Running With Music

In any race or on any running path, you often see more runners wearing headphones than not. Unplugged purists think being aware of your surroundings is an elemental part of the sport, but a growing subculture of runners wouldn’t dream of taking a single step without their motivating playlists.

[quote]In South Africa, as in many other countries, the use of portable music devices in official races is banned, although many ignore the ban and it is not strictly enforced by race organisers. [/quote]

Yet the clash between headphone lovers and haters continues. On the pro side is Dr Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist who has studied music’s positive influence on athletes. His challenger is Dr Jim Denison, a sports sociologist and coach who thinks it is best to run to the sound of your footfalls.

Here the two have it out.

What’s the big deal about running with music?

Do some runners need music more than others?

People say running clears their heads. How does music affect that?

When running on a treadmill, music is necessary, right?

What do you think of races that feature music along the course?

So how can runners use music to their best advantage?

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Got something to say?

18 Responses to “Running With Music”

  1. Thandi says:

    I’m not purist but, I can’t stand music when running. I concerntrate on breathing and count my breaths wich is habit I learnt when I first started as a method to control breathing and to pass time. Music is distracting I lose count.

    • Anita says:

      I always find this debate frustrating.
      People are different. Their reasons for running are different. Personalities are different. Some want running to be a social activity and others like the idea of disconnecting for a while, in whichever way they prefer.
      Why should one be more valid than the other? Is the odd runner with an ipod who makes it difficult for you to pass that much more annoying than the odd social group who chat incessantly whilst running in a line next to one another, making it difficult for you to pass?

      To say someone is not a “real runner” because they choose to run whilst listening to music, is beyond arrogant. The only prerequisite for being a real runner, is running!
      Within the recreational running context the only valid argument against the use of ipods is safety. And even that is not always a good enough reason to judge because many runners are particularly vigilant and cautious when running with an ipod.

      I’ve been on both sides, but what I can say is this. As the girl who “never made the team” and loathed most sport activities in high school, yet just completed her first Two Oceans ultra, I would NEVER have been where I’m at if I didn’t have music to get me through the first year or so. Eventually I found a running partner and chatting replaced the music so I understand the benefits of both.
      But this judgement is unnecessary and unfair. Each to his own, I say!

    • Anita says:

      PS. FYI. This comment is not directly based on the points mentioned in this article, but to the general debate around ipod use. :)

    • Naomi says:

      I’m with Anita on this one. I’m a 5am runner and my ipod is my only company, as nobody else in my group of friends or fellow runners are mad enough to go running that time of the morning.

      The music helps to set a good pace and is great to just switch off the mind for 45mins or so.

    • malcom says:

      With OR Without…the benefits & effects of running are still the same.

    • Mari says:

      I’m a lone runner, to me running is a way to clear my head, plan my day, concentrate on breathing and enjoying the time on my own – even when running a race. So I wear my ipod whenever I run. Its a personal choice, isn’t it?

    • Taryn says:

      Also a lone runner and definitely enjoy having my iPod, though when running in a race I do abide by the rules and I don’t use my iPod, though it does seem silly and if people would prefer to run by themselves or switch off and listen to music, why can’t they do so? Also, I don’t have the music BLARING that I can’t hear cars or people around me – as a lone runner you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times so you can’t let your iPod distract you completely.

    • Nicholas says:

      I prefer both. If I’m running with others, I prefer to enjoy the run and the company of my running partner(s). If I run solo, I prefer music, there’s nothing like a pumping song to get you up a steep hill. I can understand not allowing music on a busy run, people do tend to become oblivious to the surrounding world and can become a hazard. But saying that, the average runner is not elite, we run for the enjoyment of it. So if music helps you enjoy the run more, why not?

    • Belinda says:

      I am a lone runner, I run with my iPod ALWAYS. No music blaring and only one earphone in so I can hear traffic and other runners on races. No one has ever had a problem getting past me because I cant hear, and I always take the earphones out at the start for first km or so and for the final km.
      It is a personal choice and I must say the groups chatting and lining up across the enter road is very irritating, but ok as long as they move over for others, and that too is a personal choice, some people listen to music, so to their breathing and others chat!

    • Anton says:

      All my training is done with music, running solo all the time I find music motivates me over the difficult parts of the distance, but my volume isn’t that loud, that it isolates me from hearing the on coming traffic. Come race day, I’ve got to leave my music at home…..That’s nonsense…..It should be left up to the individual. Further more when you are tired you tend to look down and almost switch off…..Now that is the problem, not the ipod.

    • Sione says:

      I have been running for years and would never be still running if I did not use my music. If it was a choice between no music it would mean that my running would slow down and I would hate that. It is such a personal issue. To each his own. I run because it clears my mind and is good for my soul and to me thats what counts.

    • Chris says:

      If the IAAF rules are interpreted strictly then music players are not permitted in road races. The motivation for the rule is somewhat lost in history, but initially applied to external coaching for athletes competing in field events. In road races in Western Province we apply the rule strictly to those in prze-winning positions. For the rest, the referees do not have the resources or the will-power to argue with the back of the packers that wish to run with them.
      All we ask is that you do not use them when important announcements are being made at the start, and keep the volume to a level that you can still hear instructions and warnings from marshals on the route. If you ignore reasonable instructions you may be disqualified.
      However this is only our local interpretation and other provinces/events may have different opinions and will disqualify everyone using them.
      From a safety perspective you are probably safer in a road race than when out running by yourself.

    • Gary says:

      Like it or not, it is a traffic violation. You may not wear anything over your ears while on a public road. Even in your car or on your bike. It comes with a stiff fine if applied. That’s the only reason why organising clubs ban the use, because they are obligated. I ran a race in Joburg where the JMPD were pulling runners off and warning them. Apparently if you wear earphones you become less aware of your immediate environment and become a danger to other road users. For the lone runners, it’s about being able to hear the traffic around you. We have had two muggings of runners in our area over the past year and both runners were sunning with ipods and say they did not hear the muggers approaching which may have helped. Just a few thoughts!

    • Bronwyn Bridger says:

      I wouldn’t be without my iPod when I run… I make sure my playlist is upbeat and that the songs are ones that I really & enjoy and don’t have to skip… My music helps me to focus and yet, also take my mind off the route at the same time…

      Regarding safety while running with my music, I am totally aware of my surroundings at all times and I make sure that I follow the traffic laws at all times and that I am visible at all times…

      It’s all about awareness & adhering to the rules of the road…

    • cathie says:

      The danger of it being a ‘traffic violation’ and being against the rules of the road, if you are involved in an accident, and wearing headphones, your medical insurance, may and can refuse to give you treatment. It may not have happened yet, but everyone is tightening their belts, so ‘run’ with caution.

    • Harry says:

      running with music was the way I kept going when I started. Now I only do it very occasionally for a change. My running without music is now my unplug time and is vital to de-stress , each to their own!

    • Vicky says:

      You run for a reason-competitive,relaxation,fitness or just for the love of it.
      Running is like falling in love.No matter the looks,size or character,it is your choice.
      Enjoy running with or without music.

    • Ingrid says:

      I enjoy running with music, and I always leave one ear out and listen to it in my slightly deaf ear. Along with music, my gps running app gives me updates every km. I don’t particularly like it when everyone around me hears my per km rate. I’m a lone runner for the majority of a race because my running partner is a lot faster than me after 3 kms.

      About 3 years ago, I was at a race where a lady came behind me and threatened me with suspension because I had one ear in. She really spoilt my run by threatening me and I didn’t feel comfortable going back to races for almost two years after that. I know it sounds terrible to let someone spoil my running enjoyment like that, but I’m an introvert by nature and enjoy my me time at races. I go to races for the fact that it is nice to run with the energy of the crowd, not to chat to anyone.

      I feel it is our own responsibility to be safe out there. I am always very aware of where I run – I head in the direction of a car, I can still hear what is going on around me. Yes, there are manics on the road and people who want to mug you. I just feel we should do everything with a measure of self-preservation.

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