To Hell With MP3 Players!

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Another week checked off the countdown to Comrades 2011. I did my first race of the year last night at the Berg en Dal night race in Krugersdorp. I had a great run and it’s good to be upping the mileage in the build up to Johnson Crane at the end of the month where I’m planning on qualifying.

Something struck me at last nights race though that I wanted to mention. I am floored by how many people are running with mp3 players. Don’t get me wrong. I have one and I run with it, every now and again. But in saying that, I just find it really REALLY anti social to run in a race with one. Especially if you’re running with people you know. I know the debate has being raging as to whether or not it improves your performance or whether or not it desensitises you to your environment. But seriously. Why pay the entry fee of a race to not enjoy the banter of the runners around you? If you want to run on your own, run at home and save some bucks. I just don’t get it.

Even if you’re not a big talker on a run surely it must be funny to hear some of the chirps flying around? There was a guy running with us last night, who I know, who was running with headphones in. The group I was running with were chatting amongst ourselves. At one point about 2kms in I asked him a question. He had no clue I was talking to him because he was in his own little bubble. Needless to say that was the last question we asked him on the run.

I think you miss out on so much of the atmosphere and vibe of a race if you run listening to music. I agree that a song that fires you up might get you through a rough patch in a marathon. But so might a kind work from a stranger on the side of the road. Or a funny comment from a group behind you that affirms you’re not in this alone and some might be suffering more than you are.

Am I being unrealistic saying that as runners we should leave the music players at home during races? What are your thoughts? If you run with one, why do you prefer to race with it than without it?

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Reader Feedback

Alicia (Cape Town) : I agree 100%! I have an MP3 player that I occasionally use when I train (as in once every 2 months maybe), and it is awesome to listen to some music when you train, but the atmosphere at races is MUCH better than any music. It’s awesome to hear the support from runners, and to be greeted, and the supporters on the side of the roads. I ran the Tokai Manor House run in December, which is a beautiful run through the Tokai Forest Reserve and I was amazed at how many runners wore earphones. To a trail event! To a beautiful, relaxing trail run through a forest! I suppose if you don’t like the sound of cars driving past you, then earphones may help, but in a forest ? I thought that was going against the entire premise of trail running, which is to enjoy the trail, adventure, being outside and alive. Besides the blasphemy of polluting a trail running by wearing earphones, I find it annoying when I’m trying to move past a runner during a race, but they can’t hear me because of their earphones. Usually a polite “Sorry, can I quickly get past?” works, but with earphone-wearing runners it’s quite difficult to navigate past them because they can’t hear you! I dread to say it, but even the walkers are better. ;) Additionally, I think that earphones pose a safety risk, because it is important to be alert when running alone, and when running at a race.

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9 Responses to To Hell With MP3 Players!

  1. Claire January 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Have recently started running and really thought I needed music to help me through the rough patches however on closer inspection I realized running with music does make you incredibly antisocial and shuts you off from your surroundings (buy a treadmill if you want to be in a bubble). In short it is the same as the golfers who claim to have taken up the sport to get a little exercise and then buy a golf cart!!

  2. Carol Willis January 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    In the States I hear they are banned at official race events…might be a good idea to do it here too.
    I must confess, I began my training with my iPod, and I did my first half-marathon with one but have learned that it just doesn’t do the job of the banter around me on a race. I still wear it for the pedometer on it but it’s not plugged in to earphones…I’ve also stopped using it on my training.

  3. Wynand13 January 13, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I might be wrong but a Comrades judge recently told me that: No type of sound/music device is allowed during competition. Examples: no headsets, tape players, CD players, MP3 players or 2-way radios may be worn.

    Apparantly this is a IAAF rule, and no one seem to enforce it. He said that having a pace keeping device is illegal, and should be treated more seriously as someone just walking next to you a few yards to motivate you, that a lot of people gets disqualified for by officials at the Comrades.

    I Agree that you should use it on a treadmill at home and that should be where it stays. The main idea of the run is to have fun and its much more fun listen to people around you. I also ran the Berg en Dal that seemed to be more Berg, and I made as in all my races some nice friends.

    ASA should enforce the rule, (if indeed it exist) and get rid of the hear phone group, as previously mentioned they sometimes keep you back and are unsocial.

  4. JA BOET January 14, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    I find it very funny that people still have time to look around in a race and notice what people wear and what they listen to. Why cant we just leave people alone to run their own race, with whatever apparatus they which to carry with them.What works for one runner, might not work for another. Rather concentrate on running your own race and reach your personal goals that you have set out to accomplish.
    “Different strokes for different folks”

  5. Shaun Wewege January 20, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    The biggest issue with MP3 players is that they prevent you from hearing traffic or the mugger behind you. It’s not an issue for races but for training it is something to think about.

    @Wynand Do you have a link to the ruling regarding pace keeping devices?

  6. Caroline January 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    I run all my races with earphones on. I would stop running if I wasn’t allowed to listen to music when I run. Music is what keeps the soul alive!
    I may have my headphones on, but I still chat to fellow runners, hear comments and cheers around me, say thank you to all the marshalls and cheering crowd, and I hear the traffic around me. But if I don’t feel like it, I don’t have to.
    I love running races because it feels so safe running with a huge crowd, have traffic diverted for me, have my sustenance handed to me by eager hands at regular intervals, have my training runs timed for me, run at any pace I feel like for the day and run through places I never would have thought of.
    I would pay the racing fee any time and travel to any races just for these benefits. It is my “me” time, my meditating soul searching time, where I can escape the frenetic pace of modern living.
    It does not have to be for comraderie or anything else that might be relevant for most of you runners.
    so WHY does it bother you that I run with music?

    • Shaun Wewege January 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

      While I don’t run with one I do agree with your point – it’s your race and you should be able to complete in any manner you see fit, so long as it does not impede anyone else.

      I would still think twice about wearing one if training alone though.

  7. Ingrid April 25, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I ran the The Grove 10km in Pretoria this morning and got nicely told off by a marshall for running with my mp3 player. I started running this year only and don’t really know many people on the running zone. Also I am pretty shy and don’t open up to people easily so I don’t really chat to those around me. Therefore I have my music to keep me company and keep me going. That said, I run with one ear in only and that in my partial hearing ear so that I CAN hear what is going on around me.

    I agree that you need to be responsible when running and be aware of what is going on around you. However, I can not see where a problem comes in where someone runs with music responsibily. I do it and every runner out there has a responsibility to look out for themselves at least a little. That last fast paced song is what gets me going to the end in any case. I intend on continuing to run with my mp3 player and will continue running with 1 eye in to look out for themself.

  8. Pamela May 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    I have one but prefer to run without it, even on long runs on my own. This weekend I ran a race where they said at the start that all ear phones were out. so one of the guys just had them on as a radio – LOUD so he could hear the music without putting the earphones in his ears. Made me run faster as I needed to get away from him.

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