The Key's Year-End Mania: Running Away With 2018 - Rob Huff's favorite music to marathon to - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Robyn | via NPR Music

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key writer Rob Huff shares a playlist of music that motivated him through the Philadelphia Marathon.

Just keep moving.

It’s a sentiment that can feel both tired and tiring. Yet at the same time, it’s the only ambition that feels attainable in adulthood. And that’s under the best of circumstances. This year, it was an ambition I decided to amplify as a recreational runner when I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon, my first ever.

As one of the few healthy habits I have, running has proven downright lifesaving amidst the injustice and insanity of the past two years. It’s cleansing yet calming, lending itself simultaneously to deep focus and a welcome absence of thought. As my weekly training routine grew longer and more time consuming, it also became a chance for me to dive into music in a manner that life hadn’t truly allowed in some time. Early morning four milers became the perfect opportunity to test drive new releases without interruption, while weekend half marathons gave me time to Benjamin Button my way through the catalogs of my faves. Music helped me measure my speed, as I began to push myself to finish certain distances before certain final songs. It also helped me pace myself as I learned to adapt to the varying beats of playlists both shuffled and sequenced.

Just as music helped me find my stride as a runner, running shaped my taste in music this year. Suddenly, one of the top criteria for how much I loved a new album was my ability to run to it. In fact, one of many reasons that Robyn’s Honey became my favorite album this year was how quickly and easily it met that criteria. For me, and for the marathon, 2018 became a year dictated by a constant yet comforting pulse, one that offered catharsis through lyrics of love, loss, and the often codependent relationship between the two. It was that pulse that helped me finish the marathon, and it was that pulse that I tried to mimic and maintain with this mix that I hope both encapsulates this year in music and will encourage runners old and new to push themselves a little harder, a little farther.

No, it won’t quite get you through a full marathon (unless you’re really, really fast), and it obviously doesn’t cover everything, but like any beginner’s training regimen, it’s a healthy start. It starts off with Robyn, naturally, before diving into heavenly house beats, futuristic flamenco pop, motivational techno, remixed country, and even obscure reissued jazz. From Róisín to Rosalía, from Kimiko Kasai to Kacey Musgraves, it sums up how I will choose to look back on 2018: Not a year of running to or from, just running with. A year where music helped me keep moving.

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