Today I would like to address a topic that can be controversial. Listening to music while running has been a point of contention from the USATF all the way down to your local 5k. I have heard arguments from both sides and will explain exactly where I fall on the issue.
First a little history. The USATF instituted a policy banning ALL headphones in running events which included everything from the Chicago Marathon down to your small town 5k’s. After much debate, the increased use of mp3 players and pressure from that segment of the running community, they issued a press release in 2008 stating:
“The following shall be considered assistance and therefore not allowed:
“The visible possession or use by athletes of video, audio, or communications devices in the competition area. The Games Committee for an LDR event may allow the use of portable listening devices not capable of receiving communication; however, those competing in Championships for awards, medals, or prize money may not use such devices.”
This amendment gave the freedom to race directors to allow these devices at their own discretion. Let’s examine the first line of the amendment and we will understand just how the USATF looks at such devices. Assistance? Is it really? No matter what side of the debate you take you must acknowledge that this is a weak and hypocritical argument. I will agree that a runner can get through a long run easier with a distraction or adrenaline kick that music may provide but if that is the case, the USATF better be prepared to drug test every member of every small town race to make sure that a runner doesn’t get “assistance” from some supplement.
Safety is a concern that many runners express when discussing the issue and I have to admit that it does have it’s merit, to a point. If you get lost inside your head while doing speedwork to Metallica played so loud your eyes bleed, I agree it will be much easier to step out in front of a passing bus. On the other hand, where does personal responsibility come into play? Should we all not use a little common sense while performing any task throughout the day? If you feel you can’t run safely and listen to music, then just put on a single earphone or turn the music down. I’m sorry but the “safety police” can not and should not be there at every decision we have to make. It is not anyone’s business if I want to do something deemed reckless by some, unless that “something” infringes upon your rights. For all you Darwinist out there, remember the law of natural selection. Let me be clear, I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but you have to ask “where does it all end?” Should I be banned from listening to my mp3 player when walking down busy streets? That could be construed as a personal safety issue as well. If that’s the case, we shouldn’t allow people to have a radio in their car.
While the ban on certain devices may have been put into place with good intentions you still have unintended consequences. When asked, many newbie runners say they would race less if prohibited from listening to music. And let’s not forget that most races are to raise money for a specific charity. It’s simple math, less runners = less money for that cause. This is something none of us want to see.
If I haven’t given it away already, I feel that people should have the right to choose their own destiny. I run with music most of the time and have to cross busy streets while doing so. There are times it can seem like a real life game of Frogger. But I turn down my music, look both ways numerous times and proceed when it is safe. This argument that you can’t hear traffic doesn’t seem to be a realistic one. At the speeds vehicles travel, that split second sound of a car engine is not going to help me unless I consider seeing my impending doom racing toward me at 55 miles per hour a benefit.
Everyone should be free to run the way they choose so long as it doesn’t cause a safety issue for someone else. I want everyone to run fast and safe but if I can’t jam to “Born To Run” while racing then “The Boss” and I will take our money elsewhere.
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