The wearing of earphones – not music to my ears

AW contributor Martin Duff thinks runners should ditch their headphones when training and racing, do you agree?

Posted on December 19, 2013 by
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Earphones running (Mark Shearman)

The new year is upon us and it is resolution time again. So I’d like to offer a suggestion to race licensing authorities, race organisers and runners alike – for safety’s sake, ditch the headphones.

I have been running for nearly sixty years and, having covered an estimated 130,000 miles in training or racing, I have never used or even considered using headphones. Frankly, I think to do so is dangerous.

Why do I say this?

• In races, runners need to hear any instructions given to them by race marshalls

• Competitors need to be aware of any traffic

• In training, runners should listen out for animals if on farmland or other hazards

• On busy town roads or country lanes, runners need to be able to hear other road users

• Runners need to be aware of their fellow competitors

Many race organisers already prohibit the use of headphones, usually with an instruction on the race entry form or a declaration in the athletes’ notes.

Prize winners in some races which ban headphones have forfeited their right to an award after being disqualified for wearing the devices. However, I believe some race organisers are worried that if they take such a step then they will lose out on entries to events that do not enforce such a ban.

At a recent event in Sussex for which I was reporting for Athletics Weekly, headphones were not banned and some runners were wearing them, oblivious to what was going on around them. The race took place on open roads with one particular bottleneck too narrow for both runners and car drivers to negotiate simultaneously. There, runners blithely switched from pavement to road, putting themselves and other road users in danger.

Further to this, I don’t even think that headphones should be worn in training. Besides, why is it that runners wish to be distracted from the joys of running through the countryside? I love my running, I am always looking at the scenery and it can be so interesting just to observe. Wearing headphones would be an encumbrance.

So, a plea to all runners for 2014: ditch them.

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2 Responses to “The wearing of earphones – not music to my ears”

  1. Tom says:

    Your sentiments are generally sound, but I wouldn't make such a blanket statement. When doing Marathon training I'll do anything from 70 to 100 miles a week, and I do it through bland repetitive districts in the centre of Manchester – there isn't much to see. And even if there were it wouldn't exactly be new to me, since I'll have run the route many MANY times. I use headphones to distract myself from these well worn routes (but never have them so loud that I'm unaware of what traffic and pedestrians are up to).

    Besides that, I agree entirely. Racing with headphones is absurd.

  2. thomas says:

    i think youre just too old…

Leave a Reply to Tom