The Ultimate Long-Run Playlist, According to Ultramarathoners

Vivian Camille Dominique Hernandez W. Eric Snell Sr.
Vivian Camille Dominique Hernandez W. Eric Snell Sr.

Prepping for an ultramarathon takes a lot of time. Like, a lot of time. When you're getting ready to run longer than 26.2 miles, a training run can take five, six hours or more. And then you might go for two-plus hours the following day to get used to running on tired legs. Unsurprisingly, ultramarathoners' playlists are not only lengthy, but super strategic to help motivate mile after mile.

So we asked three ultrarunners to share the secrets of the running songs that fuel their longest runs. One surprising finding: all three ultrarunners we spoke to say they listen to nothing at all at least some of the time. Turning off the tunes helps you build mental fortitude, which is sure to come in handy when you're heading into mile 27 and beyond. But it also gives you something to look forward to, and as a result, your regular music will feel even more motivational when you do turn it on.

That's not to say that the music is an afterthought. All three runners had specific ideas in mind about what makes a great distance running playlist. Their tips and top songs can inspire you as you create your own running playlist, whether you're looking for something to listen to while out for a casual mile or two or you need mental fuel for your long run or speedwork. But if you need some music stat, we also used their tips to put together a multi-hour playlist for your longest runs, below.

Vivian Camille

Running coach Vivian Camille focuses a lot on the mental side of running — both in her own training and with her athletes. And music is a huge part of that. "It really sets the tone for the mile you're in," she says. "It grounds me mentally in the moment."

She uses her playlists to fuel the exact energy she wants to bring to every part of a run. "On speedwork days, I'm listening to Lil Jon and hardcore EDM party-rocking music," she says.

Easy days, on the other hand, call for podcasts (like "The Peter Attia Drive"), symphonies, or something ethereal like Odesza to slow herself down. "Sometimes I'll download a motivational speech from YouTube and throw those in on the days that I need a coach in my ear yelling at me, 'This is the time. You can't quit. You've got to make the decision to keep moving forward!'" she says with a laugh.

For the Black Canyon 100K last year, Camille was super strategic. She raced without music for the first half, but designed a playlist for each mile of the second half, programming artists like Lil Jon for major hill climbs and Odesza for flowy downhills. "Songs that you just get into and you're like, 'Yeah, we're raging today. We're raising hell. We're running 100K. It's hard. Let's go,'" she says.

Molly Hernandez

When she's training for an ultra, content creator Molly Hernandez makes a point to do at least a third of each long run without any music. "It helps me with the mental training aspect a lot because you don't have anything but yourself to keep you moving forward!" she says.

Then, when she moves into the music portion of her run, she swears by the Big Bootie Mixes from the duo Two Friends when she's racking up serious mileage. "They're perfect for long runs because they're a mix of all types of songs and each song changes frequently," she says. And they save her the time of having to make her own playlists.

But when it's time for race day, Hernandez also relies heavily on Avicii, her tried-and-true go-to since her first marathon 10 years ago. (In case you're curious: this Big Bootie Mix features the ever-inspiring Avicii.)

Latoya Shauntay Snell

The running soundtracks of Hoka ambassador Latoya Shauntay Snell vary widely. Sometimes she listens to nothing but her breath. Other days it's an audiobook (she particularly loves memoirs). Often, it's an ultramarathoners' playlist "that I can sing horribly to while moving," she says. In fact, she keeps over 200 public playlists on her Spotify account, with titles like "Struggle Bus Thursday," "Extra AF," and "2 Hour Endurance Warrior." The songs on them range from "White Wedding" by Billy Idol to "Tempo" by Lizzo and "Walk" by Saucy Santana.

One of her favorite running/music memories is from the 2018 Javelina Jundred 100K. "I was on my feet longer than I ever had been before and it made a host of emotions flood through me," she says. "Around miles 50 to 60, in between crying and mourning the loss of my father, I kept thinking about 'Someday We'll All Be Free' from Donny Hathaway, which he played almost every Sunday morning. It was one of the first times I allowed myself to process his loss without someone telling me that everything would be OK. It's amazing how running can draw out buried thoughts."

PS's Ultramarathoner-Inspired Running Playlist

Jennifer Heimlich is a writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in fitness and wellness journalism. She previously worked as the senior fitness editor for Well+Good and the editor in chief of Dance Magazine. A UESCA-certified running coach, she's written about running and fitness for publications like Shape, GQ, Runner's World, and The Atlantic.