Should races be head­hones-free?

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue - TOM BED­FORD Race di­rec­tor, Rich­mond Half SARAH COWOOD Run­ner, teaches autis­tic stu­dents

‘The head­phone rules state that the wear­ing of head­phones by com­peti­tors is “not al­lowed in races on any sin­gle car­riage­way road that is not wholly closed to traf­fic”. This has a knock-on ef­fect for race di­rec­tors who put on mul­ti­ple events. Run­ners can use head­phones in our Kew Gar­dens 10K, as it’s closed to traf­fic, but in the Rich­mond Half and full marathons there are sec­tions where run­ners share the Thames Tow­path with pedes­tri­ans, so it’s head­phones-free. I have mixed feel­ings on this is­sue; I know there are many rea­sons why peo­ple use head­phones, but if you’re us­ing them as a dis­trac­tion you should choose your race care­fully so you’re run­ning a beau­ti­ful course where you don’t need them. I have no sym­pa­thy at all for run­ners who can­not hear mar­shals’ in­struc­tions and get lost. For race or­gan­is­ers to get their race in­sur­ance we have to carry out the rules, so we will keep ap­ply­ing them.’ ‘I un­der­stand this rule has come in due to health and safety but I feel it pun­ishes run­ners like me who rely on mu­sic. I find run­ning dif­fi­cult with­out some­thing to lis­ten to. If I don’t have mu­sic I think about the prob­lems that I’m run­ning to for­get about. If you’re a grown-up you should be al­lowed to make your own choice as to whether you wear head­phones or not. There’s also the in­con­sis­tency: the rules state that you can be dis­qual­i­fied if you wear head­phones at a race where they’re banned but I’ve been at races like that and seen peo­ple ig­nor­ing the rules and not be­ing dis­qual­i­fied. I now choose my races based on whether head­phones are al­lowed or not, which I think un­fairly lim­its my choice. I’d pre­fer not to have to take this into con­sid­er­a­tion, but if we must I would like to see more race-list­ings web­sites very clearly stat­ing which races al­low head­phones, so it’s eas­ier for peo­ple to choose.’

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