staple. With a driving chorus that declares "My power's turned on. Starting right now I'll be strong. I'll play my fight song, and I don't really care if nobody else believes 'cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me" Rachel Platten's hit will have you singing your doubts right out of town! And don't be afraid to pump your fist in the air while you belt out "This is my fight song!"
If “Lose Yourself” by Eminem is not on your playlist yet, I recommend downloading it. This song has lived on my triathlon training playlist since 2009, and is now a permanent resident! Probably because the song opens with this compelling question "If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it?" Before the song even ends, you'll find the resolve to train hard, so you can seize the chance to race Ironman... or just seize the day, Ironman style!
Speaking of resolve, I make a conscious decision to hum a calming song to myself moments before I hit the water on race morning. I know there will be about 2000 other athletes out there, frantically swimming into me, which can be unnerving. And when I emerge from that mayhem, I will have a 112 mile bike ride and marathon to complete. So before I begin to hyperventilate, I focus on a tranquil tune that I've intentionally trained for Ironman with. I suggest "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On" by Jimmy Buffet for keeping the anxiety at bay!
With an event as long as Ironman, it's really difficult to remain serious the entire time. And just not as enjoyable! That's why sprinkled in among all the champion-inspired songs on my training playlist are a few lighthearted ones. "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO is my go-to. A spectator was blasting it at Mile 20 of Ironman the last time I raced, and it made me laugh, because at that point my run was reduced to what is affectionately called the Ironman-shuffle. This upbeat tune always reminds me to stop taking myself so seriously, on and off the race course!
I can’t think of an Ironman that didn’t include Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” at the Finish line. And it typically seems to be playing as the crowds grow denser, and the clock draws closer to midnight (which is the cut-off time for anyone trying to finish the race). This tune always gets the crowd on their feet, and in turn the athletes can hear them roaring a mile away. “It was playing when I crossed the Finish line, and is also a huge song for me and my kids, as it was their 5th grade graduation song, so it was doubly great for me AND them as I crossed the Finish line to it!” says Ironman Mt. Tremblant Finisher Nashwa Rafla.
There are few songs that embody the Ironman triathlon like "Hall of Fame" by The Script. Even if I can't remember what mile I was on, I do recall hearing "You could be the greatest, you can be the best" when I most needed that extra shot of motivation on race day. It so poignantly captures the Ironman experience that it's even been used in Ironman's "Anything is Possible" video.