Elite Boston Marathon runners share the playlists they use to keep going

Natick, MA - 4/17/2017 - Runner Desiree Linden takes a drink during the running of the 121st Boston Marathon in Natick, MA, April 17, 2017. (Keith Bedford/Globe Staff)
Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Desiree Linden led the pack in Natick at last year’s Boston Marathon.

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What works for Desiree Linden might not work for you. The two-time Olympic marathoner doesn’t wear her headphones during competition, choosing instead to focus on the rhythm of the road and the competitors around her. Linden wants to know exactly how her body is feeling and adjust accordingly.

But that’s a two-time Olympian who’ll cover the 26.2 miles between Hopkinton and Copley Square in a little over two hours and 20 minutes. For the average runner, music is the perfect distraction from what their body is telling them — namely, stop.

“There’s some value to it if you’re just trying to tune out how you feel, lock in to some music and just be distracted,” Linden told “But for the elites and the professionals up front, we’re very much tuning in to how we feel and what our bodies doing and where the mind is wandering.”


Linden, who finished runner-up in Boston in 2011, is one of the runners on the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team with a curated Spotify playlist of the songs that keep them going during training or on the Boston Marathon course.

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Here’s what elite runners listen to as they pound the tarmac:

Desiree Linden

Linden, who battled Caroline Kilel on Boylston Street in 2011, starts her playlist with two slowed down country singles. Sturgill Simpson’s “Living the Dream” is the first song she hears as she hits the road, then the playlist eases into “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton.

“I feel like it’s a bit of a moody playlist,” Linden told “I didn’t want to go with just a pump-up top beats, I guess. I tend to embrace how I feel and I feel like a lot of marathon training is a bit of a grind so I gravitated towards some slower songs early accepting that sometimes it takes a little while to build momentum. So it kind of builds into my playlist, if you will.”

Linden’s playlist starts to pick up speed with Lana Del Ray around the midway point, then closes with “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire” by the punk rock band Alkaline Trio.

Shalane Flanagan


Flanagan holds the fastest Boston time by an American woman (2:22:02), and she’s coming off a first-place finish in the New York City Marathon in November. The Marblehead native’s playlist kicks off with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and finishes with “Bulletproof” by La Roux, with a drop of Justin Timberlake and Kings of Leon in between.

Caroline Rotich

After winning the Boston Half-Marathon in 2010, Rotich broke the tape in the 2015 marathon, crossing the line in 2:24:55. The Kenyan runner’s playlist begins with Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson and Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire, sweeps into Send My Love (To Your New Lover) by Adele, and finishes with Best Day of My Life by American Authors.

Molly Huddle

Huddle set the American record in the 5,000 meters in 2014, and did the same in the 10,000 meters at the 2016 Olympics. Her playlist begins with Beyonce’s “Why Don’t You Love Me,” rolls into “Runaway” by Mr. Little Jeans, then moves into Rudimental’s “Feel the Love”. Huddle hears the smooth chords of Vance Joy’s “Riptide” as the playlist heads towards the middle, with the Fugees to take her across the line.

Meb Keflezighi

Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi before last year’s race.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff
Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi before last year’s race.

In 2014, Keflezighi became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. His playlist starts with Survivor’s classic,”Eye of the Tiger,” and “Walk this Way” by Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith. Back to back around the middle he hears “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel and Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It,” before the playlist ends on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

Deena Kastor

Kastor’s playlist kicks off with “Locked Away” by R. City and Adam Levine before sliding into OMI’s reggae fusion remix, “Cheerleader.” The Waltham native won a bronze medal in the marathon at the Athens Olympics, and has finished first in both the Chicago and London Marathon. Madonna’s “Sky Fits Heaven” and Bjork’s “I’ve Seen It All” headline her playlist.

Abdi Nageeye


Nageeye, who finished 8th at Boston in 2016, joins the elite field again after setting the Dutch national marathon record this past year. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Nothin’ but the Blues gets Nageeye off and running, followed by Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry. Prince’s Purple Rain keeps him on the move near the midway point, before the playlist concludes with Riding With The King by Eric Clapton and B.B. King.

Ryan Hall

Hall is the only American who’s run a sub-2:05 marathon. He finished fourth in Boston in 2011, covering the 26.2 mile course in 2:04:58. “Generate” by Eric Prydz leads off Hall’s playlist, DJ Snake’s “Turn Down For What” ends it, and the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” lands right around the point a runner would be facing Heartbreak Hill.

Sara Hall

Hall won the U.S. Marathon Championships in 2017, represented the United States as the 2011 Pan American Games, and narrowly beat Huddle at the 2012 USA Cross Country Championships. Her playlist starts with “Shadows” by Lindsey Sterling and Didier Awadi’s Zamouna, includes The Chainsmokers’ “Something Just Like This,” and finishes with “Find Me” by Marshmello.