If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re already friends with Matt Llano. The University of Richmond grad and member of Flagstaff-based Northern Arizona Elite is one of the most well-connected, well-liked guys in the running community. He also has the chops: PRs of 2:12:28 (marathon) and 1:01:47 (half marathon), a World Championship appearance and a comeback story with all the elements of a blockbuster. Last weekend, after three surgeries and nine months off in the last year and a half, Llano clocked a 2:13:42 marathon in his return to the the distance in Frankfurt. He finished in 12th place and rounded out an impressive NAZ Elite showing with three guys finishing close together under 2:14.
What made it on Llano’s pre-race playlist? Appropriately, a bunch of fun, upbeat songs, ranging from Michael Jackson to Taylor Swift.
Here is what he said about his picks:
- Dan + Shay (From the Ground Up) – Dan + Shay is my absolute favorite right now. They have a pretty eclectic mix of music including power ballads, slow, emotional songs and upbeat songs that really get you going. Most of my daily listening starts with Dan + Shay and stays in this similar genre. I turn it on pretty much right when I wake up and it stays on most of the day in the background at my house. I also saw them perform in Flagstaff a few months ago and they are absolutely incredible when they sing live. 10/10 would recommend everyone see them perform at some point.
- The Veronicas (Untouched) This is one of my go-to pump-up workout songs. I see the song as kind of being about not being able to touch someone (or something), but needing it at your very core, which I interpret personally in a running sense. I don’t know what direction my life would have taken if not for running – it has saved me in so many ways.
- Michael Jackson (The Way You Make Me Feel) – Every pump-up playlist needs a little Michael Jackson!
- Keith Urban (Days Go By) – This song was kind of my team’s theme song in high school cross country and it’s always stuck with me. It brings back great memories of training and competing with Matt Centrowitz and winning a lot of meets in 2004 and 2005 cross country.
- Panic! At the Disco (LA Devotee) – I just think this song is super catchy and fun to sing along with. It has a fast tempo and has been stuck in my head during A LOT of workouts this marathon segment.
- Kelly Clarkson (My Life Would Suck Without You) – Another metaphor for the place running holds in my life, plus I’ve been a fan of K-Clark since she was on the original American Idol.
- Portugal the Man (Feel It Still)
- Thomas Rhett (Vacation) – Thomas Rhett is another regular of my daily music selection. I think the first song that introduced me to him was “Die a Happy Man,” but I picked Vacation for this playlist because it’s more upbeat and talks about spiking his coconut water, which I think is funny because I’m obsessed with coconut water. Sometimes I’ll text friends that lyric (“pour a little liquor in my coconut water”) and people get all excited because they’ve been pressuring me to drink for years and they think that maybe I’m finally giving in.
- Taylor Swift (Shake it Off) – I listened to this song on repeat when it came out in 2014. I had it stuck in my head for months during workouts and races.
- Katy Perry (Rise or Firework) – Rise still gives me chills since it was chosen as the theme song of the 2016 Olympics. I really thought I was going to make the marathon team so I quickly adopted it as my theme song of that marathon buildup.
- Rascal Flatts (Come Wake Me Up)
- Carrie Underwood (How Great Thou Art or Blown Away) – Her vocals are stunning to me. I get chills listening to all of her music and it really pulls out my emotions, which I think I need every now and then.
- Rhianna (Please Don’t Stop the Music)– (not available on Spotify)
- Estelle ft. Kanye West (American Boy) – I had this song stuck in my head when I won my first race in college (The Salty Dog Invite XC race at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, where I went to high school), so it’s always kind of held a special place on my pre-workout and pre-race playlist.
- Hellogoodbye (Here [In Your Arms]) – I love music that has kind of a techno vibe to it and this was kind of my first foray into that genre. It’s an older song, but so good once you hit the chorus.
Find Llano’s pre-race playlist below and follow us on Spotify to subscribe to other athlete playlists including Olympians Courtney Frerichs and Devon Allen.