Saying ‘No’ to Music While You Run

Saying ‘No’ to Music While You Run

I get it. Music pumps you up. It gives you a beat to run with, a cadence to match your stride to. It adds a little extra giddy-up to your step.

Running without music can be scary at first, but you'll learn to love it.

Goodness knows I’ve rocked out to MJ (that’s Michael Jackson, in case you weren’t sure) on repeat. In fact, the “Free Willy” song bombed me down Cleator Rd in 2011’s Chuckanut 50km. But since then, I’ve stopped listening to music altogether.

It started when I found out the JFK 50-miler had a strict no-music policy. So strict that if caught, you would be disqualified. Well, I’d run the Vancouver Marathon before and not heeded their no-music “preference”, but this changed the game. So I quit. Cold turkey. My iPod lays forlornly on my desk, forgotten and alone.

There are several reasons to quit your running-with-music addiction.

It Isn’t As Safe As You Think

A growing number of races these days forbid running with headphones, citing safety concerns.

Imagine: an ambulance needs to get through to an injured runner up ahead and is trying to pass you, but you’re rocking out to Rhianna and don’t hear a word other than “umbrella, ella, eh, eh”. Or you are running in one lane cordoned off for runners but traffic is flying by beside you; again, your ability to hear honking horns is limited.

Lastly, and by far the most common: the runner behind you who is hot on your tail and trying to pass. While you might not want to have yet another set of feet in front of you, it’s frustrating beyond belief trying to pass somebody who can’t hear your considerate “on your left!”.

It’s Not Very Friendly

I get that you want to de-stress and get in “the zone”, but the number of runners I pass who don’t respond when I call out a friendly “hello” is downright depressing. Often, this is because they don’t hear it due to music and I can only assume they haven’t mastered the art of lip-reading a mid-run hello-grunt.

What happened to our happy, accepting running community? It seems like every run is a solo venture simply because nobody will acknowledge one another.

It Gets In The Way of Nature’s Soundtrack

I run outside (you couldn’t pay me to run on a treadmill) and that has its own innate symphony.

I love running down the North Shore’s gnarly trails and hearing the gravel shifting and grating beneath my feet; it’s how I can tell how dry, damp, muddy or icy the trail is. I enjoy the wind dancing across my face but also through the leaves; rustling the branches and causing tree trunks to groan with mightier gusts. The creeks and rivers I run over and alongside have their own playful splash.

Deafening with the first monsoons of the season and just tickling your ears in the parched mid-summer heat. It’s listening to chipmunks and squirrels chirp, birds sing, and bears – yes bears – growl and snort their “get-out-of-my-way” warnings.

Even on the seawall, you have the makings of an urban-nature transition: The waves beating steadily against the shore, the cars hitting each span of the Lion’s Gate Bridge, the seagulls wailing as the wheel above the waves searching for food.

It Keeps You From Knowing Your Neighbours

Lastly, it leaves me saddened seeing a duo or group of runners out together … but all plugged into their iPods – even in the run clinics I teach! This is an opportunity to be social, not to further retreat into yourself. Technology, while a wonder, is turning us into closed off people.

Do yourself a favour: Unplug

Please. It’ll take a while to get used to, and you’ll probably curse me for a few runs. But the motivation you need is within you, not that unforgettable Rolling Stones song. Get your groove on and enjoy running as it was meant to be. Just you, a buddy and the pavement drumming beneath your shoes.

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