I used to need music — a strong beat, pick-me-up songs — just to finish a run. It helped push away the difficulty of learning to jog, the challenge of a hard race, and the boredom.

In Grade 9 we read an essay called “Blasting Up Music to Drown Out Reality.” The essay argued that we are missing out on what is going on around us when we blast our music and tune out. That essay’s message bubbled to the surface again with regard to my running.

Rather than truly experiencing the lungs breathing, the body moving, the heart pumping, the gorgeous Yukon scenery, and, sometimes, the self imposed pain and suffering, I used to blast a loud song on my iPod.

My catalyst for change was pushing my daughter in a Chariot. I wanted to make sure I could always hear her.

We would chat back and forth during the run about what she could see of the world moving by. Gradually, I noticed that I didn’t need the music, and I enjoyed the run more without it. I discovered often a run could offer greater insight when I was truly “in it.”

There are also practical reasons to avoid music while trail running in the Yukon. Better that you hear a bear, animal, another runner, ATV or mountain biker before you crash into them or they you.

In a recent 8-kilometre race, I skipped the iPod completely and I didn’t miss it. My inner dialogue kept me company as I raced against the clock and the other runners. I plan to do my next half marathon music-free too.

It feels more satisfying to go all out now, without my musical crutch.

Sometimes music plays without my iPod. A song will flitter in and out of my consciousness. The theme song to Never Ending Story flittered in once when I had to do a workout called Never Ending Minutes. Classified’s “Inner Ninja” has been a regular in my head lately.

Some runners have never run with music, some do sometimes, and some can’t run without it.

I’m still inclined to carry a few podcasts on my iPod, just in case. But If you haven’t tried running without music, why not give it a try? You may find there is a lot going on around you and within you that you don’t want to miss.

Have thoughts on music and running? Drop me a line at byrdinc@yahoo.com or post on Athletics Yukon’s Facebook page. Lots of great events are coming up in July including the Yukon 5-kilometre Championships. Visit http://athleticsyukon.ca/calendar-of-events.html to find your next event.

Ben Yu Schott lives in Whitehorse with his family. He writes a monthly running column, Take It in Stride, for What’s Up Yukon.