Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Banning the tunes.

I'm probably a little behind on the controversy. Sweet Baboo let me know that the marathon we've planned for January does not allow the use of headphones. I was stunned, because I did some digging, and this is what I found:

USATF Rule 232(d) and 144.3(b)
Athletes shall not use video or cassette recorders or players, TVs CD or CD-ROM players, radio transmitters or receivers, mobile phones, computers, or any similar devices during the competition, nor shall such devices be premitted.

Safety I can understand, particularly if you are on an open road, or out-and-back course, although it's not clear to me how many injuries that have occured during competitions due to the use of headphones. Sweet Baboo has the experience of leading the lead runner at the Duke City Marthon, an out and back (bad idea) course. As he rode along the trail he yelled ahead, calling out "Lead runner! Lead runner!" people with headphones didn't hear him coming.

I long ago accepted this in triathlon events because of the cycling aspect. Listening to headphones while road cycling is just plain dangerous. Even when running, I don’t listen to headphones unless I’m facing the traffic, and then I only put one in.

Perhaps it's more of a "highly annoying" factor. As one runner put it, there's no end to the list of things that are dangerous on the course. You sign a waver agreeing to take the risks when you sign up for these races.

Here's some "what-ifs"

  • What if it’s a closed, point-to-point or loop course? You wouldn't need to hear any vehicles coming up behind you.

  • If hearing warnings is USATF’s primary concern, will they now ban the deaf and hard-of-hearing since they can’t hear who is coming up behind them?

  • Here's another thought: transmitters and receivers. Guess that your heart monitor is? It's a transmitter, and your watch is a receiver , as is your Garmin.

  • How about timing chips? They are wireless transmitters.

Unbelievably, there is a small number of runners behind the ban, but not for safety reasons. These "running purists" believe that headphones remove the pure experience of running. That’s great for them. But who made them my experience police? Everyone experiences running differently. On my short runs, I will run music free, but on my longer runs, I like to run along, lost in my thoughts, listening to my tunes, which give me emotional uplift.

When I ran my first marathon, it was one song in particular that helped see me through the last 10K. But on the marathon at Ironman Louisville, I ran music-free, humming certain songs to myself as I went along. Would I have been faster? Slower? Who knows?

I'd like it to be my choice to decide.

As well, running purists will complain that they can’t converse with people wearing headphones. Uh, who carries on conversations while running a marathon? People who are walking or those who want me to feel bad about myself, that’s who. When I’m running, I can barely gasp out a one-syllable reply now and then to someone who is talking to me, and even then my heartrate shoots up.

Oh, and PS to the purists: in most venues if I have headphones on, I don’t want to talk. Will you now FORCE me to listen to you? I can throw up on cue, ya know. (I learned it in high school. Long story. )

Lets move on.

SO here, as I see it, are my options, none of which involves the forced removal of my tunes.

Option 1: I can avoid events with a "headphone" ban. Let's face it, I’m not trying to qualify for Boston. Most smaller events are more fun anyway, and often more scenic. Trust me. There are plenty of race directors out there that don't like being bullied by governing bodies. At the recent New York Marathon and Marine Corps marathons, the ban wasn't even enforced.

Option 2: The technical loophole. Most directors that abide by USATF rules are just banning headphones, so check these out; they aren’t technically headphones. http://www.safesoundsports.com/

Option 3: Be sneaky. Wear mp3 sunglasses and a sweatband. For instance: http://www.amazon.com/Fio-MP3-Sunglasses-128-MB/dp/B000ASB5JW/ref=sr_1_11/104-2429120-7938322?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1194274070&sr=8-11. And other brands I’ve found: Nu Tech Dark Shadow 256MB MP3 Sunglasses, iSonic 256 MB MP3 Music Player with Headphones built-in in Sunglasses, and Oakley Thump MP3 Sunglasses 256MB.

Comments or idea that I haven't considered?
What are you thoughts on this topic?

...

36 comments:

  1. What about huge starts, like Marine Corps? Isn't that a time when you need to use all your senses to cope with the massive waves of people all trying to negotiate a narrow roadway together?

    Personally, I wouldn't know.

    I think any attempt to regulate common sense is paternalistic, and bound to fail.

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  2. This was a huge discussion within our club. I am not a running purist by any stretch of the imagination. I love my tunes when I am running.

    However, we can't pick and chose which rules we follow without the risk of punishment. During the MCM a couple of weeks ago, I saw many unsafe acts--the predominance were caused by people with head phones on. That is not to say the the predominance of people with headphones caused accidents. That would not be true. I saw many people in their own little world running safely and happily along.

    If the rule is a stupid rule, then we in the sport should work to change it. However, we can't ignore rules because we don't like them. I did a tri this summer and I did not like the fact I could not use a car to carry my bike to the top of the big hill and just ride down. But I followed the rules.

    Just my $.02

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  3. You make a good point, Kevin. After all, there's plenty of people who think they're okay when they talk on their cell phones, but research (and most of our experiences) show them to be mistaken. Thanks for the input!

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  4. I like listening to music on my long training runs, but now I prefer racing without my iPod. It's not so I can talk with the other runners...I'll give encouragement here and there...but I'm not a good conversationalist while running. Mostly, I don't want to miss out on things I need to hear during a race.

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  5. I'd rather alone run with my music than run in a race without it.

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  6. I guess I am a running purist. But I am coming from the age grouper view point that if you are running fast enough to place overall or in age you don't need outside stimulation to get there, and I feel it is a unfair advantage. Tunes definitely allow one to "tune out" the complaints of your body. I've seen it firsthand with some of my running friends who definitely would not have been running through the pain without the tunes cranked.

    I guess I also feel like if I need tunes to run why am I running in the first place? I run because I love it just as it is. But I understand that tunes are helpful to those who unlike me need a bit more motivation to get out and hit the roads. And anything that helps get more people in shape I am all for it.

    Anyways my experience with ipods in a small 5k was not a good one. I was forced to spend the first mile or so dodging a girl who just couldn't get her ipod adjusted and it totally drove me batty. She would dart in front of me then start adjusting her band and as I tried to get around she would stop adjusting and pick up the pace (repeat this for 1/2 mile or so) This definitely was dangerous as she wasn't paying attention to anything around her while running at a 6:15 pace.

    I think your approach with #1 is the best. If you don't like the rules go to a race that doesn't have them. There's plenty of ultras that allow headphones! ;)

    It's funny this is such a sore topic. I have lots of friends who use the tunes in races and I still love them even though I would never use them. To each their own!

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  7. Personally, I've never understood why people would want to take music in the first place. Most of the people I know who do listen to music while running have told me it's so they don't get bored, but I'm so focused on sensory data -- my form how I'm feeling, breathing, etc -- and just looking around enjoying the scenery that I never have that problem. Additionally, you have to carry the tunes the whole way, and if you get tired of listening you still have to carry them.

    I've also heard stories similar to Sweet Baboo's, too. At the Air Force marathon this summer, a guy was there trying to get the qualifier for the Olympic Trials and, by virtue of some great planning by the marathon, ended up having to dodge and weave through the back-of-the-packers in the half-marathon when the two courses joined together. The people with their headphones on couldn't hear the lead truck to get out of the way.

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  8. Personally, I've never understood why people would want to take music in the first place. Most of the people I know who do listen to music while running have told me it's so they don't get bored, but I'm so focused on sensory data -- my form how I'm feeling, breathing, etc -- and just looking around enjoying the scenery that I never have that problem. Additionally, you have to carry the tunes the whole way, and if you get tired of listening you still have to carry them.

    I've also heard stories similar to Sweet Baboo's, too. At the Air Force marathon this summer, a guy was there trying to get the qualifier for the Olympic Trials and, by virtue of some great planning by the marathon, ended up having to dodge and weave through the back-of-the-packers in the half-marathon when the two courses joined together. The people with their headphones on couldn't hear the lead truck to get out of the way.

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  9. As you know I no longer run due to back issues, but on LONG solo bike rides (3-7 hour type rides), I do use my mp3 player. That being said, I wear a mirror and check it constantly. I absolutely hate having a car "sneak up" on me and scare the bejeebers (technical term) out of me with or without the mp3 player.

    Race-wise....eh....not such a fan. Just in case there was instructions being shouted from a course official or (in a runners case) the fact you can't see somebody coming up from behind can be a dangerous thing.

    Just running across campus here at the University on my bike, I swear that for some reason walking a straight line while listening to an iPod is an impossibility. It's hard to yell "on your left" when they can't hear you, but it is kinda fun to strafe them and laugh when they jump/scream/swear as you blow by.

    I'm somewhat on the fence with your issue, but with running, I'd have to agree during a race it's a bad idea. On a bike path, go ahead...some smart a$$ like me might get some brief enjoyment out of making you jump :-)

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  10. I don't object to headphones on running purist grounds (I will sometimes use them if I'm running inside on a treadmill, for instance), but I am strongly opposed to them on grounds of safety and (other people's) convenience. I run in New York City, and we're basically all sharing the road, even for instance when Central Park is closed to traffic. There are runners, fast cyclists, dogs, children, large groups of tourists etc. all making use of a quite small area, and a typical 5-mile race might have several thousand participants herded into recreational lanes which can't be more than about 12 feet across. Runners in these races who wear headphones are seriously inconveniencing those around them--they are likely to be oblivious to people trying to pass, and also to miss important cues about other traffic. I strongly endorse the notion of a race ban--and even beyond that, though obviously the iPod/long run combo is here to stay, I wish people would be a bit more safety-conscious and considerate of others. I see quite a few women running alone after dark in the park with an mp3 player on, which doesn't seem to me sensible; and there's no doubt it makes it more likely that there will be runner-cyclist crash-ups...

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  11. interesting topis. I do not run with music exceot if I am stuck inside on the treadmill. I think in mjaor runs that maybe the should not be used. But I have mixed feelings I just am concerned about the safety issues but I also think that if people like or need msuic to run that is great at least they are out there running!

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  12. Never, ever on the bike, just because you are so vulnerable to traffic anyway.
    On the run, I love to have tunes. Not loud. I can still hear what is going on around me, but there is a little theme song activity going on in the background. I find it much easier to talk myself into hurting, stopping, walking without a little distraction, which paradoxically keeps me focused and steady.
    I vote that I am a big girl capable of making my own decisions. I don't need the RD's to decide for me. And I signed the waiver, so it's all on me.

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  13. Oh yeah - I think the safesounds thing is a pretty cool alterative.

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  14. Actually, timing chips are passive transponders:
    http://www.championchip.com/products/championchips.php

    But back to the subject - I'm for a ban. I spent five minutes yelling at some chick with earbuds running directly in front of a car at my last 5K and she never, ever heard me. Should have just let Darwin take care of her.

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  15. I understand that there is a safety aspect during races that may require a ban on headphones.

    Duke City supposedly banned headphones, so I ran without music, but as S.Baboo pointed out (and something I noticed) there were several out there wearing them. And there were parts of that course that were very crowded, so I believe the ban was a good decision.

    If there wasn't a ban, I would have had mine with me. If I had known there was a ban, I'm not sure that I would have signed up.

    All of that aside...I vote for option 1. If you want to run with music, simply find races that allow it.

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  16. I understand that there is a safety aspect during races that may require a ban on headphones.

    Duke City supposedly banned headphones, so I ran without music, but as S.Baboo pointed out (and something I noticed) there were several out there wearing them. And there were parts of that course that were very crowded, so I believe the ban was a good decision.

    If there wasn't a ban, I would have had mine with me. If I had known there was a ban, I'm not sure that I would have signed up.

    All of that aside...I vote for option 1. If you want to run with music, simply find races that allow it.

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  17. My .02
    I've been using headphones since 1987--when I first started riding a bike. I move the headphones so they are not sitting directly over my ears, so that I can hear the music, carry on a conversation, or hear upcoming car noise, etc. Instead of wearing those cute little ear buds, I wear giant, UFO type, ear-muff shape head phones, that, these days, garner me a lot of LOOKs. I look funny, but I can move them off my ears, hear everything that's going on around me AND hear my music.
    Works for me.
    I know--most people wouldn't give up their good looks for a little music and safety, but I do--because I'm totally pro both.

    As I've gotten better at running longer distances (my goal this past year), I've found that I rely less on my music, and settle into a running groove that carries me through. Can't imagine a full marathon--as I've never done one.

    What does running with music do for you? Something to think about.

    Might try some training runs without the music and see how it goes. I actually now enjoy going without the headphones--something I never thought possible.
    :)

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  18. My .02
    I've been using headphones since 1987--when I first started riding a bike. I move the headphones so they are not sitting directly over my ears, so that I can hear the music, carry on a conversation, or hear upcoming car noise, etc. Instead of wearing those cute little ear buds, I wear giant, UFO type, ear-muff shape head phones, that, these days, garner me a lot of LOOKs. I look funny, but I can move them off my ears, hear everything that's going on around me AND hear my music.
    Works for me.
    I know--most people wouldn't give up their good looks for a little music and safety, but I do--because I'm totally pro both.

    As I've gotten better at running longer distances (my goal this past year), I've found that I rely less on my music, and settle into a running groove that carries me through. Can't imagine a full marathon--as I've never done one.

    What does running with music do for you? Something to think about.

    Might try some training runs without the music and see how it goes. I actually now enjoy going without the headphones--something I never thought possible.
    :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. My .02
    I've been using headphones since 1987--when I first started riding a bike. I move the headphones so they are not sitting directly over my ears, so that I can hear the music, carry on a conversation, or hear upcoming car noise, etc. Instead of wearing those cute little ear buds, I wear giant, UFO type, ear-muff shape head phones, that, these days, garner me a lot of LOOKs. I look funny, but I can move them off my ears, hear everything that's going on around me AND hear my music.
    Works for me.
    I know--most people wouldn't give up their good looks for a little music and safety, but I do--because I'm totally pro both.

    As I've gotten better at running longer distances (my goal this past year), I've found that I rely less on my music, and settle into a running groove that carries me through. Can't imagine a full marathon--as I've never done one.

    What does running with music do for you? Something to think about.

    Might try some training runs without the music and see how it goes. I actually now enjoy going without the headphones--something I never thought possible.
    :)

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  20. I am PRO ban. I've had too many experiences in races where people listening to music were in their own little world and caused problems for those around.

    I love music while I workout though - when I am alone.

    Julia

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  21. Wow, what a lot of good ideas so far! Based on all these responses so far, I'm started to get the impression that music is relied on by the more novice runner, and those who have been at it longer don't rely on it. I'm curious as to whether I'd be faster without it.

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  22. I remember reading about some research (this was awhile ago and before runners ran with music)-about what one focused on when running a marathon. Top runners focused on their breathing, how their bodies felt and surrounding competition. Mid to back of the pack runners tended to look around at the scenery, sang to themselves and relied on the cheering crowds to get the through tough parts of the race.
    Food for thought.

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  23. I never heard of this ban until a few years ago at a triathlon, at the finish line, when a woman came in practically dead last (not me for once). She had an iPod. A friend of mine at the finish line, a multi time IM finisher who knows all the rules, said she should be disqualified because of it. I asked why? She said because it is considered outside assistance, meaning one could be getting coached along the course. In this case, as in many I'm sure, that isn't what's going on, but that apparently is one reason for the ban in triathlon. That and the cycling danger aspect, which is obvious. Never heard of it for any marathons though. On the other hand, I don't use music outside, but will use headphones when on a treadmill or elliptical. Its the only thing to keep me from going crazy, and there is no obvious danger there from using them, unless of course there is a fire and you can't hear the alarm. From my own experience, all headphones should be banned from bike paths, particularly for rollerbladers weaving from side to side. Not only can they not hear anyone coming from behind, but their swaying movements will likely cause an accident eventually.

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  24. I remember seeing the same, or at least similar, research fe-lady mentioned. They took groups of elite runners and mid-packers, and had them perform a run to exhaustion at 80% VO2 max twice; once while watching tv, and once without.

    The elite's did better without the distraction because they were better able to focus internally on breathing, stride mechanics, etc. The mid-packers did better with the tv because it distracted them from how uncomfortable they were feeling.

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  25. I have mixed feelings. RRCA has had a disclaimer about headphones in its policy for several years now. As a race director, I included that on the registration forms, but, really, there's no way to police it. I run so many races now that have upwards of 50% or more of the people wearing headphones. Only a minority ever seem to be a problem. I'm not sure that the ban is really necessary. Or even realistic, especially at big races.

    I'm not sure it's fair to compare wearing headphones to being deaf, though. A deaf person has much more keenly developed senses than someone just sticking in earbuds and cranking the tunes in their head. I would guess that deaf people are pretty aware of what's going on around them.

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  26. The wearing of headphones would not be a DQ it would be a time penalty and it is not outside assistance it is unauthorized equipment.

    The research Fe-Lady refers to is talking about associative versus dissociative cognitive strategies. Associative is when your focus is on your body, breathing…it's internal. Dissociative is when your focus is external like on music. Both techniques can be effective at enhancing performance but more experienced runners use associative whereas more novice runners use dissociative strategies. A less experienced runner should try and use associative strategies to better monitor their performance and develop a better idea of how their body and mind works during exercise; this can lead to performance enhancement. However, they can use dissociative strategies just to get through a long or difficult workout…also a performance enhancer. The same is true of elite runners. Sometimes the pain or discomfort of maxima or prolonged effort is so unpleasant that in order to really reach peak performance they need to use dissociative strategies to get through a difficult part of the course, sprint ahead to the finish line of just finish in the first place like in an ultra.

    Sorry for the lecture. Maybe I should do a post?

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  27. Geekgirl, I'm really glad you posted about this...it got me thinking about running and my running coping strategies!

    S.Baboo's comments are very interesting, too...helped me to understand why I use the iPod on my long training runs. I usually focus on external stuff like music and scenery. I want to try and focus internally more if I can.

    Ya'll make a great pair :)

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  28. I like my music when I'm training, I try not to race with it, though I have been known to plug in for a race when I see that others are plugged in. I go with what others are doing.

    I'm very sensitive to others when I've got them - I keep it low so I can hear what's going on around me. It irritates the bahookie out of me if someone else doesn't hear me.

    I call them "the pod people." The Pod People are most irritating when I'm on a bike and I'm trying to pass them on a bike trail. I shout ON YOUR LEFT!!! and they don't even acknowledge. How irritating!

    I consider my music a bit of a crutch sometimes. I would like to train more without it - so when the battery dies or I forget it, I take it as a sign and I go with it.

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  29. You know, I've never known anyone who used earbuds all the time who didn't insist that they were totally aware of sounds around them all the time.

    And in my experience trying to talk to them or alert them to something, they are almost never able to hear anything.

    There is a disconnect there somewhere....

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  30. Yes, they are a lot like the cell phone people in that respect, aren't they? And the people who let their dogs off leashes in an area that requires dogs to be on a leash.

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  31. I mean that in the sense of, "the rules don't apply to me...my situation is different."

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  32. Hmm. Very hot topic.

    I personally almost always train with music and never, ever, ever race with music.

    And I really am faster w/o music. I think I have a tendency to disassociate with the music and sorta forget I'm running, but when I race, I am usually very much in the moment, monitoring every aspect of my race.

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  33. I too always run with music in training but take it off for the race. I'm so slow it doesn't change my speed alot. But I do stay more focused when I don't have it.

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  34. I can vouch for Pirate that she is sensitive to others and can hear what's going on around her when she's got her music on. In the half mary in September (I didn't even know her then), when she passed me I said "good job" to her, she turned around and said "no, good job to YOU!"...she had her plugs in, but still heard me, and I'm not that loud.

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  35. I don't wear them, since I can't stand to not hear what's going on around me.

    I was floored several times during last weekend's half-marathon. Miles 4-13 were on open, public road. Several fools, (oops, I mean runners) were running right down the center line of the road with headphones on. It took several attempts by folks screaming or whistling to get there attention to move out of the way of the car coming up behind them.

    I'm amazed that some didn't end up as road kill.

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  36. I'm riding in on a low horse to say I totally agree with you.

    If you don't like tunes, don't listen to them. I'm a big girl, used to be a bigger girl, and I am adult. Let me listen to my damned iPod if I want to.

    Running purists can bite me. My experience is my own. When I run I usually have one ear bud in, one open. On runs I listen to music, books, podcasts, and even study for tests. (Yeah, not kidding.)

    Do I "run through the pain" like an idiot? No. See my leg bones are NOT connected to my ear bones.

    Do I tune everything out? No, I am not stupid and I have four other senses, last count.

    Do I chat with people on races? I sure do! But sometimes I don't WANT to chat with you. If you start talking to me and I'm not responding, go the heck away. I'm not interested. I'm currently climbing the wall or slamming into it.

    I've run HUNDREDS of races and I can count on exactly no hands the number of times I've seen someone with headphones endangering others. Never. At a big start, most people don't have them on yet because there is music at the start.

    I've run races where half marathons met up with fulls and the full frontrunners came up behind me and guess what, I could hear the siren because I like my eardrums and didn't have my music blaring.

    Why listen? Because music is emotional and motivating. Music is soulful and beautiful. Music is silly and spastic. Sometimes I want those things, not NEED, want.

    I'm going to run a marathon next year where they are banned. I'll have my Running Buddy with me. Will I listen? Maybe, maybe not. But if I do it's MY business and if I get DQed, oh well.

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