Kyle Merber is a man of many hats.
(Yes, there’s technically a sweatband in there, and yes, I snooped hard to find that graduation shot).
In addition to running professionally for the HOKA NJ*NY Track Club, Merber holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a masters from the University of Texas, runs a highly entertaining Twitter account, serves as meet director of the HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile and smashes records such as the American collegiate 1500m record (3:35.59) and the world distance medley relay record (1200m leg).
As he puts the finishing touches on his USATF Outdoor Championships preparation—where he’ll be racing his specialty, the 1,500m—I asked Merber what his race day music selection will entail. Unsurprisingly, his response had a few fun twists:
“I don’t believe in listening to music when running,” Merber says. “Name one 2x double Olympic Champion who listens to music while running. I’ll wait. However, I occasionally listen to some tunes in the hotel room before the race. I’ll put on some jams to get me in the mood. Maybe light a few candles and take a bath? I have carefully orchestrated this playlist to hopefully come off as a hip and interesting person to those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of learning otherwise. Full disclosure, I generally don’t get the aux cord in the car.”
- Sunset Lover (Petit Biscuit): I don’t really like to get too fired up before races. Just try to get relaxed and smile. This turns me on.
- Final Song (MØ): This was the vacation anthem on my trip to Australia with the boys last year. It’ll make you try to jump on the DJ’s stage to dance like a sorority girl. Ideally your jeans aren’t too tight and you don’t bang your shin and end up limping around the next few days.
- Flower (Moby): An absolute classic. Thought this guy was just a minor character in ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ and Eminem lyrics, but turns out he can put some swagger in your step too.
- Feel It Still (Portugal. The Man): New song. Have been listening to it on repeat.
- Maggie Rogers (Alaska): If she is good enough for Pharrell, then she’s good enough for a Citius Mag playlist.
- Ugly Heart (G.R.L.): Your girlfriend’s favorite song.
- Higher Ground (Argonaut & Wasp): Get in now on this band so you’ll be able to say you like them before they were cool.
- In Cold Blood (alt-J): This whole album really hits the spot when you want some mumbled lyrics that would be difficult to sing along with.
- Wohin du gehst (AnnenMayKantereit): This song is in German. I have no idea what they’re saying but it’s fantastic. I found them busking in the street via Reddit. Met a German at a race in Italy and asked if he knew of this band (and another singer called Juris) and he was blown away. Guess they’re big there? Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ0OlnolzKo
- It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy (Passion Pit): This jam gets me feeling nostalgic for my time in Austin–Sitting on the roof with a Shiner in hand. Having Patrick McGregor talk at me.
- Swim Until You Can’t See Land (Frightened Rabbit): I don’t think this song does anything for me from a racing standpoint. It may actually just emotionally drain me.
- Nobody Speak (DJ Shadow): When the race is about to start and you actually need to get a little fired up, this is a good one. The opening line makes me giggle.
BONUS SONGS: CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
DID YOU WIN?
New York, New York (Frank Sinatra): Like a true New Yorker, I finish off sporting events with Ol’ Blue Eyes.
DID YOU LOSE?
Fix You (Coldplay): This is best for ‘When you try your best, but you don’t succeed’ and when ‘You feel so tired, but you can not sleep’ and it’s 3am and your teammate is passed out in the hotel bed next to you. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we pretend this matters? Why do I align my value as a person against a clock?
Find Merber’s whole pre-race playlist below, and follow along next week as he attempts to finish the U.S. Champs off with a celebratory rendition of “New York, New York.”