My Running Playlist and a Lady Named Bertha

Wełtawa i HradčanyToday is a whole new day in my running experience. You see, today I am using a few of these so-called ‘applications’ that my phone employs. Finally, after scanning beyond the first two pages of my Smartphone, I have found a whole list of these ‘applications’ just sitting there, waiting to be used, and add difficulties and frustrations to my life that I didn’t even know existed.

Last night, I made a very short playlist of running music. That way I can avoid scanning my MP3 player, whose playlist option is broken, for something other than the Yogi transcendental sleep music and Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate 3.4.

I am also using something called Runkeeper, which uses GPS to measure time and distance. Bertha updates my distance and pace every five minutes. (She is my RunKeeper Lady. I named her Bertha because I am uncomfortable being judged by a computer, but I’ve been judged by women my whole life.)

I step outside this morning excited to run along the Vltava, feeling a little like a Luddite in Plato’s cave…only with GPS capabilities and the Rolling Stones. What follows is an overview of the next 45 minutes of my life.


Bertha says, “You have now started running.”

Song: A Day in the Life by The Beatles. Good song to start out with, rising crescendo is a pleasant metaphor to a slow start and gaining speed. Geniuses! Oh, damn you Mark David Chapman and Yoko Ono. This was a good decision.

Song: Let’s Get it Started by The Black Eyed Peas. Good energy, something I need in the beginning of the run, as I pass from the leafy tree-lined streets of Podoli and enter the sun-baked stretch below Vyšehrad. Sweaty time starts.

Observation: Boy, the Black Eyed Peas sure like to reference themselves in their songs, don’t they?

Minute 10

Bertha, “10 minutes. You have run .98 miles. Your average speed is 10 minutes and 11 seconds per mile.”

I notice a sneering quality to Bertha, as though she’s saying, ‘A 10 + minute mile? Come on, chubs, move your ass.”

Song: Rocky Theme. Sneer if you want, this is a damn energetic song. I’m not me when I run to the Rocky Theme, I’m a short, stocky Italian underdog in life, running to better his…D’oh!

Minute 20

Bertha, “20 minutes. You have run 2.1 miles. Your average speed is 9 minutes and 53 seconds per mile.”

I notice a bit of respect in Bertha’s tone. One that says, “OK fat boy, you’re picking up the pace. I can get behind this run.”

Song: Die Moldau by Smetana. This is an astoundingly beautiful piece of classical music. And I figure since I run along Die damn Moldau (The German name for the Vltava River) every day, I might as well listen to it in symphonic form.

She mocks me as I run, too. Always. On a hot day such as today, she just drifts along all cool and refreshing, looking like the backdrop in a beer commercial. During my winter runs she makes my jogs over the bridges bone chilling. Sometimes she floods and makes parts of my run impossible.

She is a bitch. But it’s possible I am just cranky.

Minute 25

Bertha says, “25 minutes. You have run 2.2 miles. Your average speed is 11 minutes and 21 seconds per mile.”

I can almost hear her laughing at me.

My reaction: “Oh Bertha, I find it highly unlikely that I have gone .1 mile in the last 5 minutes. Isn’t there a chance you are f*cking with me?”

Song: Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones. If you don’t have this on your running playlist, get it on there now. There is no song that urges you forward, whether it’s the devil, the growing intensity, or you (hypothetically) pretend you’re actually Nicky Hopkins playing the piano.

Despite the good pace and good song, I am miffed at Bertha’s miscalculation and await her next update.

Minute 40

Bertha interrupts Tom Traubert’s Blues (Tom Waits) to inform me that I am at “Minute 40” and that I am holding steady at “2.2 miles” “My average pace,” she goes on to mention, is now at an incredible and corpse-like “18 minutes and 10 seconds per mile.”

I am not surprised by the update, for it is what she told me at minute 30, and at minute 35. She is obviously asleep on the job. I am disappointed with Bertha. But I love Tom Waits.

Minute 45 (three minutes after I finish my run)

I am walking up the hill to my flat, Paul Simon is singing about that rambunctious lad, Julio and their time at a schoolyard. My playlist was a good call, as I didn’t have to fumble for anything in a sweaty ball of pain. Plus, it was all the music I really wanted to hear with none of the crap in between.

However, technology has once again pissed me off and Bertha’s lackluster performance pretty much nixes out any chance I’ll use this Runkeeper again to calculate anything other than a walk to the bathroom.

As I reach the top of the hill Bertha chimes in one more time; I guess she’s done with her coffee break: “Minute 45, you have run 2.2 miles. You’re average pace is 20 minutes and 27 seconds per mile.”

I hate you, Bertha.

But I love running to music. Runners, what’s on your playlist?

  1. #1 by Viťa on July 20, 2013 - 12:42 am

    Hello Dame,
    I use Runkeeper, but I disabled all the speaking and notices functions, as I know how slow i am going and I do not need some smartass with computerized voice to tell me.
    But on my playlist, there is stuff I normally listen to. Floggin Molly, the Pogues, Sabaton, Reverend NortonHeat, Hugh Laurie, Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra..but mainly because I am too lazy to upload any new music into my smarts phone. When I am tired of all these, I just select radio and listen to that, for some morning news as well.

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on July 20, 2013 - 9:13 am

      Thanks Vit! Hugh Laurie? Is it a comedy act?

      • #3 by Viťa on July 20, 2013 - 11:46 am

        Nah, he is a great blues musician. Very humble as well, published 2 CDs already and in the booklet of the first one he admits openly, that given he is who he is he should not be playing blues at all, so the album is a tribute to all the bluesmen and women before him.

        Oh, and this one`s for you:

  2. #4 by eddie on July 22, 2013 - 2:13 am

    Way too hot to run right now in good ole PA but just put 10 random songs from the 80’s top 40 lists into your playlist. At least one of them and probably most of them will be the “montage” song from a movie where the underdogs kick the jock jerk offs asses.

  3. #5 by simon on July 24, 2013 - 1:55 am

    Use the runkeeper website to record your run history but use ismoothrun as the app on your phone, it actually works, unlike runkeeper app

    • #6 by Damien Galeone on July 24, 2013 - 8:22 am

      Hey Simon – thanks a lot for the tip! I really am frustrated with that Runkeeper, I appreciate the effective alternative. I shall try it out on Friday. Thanks again.

Comments are closed.