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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Headphones At Races

Something that has been quite a big deal the past few years has been the use of iPods, etc. at races.  USATF rules stated that you cannot listen to headphones while you're running a race.  For the most part, this has been a not very enforced rule, but at the 2007 Twin Cities Marathon, anyone wearing headphones was denied a medal and official time (Ouch, that is harsh!).  

There are two reasons for the rule: safety and advantage.  From a safety perspective, it's generally considered to be a bad idea to wear headphones while running.  Turned up too loud, headphones can keep you from hearing important safety announcements, cars, dogs, etc.  There was a woman in Florida who was hit by a train while running and wearing headphones*.  As for advantage, there are people who do believe that you can run faster if you are setting your pace by music.  Hence, running while wearing headphones can keep you on pace.

I don't wear headphones while running, usually.  I do wear them if I'm on the treadmill, and I'll occassionally wear them on the trail, although on the trail I usually will listen to a book on tape at a low volume (still making it easy to hear).  I would never even remotely consider wearing headphones while running in traffic.  I will wear them during marathons, but I have yet to wear headphones for a shorter race, as I think it takes away from the racing experience.  I want to be able to hear the things going on around me, and although I seriously doubt I gain any sort of competitive advantage from running to music, it still feels like cheating.  Sometimes, though, it's necessary (like at a marathon).

There has been a lot of debate on this subject, but in the end, apparently USATF has elected to remove the ban on headphones.  Individual race directors can now decide if they are going to ban headphones or not.  The good news of this is that at least we will have a much better understanding of whether or not the rule is going to be enforced.  Still, for legal and liability reasons, I am betting that a lot of races will continue the ban.  Race directors want you focused on the race, not on music (or DVDs).

I've always felt that the rule was kind of overkill, and certainly taking away a runner's medal is overkill.  I can't say that I've seen a person wearing headphones in a race that was really a risk, although I do think that if you are out there wearing them for EVERY single race (even a 5k), you are missing out on a lot.  But still, who am I to judge?  If they aren't really causing a safety issue, then I don't see a problem.  I don't think we'll see competitive athletes wearing headphones anytime soon.

* She was also apparently crossing at a place that was not a legal crossing and was technically tresspassing.  She tripped and didn't get up before the train hit her.  She is suing the guy driving the train and the train company.  Of course.


Nick said...

I hate to say it because this young woman is without legs now, but you have to be careful around the tracks. I guess people who are into trains are more aware of this safety issue than people who aren't.

There are three rules those of us who photograph trains or walk anywhere near train tracks, like MARC stations, live by:

1.) Expect a train from any direction, at any speed, at any time.

2.) Don't forget rule #1.

3.) Don't trespass.

If you don't follow them, the best that will happen is you will get scared by a near miss or run off the property, at worst you'll get killed.

She could have saved her legs by stopping and looking at either side before crossing illegally or just going to a real crossing where the train actually sounds its horn as a warning and there are gates and signals. Now because of HER carelessness she's injured and a train crew has to live with the accident.

Sandra said...

Some think headphones/music give an unfair advantage. i know it does inspire me to run more, but not sure if I would count it as an advantage. I think it should be a personal choice, but runners in a race should sign off a disclaimer so it is their own fault if hit by train, car, run into a pole, whatever.

What ticked me off in the celtic solstice, was the women running with a DOUBLE-WIDE STROLLER! I so wanted to tip the friggin' thing down a hill, then sue the woman for making me have angry feelings.

Lyss said...

I just get irritated in general when people disobey race rules, whatever they are. I could say though, that what irritates me most are people jogging with strollers in a race or running with a dog in a race. I always seem to come incredibly close to tripping over them, or they become a serious slowdown wherever they are in the race.

I dislike people who are ignorant of the rules, or think they are above them.

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