Should races be headhones-free?
‘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.’