6 Ways To Spot DJs At Running Races

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 20 July, 2023

A surprising number of DJs are also recreational runners. Maybe it’s – like me – that DJs want to do something that feels the complete opposite to being a club DJ (outside, done in daylight hours, erm, healthy). Maybe it’s just because, well, quite a lot of people do both things, so there’s bound to be crossover.

Whatever the reason, as a runner myself (one of three serious runners in the team here at Digital DJ Tips), I can confirm that “DJs who run” is definitely a thing. And having just come back from a race, where as usual I got chatting to a couple of runners who also DJ, I realised that it is pretty obvious to spot us at these events. So if you’re interested in knowing how to spot the DJs at a running event, be it a full marathon or just your local 10K, here’s how…

6 Ways To Spot DJs At Running Events

1. DJs get emotional at the start line when a huge tune kicks in

We DJs feel music more than most, that’s why we’re DJs, so at the start of, say, a marathon – when nerves and anticipation are heightened anyway, especially as part of a crowd of people all about to do the same thing – well, let’s just say a big tune will topple most DJ’s emotions every time.

If you’re DJing one of these events, throw on a big tune to kick things off – it might just be the moment runners talk about for years to come.

I know this to be true, and trust me, any tune has the capacity to “get” you. I remember bursting into tears in the bright Scandinavian sunshine at 8am in Helsinki at the start of a race when the PA blasted the U2 song with the lyrics, “It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away…”

2. DJs will usually be running with headphones

Some races ban headphones, because maybe you’re on the road and they deem them unsafe due to your inability to hear traffic, or because they want you to hear other runners. But if anyone is going to try to wear them anyway, DJs will. (Also, nowadays there are “bone conductor” headphones that let you hear music without anything going inside your ears – weird but true!)

Over-ear, AirPods, wired earbuds, bone conductors…DJs will find a way!

It’s not surprising that DJs are the ones most likely to have headphones when running, of course – what better way to listen to your own mixes for an uninterrupted, extended time? (Our tutor Steve actually creates timed mixes specially for his training sessions).

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And even more geeky (yup, that’d be me), there’s this thing where you make 90bpm mixes to encourage the “correct” 180 strides-per-minute running cadence. I got fixated on this idea, but the ones I found online were poor – so I ended up time-stretching songs to exactly 90bpm and beatmixing my own in Ableton…

3. DJs will punch the air randomly around the course

At first it looks like they’re a bit mad, running along like normal, then doing the “ecstasy face” before pumping the air. But that’s only because, just like when you see people on the dancefloor at a silent disco, you can’t hear what they can hear.

And in the case of a DJ running, what just happened was that their favourite song just came on at random on their playlist, or they’ve reached the drop of their current biggest banger, and they couldn’t hold it in, temporarily forgetting they were running a race in order to rave for a bit…

4. DJs will clap, cheer and thank other DJs who are spinning tunes at the race

Many big races have music set up at various points on the route. Could be drummers, brass bands, singers, rock bands. But usually, there is at least one DJ. I can tell you from personal experience that I find it impossible not to run past a DJ, whatever they’re playing, and not give them an appreciated clap, a smile, and a shouted “thanks!” on the way past.

As DJs we know how much work goes into any gig, so naturally, we’ll offer a big show of support when running past the booth.

Music at just the point where the pain is really getting to you can be a huge boost in a race, and those poor DJs literally have an audience that by definition is not hanging around for any longer than it absolutely has to.

What’s more, each and every one of those DJs will have worked really hard on their set for the big day (and in the case of, say, a marathon, it’ll be a long set). Us DJs understand all of that instinctively. We know they deserve some gratitude from us, and we offer it on the way past.

5. DJs will find the energy to complain about the music on the PA at some point

There’s usually an over-excited person on the mic at the finish, shouting the runners across the finish line, and they’re usually accompanied by a soundtrack. While it may differ around the world, in our experience, it’ll always be the same tracks in each area.

So depending on where you are, you may be treated to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Bruce’s “Born To Run”, Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” – you get the idea. DJs will moan at the predictability… but that’s nothing against how much it’ll annoy them should the playlist dare to repeat at any point.

Read this next: 12 Weird DJ Habits (That Non-DJs Will Never Understand!)

“Playing the same song twice? Why don’t they just get more songs? I could do a better job! Nobody cares about music at these events! And that speaker is in the wrong place… AND it’s distorting SOOOO badly, can’t they hear it?”

Etc etc. Honestly, we can’t help ourselves sometimes.

6. DJs will ill-advisedly go out dancing later

Erm, dancing? On marathon legs? With screaming hips, knees, achilles, calves and all the rest?

OK I’m gonna ‘fess up here – this hasn’t been me for a few years (I’m getting old you know). But in the past – I’ve been running marathons on and off since my mid-20s – it definitely was.

A glimpse into what that might’ve looked like.

We could absolutely kick the pain down the road for the rest of the day, and we usually did, going out to celebrate our races by hitting the town. At some point in the evening we’d laugh and say, “My legs don’t even hurt!”, invariably.

And then we’d wake up the next morning… but that’s a different story.


So that’s how to spot DJs if you’re a spectator at a running event, or a fellow competitor. Do you race and DJ? What songs do you always hear at sporting events? Maybe you DJ races or other sports? Do let us know in the comments!

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