As any distance runner knows, after a certain point, it’s mental. That goes double for Run for Congo Women, which is why I’ve put to together this list. Think of it as a mix tape from me to you. A good Run for Congo Women song has a very special criteria. It might be slow, it might be fast, it might have a great run beat, or none at all. But it must motivate and stir some passion for women in the Congo. You might find some of them cheesy. I do. Some of them I would never listen to in my “real life”. But let’s face facts: There comes a time in every long run when bushy-bushy Abba favorites just won’t do. Pansy-assed, pensive boy hipsters crooning on about self loathing (normally one of my favorite genres- miss you Elliott Smith!) are a death knell. You’ve got trail to pound. You’ve got ass to kick (your own!) You’re running for Congo Women and you need some soul fuel. These are some of my favorite panic-button, mile 29-tested songs.
Bonus: Eye of the Tiger. Survivor. Okay, it’s silly. That’s why it didn’t make the list. But it is the best overall workout song ever, and you know it. Put it in the mix, just for fun. You’ll get many miles out of this golden oldie.
10. Masters Of War. Pearl Jam recording of this Bob Dylan classic. No one says it quite like Bob. This one goes out to all the mining executives, all the guys making serious cash off the conflict. Apropos, for sure, but it’s further down the list because it’s angry- a great motivator and will help you log some serious mileage, but ultimately anger will only carry you so far. (By the way, no, I don’t hope they die. I usually scroll to the next song when I hit the final verse.)
Come you masters of war…./You fasten all the triggers/ For the others to fire/ Then you set back and watch/ While the death count gets higher/ Then you hide in your mansion/ While the young people’s blood/ Flows out of their bodies/ And is buried in the mud
9. What a Feeling. Irene Cara. Nevermind the fact Flashdance was my very favorite movie when I was 8 (yes, my parents were that liberal.) It’s the story of starting run for Congo Women!
First when there’s nothing but a slow glowing dream/ That your fear seems to hide deep inside your mind…/ Take your passion! Make it happen!
8. Alina. Arvo Part. Sometimes on a long run, blood pumping music feels like it’s mocking your pain. Sometimes you need some music that slows you down and helps you Zen-out. This stunning piece was written as a prayer, and always make me feel like I’m floating.
7. The Campfire Song. 10,000 Maniacs. Let’s be real. It’s about the money. This one is a little more compassionate than the Dylan.
A lie to say, “O my mountain has coal veins and beds to dig/ 500 men with axes and they all dig for me.”/ A lie to say, “O my mine gave a diamond as big as a fist.”/ But with every gem in his pocket, the jewels he has missed. (I always think of Congolese kids- the real treasure)/ A lie to say “O my forest has trees that block the sun/ and when I cut them down I don’t answer to anyone.”/ No, no, never will he believe that his greed is a blinding ray./ No devil or redeemer can cheat him./ He’ll take his gold where he’s lying cold./ A lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely man.
6. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. U2. I think about my Congolese sisters when I hear this one. Until there’s stability in Congo, yes, I’m still running.
I have climbed highest mountain/ I have run through the fields/ Only to be with you./ I have run/ I have crawled/ I have scaled these city walls/ These city walls/ Only to be with you/ But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for/ Yes, I’m still running.
5. Africa Unite. Bob Marley and the Wailers. As soon as I landed in the Nairobi Airport, I got it. Bob Marley is the soundtrack of Africa. My driver Serge had a bootlegged tape we listened to- among the favorites were Redemption Songs, One Drop, and of course War. But this one we looped more times that I can say, driving up and down the gutted streets of Bukavu. How good and how pleasant it would be, indeed. Play it again, Serge!
Africa unite! Cause your children want to go home./ How good and how pleasant it would be/ Before God and man/ To see the unification of all Africans/ As it’s been said let it be done/ I tell you who we are under the sun.
4. War on War. Wilco. I listened to this song non-stop, psyching myself up while prepping for my first trip to Congo. Walk through the flaming doors. Feel the burn.
Walk through the flaming doors./ You have to lose./ You have to learn how to die/ If you wanna be alive./ It’s a war on war.
3. Survivor. Destiny’s Child. Oooh. The next time you think about hopping off the treadmill a few minutes pre-goal, flip this one on. There will be no stopping you.
I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna give up/ I’m not gonna stop, I’m gonna work harder/ I’m a survivor, I’m gonna make it/ I will survive, Keep on survivin’
2. Sunday Bloody Sunday. U2. It’s a battle cry. Whew. This one will get you through many a steep incline. It’s the best. A close tie for number one.
I can’t believe the news today/ Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away/ How long, how long must we sing this song?/ How long? How long?/ ’Cause tonight we can be as one, tonight/ Sunday, Bloody Sunday/ And it’s true we are immune when fact is fiction and TV reality/ And today the millions cry/ We eat and drink while tomorrow they die
[But you aren’t eating and drinking. You are Running for Congo Women! You go girl! (or guy!)]
1. Change. Tracy Chapman. My number one Run for Congo Women song of all time. Still gives me chills, everytime. Life is so short. Change.
If you knew that you would die today/ If you saw the face of God and love (cute Congolese kids faces here)/ Would you change?/ How bad, how good does it need to get? (Seriously.)/ How many losses? How much regret? (5.4 million….)/ What chain reaction? What cause and effect?/ Makes you turn around?/ Makes you change?
But when you log as many hours on the trail as I have, nothing gives you a boost like a new song. I’d LOVE your suggestions. Please post them here!