Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Musical Interlude (and a rant)

Over at the Runner's Lounge, Amy has thrown out a running blog topic I have lots of opinions on - running with music.

I really like to run with music when I am by myself. I don't often get to listen to music as I am not really into what is on the radio (so I am perpetually tuned into NPR, except for when Diane Rehm is on - to quote a guy in my running group "Her voice scares my cats"). I also don't drive much so it isn't worth it to keep the ipod in the car. I also can't work with music on because I have a bad singing along habit. So really, running is one of the few times I get to sit back and enjoy my music. I am particularly a big fan of bluegrass, Ben Folds, and They Might Be Giants for running music. I also sing along when I run, which probably means I am not working hard enough, but it also means I am pretty weird to an outside observer (as anyone who sings along to earphones is).

*Rant begins here*

Sometimes I don't run with music though. Like when I run with other people. Or I do trail runs. And some races. Ah, races. This is where the controversy lies, no? The anti-earphone crowd makes me mad. I think they are elitist. I have never met a 12-minute miler who has dissed on the earphone wearing crowd. I have heard lines about not being a serious runner if you listen to music while you run because you don't think about your running while you run. Uh, how many people actually think about their running the whole time they run? Now I am sure there are some that think about every step they take, but most people use the time to clear their mind and think about stuff. I don't see how running with music is any different.

Now, I don't need to wear earphones when I run. I find for 5ks, it is indeed more distracting that helpful, since that is a short concerted all-out effort (where I actually am thinking about running most of the time). I have run distances up to half-marathons without earphones. I turned on my music at Mile 23 of my marathon. I would have survived without it if I needed to, but it was a nice little boost at the end.

I think arguments that people become less aware of their surroundings is BS. Maybe on an open course, the race directors don't want the liability. I can understand that. But on closed course races? Honestly, how many people do you run past in a race who are so in the zone that they are barely paying attention anyway (especially in a marathon where some people's brains stop even functioning - ahem, Kori)? In all the races I have run, someone wearing earphones has never inconvenienced me (in a manner that resulted from listening to music). This is a made up problem, IMHO. Why not let people run the way they enjoy running?

The Twin Cities Marathon (which I was supposed to run, but got injured) established a no earphone rule, which just made me mad. For one thing, that should be advertised on the registration page - it's one thing if you have that rule, but it should be known for those people who don't want to run a marathon without their earphones so they can pick a different race. Then they went through and eliminated race results for anyone who had a picture taken with earphones on. Seriously. I would never sign up for that race again, just because I don't want to support that mentality. This mentality is also exhibited through their rigid 6 hour time limit, despite the sweltering conditions. Last year I had friends finishing an hour off their expected pace because of the heat - Kori and I passed lots of people who weren't going to make it and I imagine many of them were properly trained to come in well under six hours. Now I understand they have to open the streets, but they could keep the clock going at the finish line given the conditions of the day. I contrast this with the Rock and Roll Phoenix setup where inclusiveness was the name of the game.

Well, that's enough ranting for me for the day! Counter-rants are welcome - I'd actually like to hear a story of someone whose race was ruined because of someone else with earphones.


chloe elizabeth said...

Hallelujah! Amen! Some of us run because we want to not weigh 500 lbs and music helps us to do it. And we run races because they keep us more motivated. And some of us could do it without music, but love having it. And when I run in a situation in which I feel that I need to be more aware of my surroundings, I take out one headphone. Not super difficult.

Anyway, thank you. I will never enter the Twin Cities Marathon because that's just rude. "Let's punish all of these people who are trying because they aren't as good as we are"???

Rant over.

Jenny Davidson said...

Good rant! And yes, a six-hour limit seems to me a bit ruthless...

I am going to weigh in on the earphones question. Almost all the races I do are in super-crowded Central Park conditions. There are throngs of people, and while in theory they stay in the recreation lanes, in practice they fan out over the regular park road, which is closed to cars but open to cyclists, full of pedestrians, non-racing runners, small children, dogs etc. Almost every time I run in the park on the weekend, even NOT in a race, I see a bike accident--there are a lot of bike-pedestrian collisions. And the crowds in the races are acute enough that it is impossible for people to really be appropriate seeded--first couple miles of a 10K you might be overtaking (or being overtaken by) hundreds of people. The headphone runners are extraordinarily oblivious to their position in relation to other runners and hazards of the road. They don't get the subliminal cue to open up a slightly larger gap for a runner to pass, and they certainly also are much more likely to involve a cyclist in an accident.

I am strongly in favor of the headphone race ban, in other words! I do not find it elitist (I agree with you that the notion everyone's thinking of their running all the time is somewhat foolish), I just think it's strictly a question of safety and road awareness.

Nat said...

I'm all about the music. Generally there is enough going on the race that it keep me entertained. Now as to actively go and eliminate results becaue of earphones is a bit much.

In very crowded races with people inevitably in wrong areas I can see banning earphones or if it's very dangerous. But other than that...

New to your blog... sorry to rant like this. :)

Joe said...

so many races around here are starting to ban headphones, in the name of security.

hell, the army 10 miler banned people from carrying their own water bottles or wearing camelbaks or those hydration belt things because of security.

i can understand if there's a valid concern, such as safety, in asking people not to wear headphones, as you say, but i absolutely hate people who just constantly scream "won't somebody think of the children!" like reverend lovejoy's wife from the simpsons.

Rainmaker said...

I'm all about the music during training. But for races I'm mixed. I personally don't care - but I've seen numerous situations over the last few months where folks wearing them just aren't paying attention.

At the Marine Corps Marathon there was a case which played itself out many times over the length of the course. The races has many injured armed services folks competing in it - many of which are in racing wheel chairs. When they pass runners they have to shout/etc ('On your left!'). The problem is I saw many times where folks in a headphone zone just kept on running and didn't move out of the way. Kinda annoying.

Second, at the GW 10-Miler earlier in the spring they did actually have to get an aid car on course, there was a point where head phone folks that weren't paying attention didn't move out of the way until people started waving thier arms.

I think it's fine if you keep it low enough that you can hear the traffic/people around you. But if you can't hear someone's too loud.

Just my two cents.

Database Diva said...

I posted a lengthy rant on this subject as well. I also intend to boycott races that ban headphones. I guess this means I have to run Portland, because they are advertising their headphone friendliness.

Whether or not I'm paying attention to what is going on around me has nothing to do with headphones and everything to do with what is on my mind. When I ran the ET Half Marathon, I was wearing headphones, but I still heard the rattlesnake loud and clear!

peter said...

The endless headphone rag. Nothin' good ever came out of that discussion. What I want to know is what color lipstick shade is that RRCA no-headphones! icon wearing?