I love to run. I'm not fast or prolific - logging 25-35 miles per week with the pace anywhere from 7:30 to 9:30, depending on the run, conditions and my attitude. One constant, however, is my MP3 player (actually, my AT&T Tilt - best PDA phone around!). I either listen to music or to audiobooks, depending on my mood. When I listen to music, it's important to have the right music for the pace I want to run. With my player set on shuffle, I can just FF or RW to find the right mix. But as my catalog of songs grows and changes, this can be a little frustrating and distracting. I could create playlists based on my recollection of the pace of certain songs, I suppose, but that takes far too much remembering and thinking. So, being an engineer, I have to come up with a neat analytical solution.
First, I download the freeware MixMeister BPM Analyzer (thanks, Eric!). Install the software, launch it and open the folder on the player with all my music in it. The BPM Analyzer does its magic calculating BPM for most of the music (some songs with softer beats or without a strong foundation (read:bass/drums) won't submit properly to the analysis - move these to the slow end of your playlist!). Then click on the handy-dandy "export to text" option to get your entire (well, most of it) playlist with filename, song title, artist and BPM in a neat, tab-delimited text format.
Again, being an engineer, I have an expansive Excel file with all my running history and analysis. I import my BPM text file in as a new worksheet, clean it up a bit and start my analysis.
First, I know my stride length - simply calculated by running a specified distance (tracked using my Garmin Forerunner 205) and counting the paces/steps required to get there, then dividing the distance in feet by the number of paces. My stride is about 4'. Divide a mile (in feet = 5280) by the stride length and you get your steps per mile. (I know, I know, your stride length will vary based on pace - but I argue that this is +/-15% variation, so for my purposes, this hysteresis is negligible). Once you know your steps per mile, you can create an index of the BPM that correlate to a specific pace for you. For me, for example, this looks like this:
|210||BPM||7:00 min mile pace|
|196||BPM||7:30 min mile pace|
|183||BPM||8:00 min mile pace|
|173||BPM||8:30 min mile pace|
|163||BPM||9:00 min mile pace|
|154||BPM||9:30 min mile pace|
|147||BPM||10:00 min mile pace|
Good to go, right? Well, not quite. The BPM calculated may be on the quarter, half, whole or other "beat" of the song, depending on which instrument is dominant. As it turns out, what I 'sense' as the beat in a song looks like it's about half the frequency of the BPM Analyzer results - so I should take the BPM results and divide by 2. Applying this to my index, I get:
|7:00 min mile pace||105||BPM|
|7:30 min mile pace||98||BPM|
|8:00 min mile pace||92||BPM|
|8:30 min mile pace||86||BPM|
|9:00 min mile pace||81||BPM|
|9:30 min mile pace||77||BPM|
|10:00 min mile pace||73||BPM|
Further, what may be a "slow" song (Damien Rice's "9 Crimes", for example) may show up with a BPM of 174 because of the dominant instrument (piano?) - but I know for a fact, that song doesn't push me to an 8:00 mile! So applying some judgment, I determine that any song with a BPM >120 needs to be divided by 2 to get what I call the "equivalent" pace (e.g., 120/2 = 60 BPM). So songs with a BPM of <120, I use the direct BPM Analyzer results. Songs with >120 BPM, I divide the BPM by 2.
Then, using a couple Excel formulas and good ol' copy-and-paste and the index above, I create a reference table of all (most!) the songs in my catalog by the pace they will support/drive:
|TITLE||ARTIST||BPM||EQUIV PACE||RUN TYPE|
|1234||Feist||132 ||66 ||9:30 or slower|
|1979||Smashing Pumpkins||127||64||9:30 or slower|
|100 Years||Five for Fighting||124 ||62 ||9:30 or slower|
|9 Crimes||Damien Rice||124 ||62 ||9:30 or slower|
|A Comet Appears||The Shins||110||110||7:30 or faster|
|A Lifetime||Better Than Ezra||136 ||68 ||9:30 or slower|
|A Little More||O. C. Supertones||89||89||8:00-9:00|
|Agnus Dei/Worthy||Third Day||146 ||73 ||9:30 or slower|
|All In All||Lifehouse||87||87||8:00-9:00|
|All the Wrong Reasons||Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers||158||79||9:00-9:30|
This can then be sorted by the Run Type to group together songs that support a particular pace.