I’ve noticed that many of the races I’ve done over the past few years have an mp3 player policy. Most, especially the marathons, have a strict rule against them. The race directors prefer that runners have their ears available to hear any last-minute instructions, course changes, and even traffic should the course be on open roads.
In spite of these policies, however, I see a huge percentage of runners wearing mp3 players at races. I also see plenty of the music players on people out training. Me, I don’t quite get it.
The beauty of running is its simplicity. When I’m out there, most of my senses are engaged, including hearing. What’s better than an early spring run with the sound of newly returned birds chirping? I also like to hear myself think on a run, when I’m by myself. This is a key time for me to plan my days or weeks, mull over issues that are bothering me, or pay attention to my pace and effort if I’m doing some speedwork. Music, as much as I love it, would get in the way.
And then there’s the safety issue. If you’re a female running alone, an mp3 player should never be a part of your repertoire. You shut yourself off to hearing traffic or, even worse, someone who my be approaching you with not-so-good intentions. Runner’s World magazine regularly reminds women of this fact and recommends against music when running outdoors.
I guess this all makes me a bit of a running purist, and I’m sure there are plenty of folks who disagree with my take on all this. But really, in my mind, if you can’t make it through a run or a race without music, maybe running isn’t the right sport for you. A run isn’t something to be “gotten through,” it’s something to enjoy. If it’s not fun and you need music to distract you from it, then why do it?
My only exception to this school of thought is the treadmill. On the rare occasions that I must be on a treadmill, I do use music. Being stuck on a piece of equipment, going nowhere in my basement is pretty much no fun. In fact, I’d wager I wouldn’t be a runner if that were my only option. For me, running is all about getting out there, enjoying the scenery, the sounds and the fresh air–without music!