Reader Dan Rickman believes that runners should not wear headphones and discusses why, in the hope to start a healthy North East debate!
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I’ve been running for a few years now. When I first started it was all about the smell of deep heat, people wearing Ronhill Tracksters and woolly hats. Keep your shorts and racing shoes for races and when you have completed a training run, look at your watch and make a calculated guess at how far you had ran. Training was recorded in a book or a diary and a pair of running shoes cost about £40!
I’ve watched over the years as the tracksters have been put back in the wardrobe and see people go out training in shorts and vests. Woolly hats have been replaced by designer ‘beanies’ and diaries have gone online with every run accurately measured by GPS watches. I’ve watched, even embraced some of the new fandangled ways, but one thing I still can’t get my head around is why people wear headphones, particularly in races.
I was driving home from work a few weeks ago and seen a couple of people out running together. As I got closer I realise that both of them were wearing headphones! Oh come on, that’s taking it a bit far isn’t it? One of the reasons I started running all those years ago was because I saw running as something that was individual activity but could easily be made sociable when done with others. I have made friends over the years and find that a run can fly over when chatting away to friends. The sight of the couple jogging along, both with headphones in and not speaking to each other just seemed, well….wrong.
The main thing that I just can’t understand though, is how people can wear headphones in races!! I love to race, I love it when I’m running along as fast as my old legs will carry me then someone encourages me or shouts my name from the sidelines and somehow I can squeeze even more out, it’s a great feeling. The atmosphere in a race is special, it’s something that you can’t explain to non-runners. Whether it’s a Parkrun or a Championship race, the roar of the crowd or the ‘well done’ from a spectator is something that needs to be heard. As far as I am aware, Mo Farah didn’t wear headphones in the Olympics and every athlete that was interviewed on TV afterwards talked about how great the atmosphere was.
I ran the Great North Run last weekend. I used to run it every year in the 80s and even now, the noise that the crowds make along the route is incredible. It’s inspirational! Imagine how I felt when I spotted so many people wearing headphones! They are missing out on so much. They would have been unaware of the cheers, unaware of the shouts of encouragement, made more special as the GNR numbers now have your own name on them. The noise from the local bands would have just interfered with the music they were already listening to. Not only that but, on a similar point to the one I made about training, they wouldn’t have been able to hear people approaching from behind.
So there I was, running a steady pace and pushing on towards 11 miles. I was feeling good, having paced the race well. We all know how crowded the Great North Run can get and sometimes, when you are overtaking people you may make physical contact. I spotted a chance to get past someone who was obviously tiring in a big way. There was just enough room for me to squeeze past without making contact then all of a sudden, without any warning, they stepped to the right and blocked the path, making me chop my stride. I was in full flow, my legs were tired so I just had to keep going, banging elbows with the runner as I got past. I wondered why someone would do such a thing, surely he had heard my coming up behind? Then I spotted them, the headphones! That’s why! To top things off he verbally abused me. I retorted and told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t have headphones on he would have heard me. He then had the cheek to swear at me to which I told him we could ‘have a chat’ about it at the end of the race and I would be waiting for him. Alas, we didn’t meet, despite my best efforts to find him but I found the whole episode completely unnecessary. If I wasn’t sure about my views about wearing headphones before the Great North Run then I certainly do now.
They may work for some people and I hope I can start a sensible discussion via North East Runner to find out exactly why people wear them. Surely the case against wearing them is much stronger than the one for? It would also be nice if the gentleman who verbally abused me offered his opinion. Or maybe he could let me know why he didn’t meet me afterwards…..
Thank you to North East Runner for allowing me to share my views and I hope a sensible debate can begin.