Monday, August 20, 2007

Running Wearing Headphones: Always a Bad Idea

It must be a slow news day, because the Boston Globe ran a front page story, "A running debate: Competitors split on headphone ban at road races."

The reason for the story is that the USATF (the U.S.A. Track & Field organization, not the the Waco-busters) decided in 2004 to institute a new policy at the end of 2006 banning runners from wearing headphones in USATF-sanctioned road races. Some race organizers, and news editors, are just now realizing that the ban is in place, although enforcement appears sketchy at best.

I read the whole story without finding the most compelling reason never to wear headphones while running: the risk of becoming the victim of assault, particularly sexual assault. While victims of sexual assault are never at fault for the crime because they wore headphones, it is, nonetheless, a bad practice. Many advocates recommend women do not wear headphones while running or jogging. Simply googling "sexual assault jogger headphones" gives a wealth of resources and recommendations along this line. One added tidbit: the music listening device itself is a target for theft.

Road racers aren't likely to be assaulted sexually during a race, so the USATF bases their requirement on another reason. As a frequent racer myself, I can tell you that it is a lousy idea to wear headphones among the packed crowd of runners during the first 1/4 of a race. The problem is exacerbated by slow runners who line up in the front of the crowd at the front, causing the faster runners and slower runners to dodge each other for a while. Sometimes, it can be a mess. Runners with headphones are making it even worse.

Most races also do not allow running strollers for the runner who wants to participate with a young child. The usual reason: insurance requirements. Always ask in advance of the race organizers. When they do allow strollers, it's usually best to line up in the back of the pack. Except, of course, when you expect to be one of the top finishers despite pushing a 35-pound child on a 25-pound stroller. (BTW: runners hate to be passed by a stroller in a race...)

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