One of my favorite parts of the military was the singing while running in formation. One guy would do a song or two, as the spirit lead him, then he’d fall back in and another would have a chance. Being able to carry a half-decent tune, I was always given a turn. The Navy has its own songs, but many of the ones we sang were adapted from the more famous Marine cadences.
I enlisted thinking I’d be a Navy SEAL. The guys at bootcamp, accordingly, put me in a division of similar-minded, glory-bound white boys and our PT was notorious for being the most difficult in all of Great Lakes. After graduation, we’d ship out for BUD/S in California and they intended us to be well prepared. We’d spend all morning at the pool, engaging in various devised tortu…workouts…then we’d hit the track to “dry off”. After a few months of this, running was easier than breathing.
The key is learning to hypnotize yourself. My young mind thought of it as “shifting gears” in your brain. You adapt your running gait to the cadence, then let your mind wander. Humans, like horses, have different running gaits (walk, trot, canter, sprint) each useful in their own way – but the trot and fast canter are the most helpful to the military and cadences are an ideal tool in this respect.
When you do it right and time your breathing correctly, you slip into a “zone” where the cadence takes you away and your emotions run with the song lyrics. Up or down, light-hearted or serious, we were in the hands of the singer. Ever since, when I run on my own, I miss being surrounded by a few dozen compatriots and hearing the cadence. I sing it to myself sometimes anyway.
…our fight now is a lonely one and the cadence being sung is in our minds not our ears. Still, I sing my favorites as I run. There’s something poetic about them, even though the lyrics are simple. It brings that old post-teen fire back into my chest and my legs remember what to do.
“Up in the mornin’ with the risin’ sun,
Gunna run all day till the runin’s done…”
“Around. Her hair. She wore a yellow ribbon.
She wore it for a sailor who was far, far away…”