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Ban on iPods for Running Races: Cool or Not?

Music is a great motivator, especially if you are running the long and lonely 26.2 miles of a marathon. The national organization that governs running, USA Track & Field, has banned the use of headphones and portable MP3 players, like my beloved Nano, at all official races. The ban was designed to ensure safety and to prevent runners motivated by the driving force of music from having a competitive edge. Some large marathons have threatened to disqualify runners for wearing headphones, but that did not happen at the recent Marine Corps Marathon last weekend in Washington, D.C. The NYC marathon strongly discourages headphones but will not enforce the ban.

One of the issues at stake is insurance because rates rise substantially if race sponsors allow the use of headphones. Another issue is awareness (hearing other runners and announcements) and safety (listening to your own body). However, the face of the typical marathoner has changed drastically in the last 20 years. More and more "normal" folks are racing, and those regular joes often feel they need their music.

So what do you think about that ban – is it cool or not?


Join The Conversation
itsthatgaljay itsthatgaljay 9 years
It is a competition to test he physical ability of the athletes, and maybe raise dome money for charity. it is NOT testing personal motivation. And insurance going up because they are wearing headphones? They really need to get a life!
Allytta Allytta 9 years
i believ everyone should decide for themselves. i have a lot of friends who cycle on the streets. some of them wear headphones (just one ear), some do not. i too wear headphones while being on the street - only because i get very annoyed with the noise. so maybe people need the headphones to zone out the noise that is getting them nervous and irritated.
moonlite moonlite 9 years
I don't think they should ban MP3 players, but I definitely think people should try running without them a few times. Sometimes it's nice just to feel what's going on around you without the distraction of the music--it's a very "zen" feeling.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I like training with my MP3 player, but I think when I race, I don't really need it. I like the other noises/etc. that go on when you're at a race.
itsallabouttheg itsallabouttheg 9 years
i did one of the rock-n-roll half marathons, & there were definitely times i would've liked to have had my mp3 player because we were running through residential areas. i couldn't imagine running a full without some tunes to entertain myself!
econinsf econinsf 9 years
I'm with you dubyah! If you think you can or you think you can't do a thing, you are right. Some of the people who claim that they must have an ipod might want to sharpen up that mental toughness and see what it is like to struggle through something only to realize that is isn't as hard as they thought. All you have to do is decide that you don't need the ipod. So in reality you don't need it, you just want it. Big difference. If you don't want to run a race without your music, then don't run the race. Who are you to complain about the way an organization wants to run their own race?
alltherage alltherage 9 years
i ran a half marathon without one but with a friend and jsut ran the marine corp 10k alone with one. i think an ipod is essential if you are on yoru own. we are adults -- i kept mine loud but at a volume where i could hear announcments. maybe the races could make your sign an additional waiver.....
allisonblue allisonblue 9 years
I think it's a good idea for safety reasons; I think the rationale regarding "motivation" is essentially irrelevant. I've run more x-country than road races, and I can't imagine what a disaster THOSE would have been were the runners wearing iPods! Unfortunately, race managers can't realistically regulate iPod volume or a "one earbud only" rule for each runner, so zero tolerance really is the only way to go. Personally, I think that a large part of our culture is constant distraction, and it would be GOOD for people to just RUN when they run, swim when they swim, etc. (I'm the last person in the whole country to not own an iPod, though, so what do I know ...;)
dubyah dubyah 9 years
I am on a cross country team and I must admit that I am SHOCKED that people run with ipods. Running without music is safe and allows you to focus on your breathing and your feet. Whenever I get tired, I tend to favor one foot and if I had an ipod I would not hear the difference between the steps I am all for Banning ipods
purrtykitty purrtykitty 9 years
are you kidding me?! i have motivating music on my ipod so that i can keep going. i understand the need to hear what's going on around you normally, but in every road race i've been in, traffic is blocked off, so i don't see any danger on that front. and as for watching other runners, i don't know about you guys, but i look ahead and keep aware of my immediate surroundings. the people coming up behind me should be watching out for me, the same way it is in downhill skiing and traffic.
nikodarling nikodarling 9 years
I can see the reasoning behind it. But how about asking runners to turn down the music so they can hear whats going on, or having people sign waivers saying that if you choose to listen to music you are accountable for any problems that arise out of not being able to hear. Its really sad when the majority of people are put out because a select few are going to have a problem with something so small.
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
I understand it, but at the same time, I need distractions. If I were running with a friend, that would be fine; on my own, though, I need music to keep me going. I did a rollerblading race with a friend once, and we got separated within the first mile or two. I was so relieved to have had my iPod to get me through the rest!
absolutromantic absolutromantic 9 years
I run with music in training, and I love it. It definitely helps me with motivation, and I'm one of those who hates to just have to be by myself and thinking for too long! (I can't talk while I run - slows me down way too much). That said, I have no problem with them banning iPods in races... IF the rule is actually enforced. There is nothing worse than not wearing your iPod because the rules say they're banned and that violators will be kicked out, and then you get around the first bend and realize that EVERYONE else is listening to music. If they're going to ban it, they need to have people checking the runners as they go by and DQing the ones who are using iPods. Otherwise, it's just not fair, because those who follow the rules get screwed for no reason. I realize that's tough to do, but there is nothing worse than having rules and then not enforcing them whatsoever.
karisaamy karisaamy 9 years
I understand why it was done, I can also see that it's a bit silly. Each person is different and different things work for them. It's not like listening gives you a edge on the competion, and most don't listen to their music so loud that you can't hear what's going on around you.
megw06 megw06 9 years
If this becomes a trend, I guess I'll give up my dream of running a marathon one day! I really can't go without it, otherwise I am so much more aware of the fact that I'm running and how tired I am.
sarah430 sarah430 9 years
Music is definitely a motivator. At all the marathons I've run that have music on the course, I certainly get pumped when I run by a rockin' band. That said, I can understand the safety issues, especially in large races. I wear my ipod in training under certain conditions, but have never in a race. I enjoy the race atmosphere too much. I think those who only train with music, give it a shot without. Its a great feeling knowing you can get in the miles without it!
beachgrl313 beachgrl313 9 years
i just ran my first marathon last weekend and loved it...and i didn't use my ipod. listening to the crowd cheer you on and enjoying the scenery was more than enough to motivate me. you should try it, it helps develop your own mental toughness.
Stacy14878746 Stacy14878746 9 years
As far as safety, how about only allowing music in one ear? Seriously. When I'm walking my dogs, I wear my MP3 player with just one earbud in, so I can hear other people coming AND listen to my music at the same time.
vivalasvegas vivalasvegas 9 years
I do think it's a little silly, but as someone else pointed out to me, if it's in the rules, ALL of the rules should be respected and followed. You don't get to pick and choose, why should this one be any different? I have run six half marathons and only ran with music for two. I prefer doing it without -- you are more aware and can take in the crowds better. But I guess I don't care what other people do in races so long as they are aware of their surroundings AND following basic race etiquette. Honestly, the walkers who start at the front of races or who don't walk on the right are probably far greater hazards to safety.
7kimba7 7kimba7 9 years
I don't want to listen to my body, haha... I need the music to distract me from my legs saying "can't we just sit down? wouldn't we be more comfortable if we were walking?" Yes, some people are amazingly athletic and can run with no music. I can't. I run because I want to be healthy, and I need my ipod to distract my legs. I can run infinitely better when I'm listening to the Chili Peppers. That being said, I'm not running these marathons where the bans take place... I'm sticking to the 5/10ks.
lizkiernan lizkiernan 9 years
In all honesty, if I hadn't already done a marathon, I'd agree with most of you--I NEED my music to get me through a long cardio session or a long run. Although if I had run the marathon with music, I would have missed out on a lot of things that made race day so memorable for me. I would have felt distanced from the fans cheering me on and giving me high fives, I wouldn't have been listening to my body as well if I was pumping away to my music, and I wouldn't have gotten to speak with anyone during the race. I talked with a number of other racers that day, and it was so refreshing to hear other people's stories, why they were running, and then to say goodbye to them as one of us slowed down or speed up. Also, I was in a city I hadn't been to before, and it was really interesting to see practically the whole city while running. A lot of runners have a special name for the ability to keep your motivation for that long without music: Race Day Magic. Yes, there are safety reasons for banning headphones and ipods, but there are a lot of personal benefits to running without music on race day.
EcannDallas EcannDallas 9 years
i never run with my ipod. running is a time for me to go off in my own little world and just daydream and clear my head. its like the cheapest therapy out there haha. ive ran 5k's with and without an ipod so it doesnt really bother me that much.
runnergeek runnergeek 9 years
this is ridiculous. i have run 4 marathons and i would be pissed if i couldn't run with my ipod! there is a great quote from a runner on the NYTimes website. 'if they are banning headphones because we can't hear instructions, then why not ban deaf people too?'..i guess im wondering what is the movitation? i understand you are distracted with headphones, but people, THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT!!! its not like we're running in traffic!!
cubadog cubadog 9 years
They are not talking about the Olympics these are road races and I for one love to have my IPOD when I work out or participate in a road race. I don't want to listen to anyone else. As for the safety issue during a race the roads are closed and you should have it low enough that you can hear any announcements.
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