Power taper

The St. Louis marathon is Sunday, and I’ve now entered that cruel portion of training known as “the taper.” The taper is the brief window of time—anywhere from one to three weeks—when running slowly grinds to a halt and gives way to a preparatory relaxation regimen. You sleep past 6 a.m. You take long showers. You stop worrying about calories and electrolytes and wicking the previous night’s alcohol out through a fancy performance top. You drink a Coors Light with your favorite tabby, join your neighbor’s dart league and do your best to kick back.

To non-runners, it probably sounds nice—like a vacation from the rigors of daily training.

Well, it’s not. It’s hell.

A really boring hell.

This is the part in the Rocky training montage you don’t get to see—the part where Rocky stays up late trolling Yelp reviews for pre-fight “breakfast for dinner” options. Since I’m only running a handful of miles this week, I’ve been channeling my nervous energy into obsessively refreshing the weekend weather report, waiting for that magical split-second when the crude depiction of a humid, 80-degree T-storm transforms into an avatar of a smiling sun flashing a thumbs-up and holding a little sign that says “60.”

As of Wednesday, 8:46 a.m., it hasn’t happened yet.

But in the meantime, I have one simple training task before me, even more important than nailing down that whole “breakfast for dinner” business. CREATING THE ULTIMATE POWER JAM PLAYLIST.

I’ve spoken of my obsession with power jams before—a good power jam can turn your nightmarish slog of a run into a triumph of the human spirit. One minute you’re trudging through a haze of exhaustion, drizzle and Robitussin side effects. Then Peaches’ “Boys Wanna Be Her” comes cranking out of your headphones, and you’re pumping fists, high-fiving strangers and darting through traffic like you’ll take the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

Now I’m not one of those people who sets out to race in headphones, but let’s be real—at my speed, a marathon takes four hours to complete. There’s gonna be sad times, low times, sorrow, confusion, depression and emotional chaos. Eventually I might need to have some auditory triumph in my corner. So I’ve actually created a four-hour list in case things get dire from the jump.

Jams of every ilk have come and gone over the years, but hip-hop and pop-punk seem to work better for me than that techno-dance-dub-step racket the kids are so into these days when they’re not bedeviling my lawn. Note that the power jam playlist exists in a world free from self-consciousness, where well-worn hits are preferable to being the cool, slouchy guy at the show just barely nodding his head.

So here are my eight favorite running jams and a list of assorted also-rans—all on my list for Sunday. May they help at least one other runner. And let me know if you have additional recommendations, provided they’re not related to Rocky, Transformers or the Karate Kid. It’s crunch time!

Amoeba – Adolescents
Starts out “We are scientists in a lab!” and that’s exactly how I feel when I’m testing out new power jams. Finding the right running music supposedly demands a precise formula of beats per minute, but the only way I’ve gotten it right is by pouring songs into an imaginary beaker and taking them out on the road.
Other running jams: Wrecking Crew

MGMT – Kids
The synth part makes me punch the air in front of me and then the lyrical part reminds me that I’m soft and tender inside like a fresh Cinnabon.

Meeting Paris Hilton – CSS
I have no idea what’s going on in this song, but it’s just right for running, dancing or triggering the elevated heart-rate alert on fitness equipment. Ease up there, you beautiful maniac!
Other running jams: This Month, Day 10

No Hands — Waka Flocka Flame
My love for this song may or may not be rooted in pure delight that society has produced a rapper named “Waka Flocka” in reverence to the whimsical swag of muppet Fozzie Bear.
Other running jams: Hard in the Paint

Another State of Mind – Social Distortion
This song has been a power jam since high school, but it definitely took on new meaning when I was traveling a lot as a bike tour leader and needed to feel all angsty about the relationships I left behind. Except in my case, daily fights and shows took the form of UNO tournaments with spandexed oldsters.
Other running jams: Telling Them

Go DJ – Lil Wayne
Sometimes I forget I’m not Lil Wayne because Lil Wayne is such a badass, and I feel so badass when I’m running. One minute I’m “moving like a coupe through traffic,” and then I stop running and remember I’m just me, and melancholy sets in. It’s a whole existential LARPing thing.
Other running jams: A Milli, 6 Foot 7 Foot, pretty much every song

Hope – Descendents
I know I said this was a decoy jam, but I lied. It still works. Another powersong of yesteryear I still listen to everyday. Man, I’m old. But this is great music for sitting on a porch swing, sucking on a cool Werthers Original and waiting for “The Wheel” to come on. Or, you know, running.
Other running jams: Bikeage, Silly Girl, pretty much every song

Fortunate Son – CCR
Because deep down, I’m just an All-American bro, and these colors genuinely do enjoy a good run.

Lest we not forget:
Boys Wanna Be Her – Peaches
Black and Yellow – Wiz Khalifa
You Be Killin Em – Fabolous
Hypnotize – BIG
Blank Generation – Richard Hell
Party Hard – Andrew WK
Iron Man – Black Sabbath
Sideshow – Too Short
I-10 – Japanther
Yonkers – Tyler the Creator
The Bomb – Pigeon John
Paint it Black – The Rolling Stones
Hitchhike – Liliput
100% — Sonic Youth
Beware (Jay Z Remix) – Panjabi MC
Guns of Brixton – the Clash
Lust for Life – Iggy Pop
Live Fast, Die Young – Circle Jerks
I’m Shipping up to Boston – Dropkick Murphys
Crazy Train – Ozzy
Jump on Stage – Girl Talk
Carbona Not Glue – Ramones
Roadrunner – Modern Lovers