Those runners planning to do this summer’s Grandma’s Marathon or any of the shorter distances surrounding the main event in Duluth, Minn., might find the course both quieter and noisier. (You may remember that CompleteRunning wrote about this very subject a while ago.)
Marathon organizers last week announced they would formally ban headphones and all portable devices at all USATF-sanctioned races, including the sold-out Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, William A. Irvin 5k, Park Point 5 Miler and Minnesota Mile races in Duluth and St. Paul.
Violators will be asked to surrender their equipment, which will be mailed to them within two weeks of the race. Those that refuse to turn over their gear will be disqualified and not be included in the official results, marathon officials announced in an April 4 news release.
The ban was announced after USA Track & Field adopted a new rule forbidding popular mobile music players at any running events it sanctions. Specifically, it says, “The visible possession or use by athletes of video or audio cassette recorders or players, TV’s, CD or DVD players, radio transmitters or receivers, mobile phones, computers, or any similar devices in the competition area shall not be permitted.” Wrist chronometers and heart rate monitors are allowed, but apparently cell phones are not. Keep in mind, too, that the USATF-approved events run the gamut, from track and field to marathons.
In the past, road race officials have discouraged use of some of these devices. (TVs? Who the heck runs a race while watching TV?!) Many organizers warn participants not to wear headphones during competition for their own safety, but the requests—usually included in race fliers and on web sites—are widely ignored.
It will be interesting to see if other major events follow Grandma’s example. For those accustomed to training with music, the next big race might seem a little quieter and require a new strategy. Or, it may mean seeking out courses that remain “user friendly.” On the other hand, some participants may find a more social racing atmosphere in which more people carry on conversations to help get through the miles and readily absorb shout-outs from enthusiastic spectators.
(Update: Do a search for “Ipod ban,” and you’ll see the USATF is not alone. From Scottish teachers complaining about students wearing listening devices during class, to a New York state legislator wanting to ban their use in crosswalks, to companies worried about secrets being stolen on the portable devices, the ubiquitous listening accessory is under attack from many corners.)