Discussion – Running with or Without Music?

Question: So, this may not be the most popular post of the day, but it bothered me enough at the race yesterday so I’d like to air it. Ran the annual DC Cherry Blossoms 10 miler with thousands of people. Felt like 95% of the runner had headphones on. Forgetting the scenic point of the run, I just want to focus on practical. The race was crowded and made especially unpleasant by the fact that communications between runners were completely impossible cause of their inability to hear each… other! I’d be honest – I was appalled. Not so much by the lack of courtesy, but more by the fact how many runners didn’t care to give themselves a chance! I firmly believe that one doesn’t know his/her true run until one “unplugs” – there is no secrete there that music makes one run differently. Isn’t the point of a race to know how far one can go?! Why do so many plug in?!


I keep one ear ‘plugged’ and the other ‘free’ to give me the best of both worlds. But…I have no problem with people who run the way they want to run. It is an individual sport and to each their own.

I almost felt yesterday that it may have been a function of age and one’s running experience. Older runners ran bare as did those whom I’d call seasoned runners.

Anne, no argument there for training runs etc. but when you can barely squeeze in a race of thousands, I question the method. But like you said, to each his own…

To each his or her own, but good race etiquette should never be compromised. My running improved dramatically when I turned off the tunes and ignored the pace on my Garmin. Running naked is definitely my preference – but again, it’s personal preference.

I run with one bud in so I can hear things around me. Sometimes the bud is in the ear but the music is off. Sometimes it makes a difference just soaking in your surroundings.

I even asked about headphones since in the instruction its specifically stated NO Headphones. I didnt wear mine and Im glad I didnt.

I’ve never ran with music. It’s not my thing. I like hearing everything that’s going on around me during a run/race. I like to hear a car approaching in the distance. I like to hear if there’s another runner coming up behind me. I like to hear if there’s a zombie approaching me through the woods… Ya know, normal things. Plus I enjoy listening to the sound of my feet on the ground.

Think you have to let people use what means they need to stay motivated…. Music helps my pace among other things… With that said race etiquette trumps all things.. Keep it low or one ear out.. I find it’s not the music but the lack of understanding not to just stop in front of another runner, which side to be on if you run/walk, and other courtesies I don’t see when running races.. It’s hard when running with a lot of people, I have run disney princess twice and with 20+ thousand runners you do what you need to do to finish in one piece 🙂
I noticed a lot of people in my half Saturday had headphones in too. I personally don’t need music to run. I like to hear my surroundings and if someone is coming up on me. I saw a girl almost get run over once during a run. We all tried yelling at her and someone had to run over and pull in her arm to get her attention.

I also use 1 ear bud. I used to run with it in just so I could hear my Nike+ app and the 1/4 mile pace updates. Sometimes (when alone) I just want some distraction, and other times I like to be able to pray or whatever. For marathons I usually start without music so I can be social and keep my pace down, and then put it in when I want to get “in the zone”. But I would not wear both ears in ever at an event.

I stopped running with headphones, I’ll listen sometimes to my iphone/iTunes via the phones speaker while in my Armband. I understand this probably offends people but what doesn’t? Race etiquette seems like a big issue often, especially when making a 90degree street change turn and around hydration stations!

I lost my music one time about 2 miles in on a 10K and I finished but hated the entire run. All I could hear was my breathing and my feet hitting the pavement and it was distracting for me. Music relaxes me and sometimes I take one ear bud out if in s really congested area but never have encountered a problem. Again each to his own.

I only use one ear bud so I can (a) have my motivational music and (b) to make sure my pace is on track. That’s all.

Susie, I read your post and smiled – yes, we ARE all different :). Something which frustrated you is what focuses me. Interesting, isn’t it? I like to hear my breathing and how my feet hit the ground. That informs me about whether I can go faster, need to slow down, etc. many years of yoga practice also taught me to focus on the breathe. I never thought before that this can be an annoyance to others. Glad you pointed that out – thanks!

I just really love music

I have the ability to listen to music and also soak in surroundings

I smile at other runners or even high five them. There are other ways to communicate then words. Besides, as a new running I’m breathing so loudly not only can I not talk but I prefer the runner next to me to be plugged in so they can’t here me and assume I’m dying 😉

I think the point of the race is personal for each person. Your point isn’t mine and mine isn’t yours. I hardly ever do races because I don’t care for all the people. But occasionally I do one. Sometimes it’s to affirm what you did which is that maybe races aren’t for you. Unfortunately or fortunately races are hugely popular and as in life you deal with all kinds of people at them. That’s why my actual accomplishments come every day in my personal “around my neighborhood” runs. And I rarely do it without music. If I am walking? I rarely use music. I have lots of reasons for it and I run… So I already know what I can do!

I like the music because coming from a choral background, listening to songs I know and can sing help me control my breathing. But always with just one earbud in. I actually found a single ear bud for this reason.

Irina, lately I have not been running with music because I hit a wall and I wanted to get back to basics and concentrate on my breathing and pace.. Its actually not too bad.. SO at least I know I can run without music. Yesterdays Cherry Blossom race was more enjoyable to me without musci. I listened to people conversations and the people cheering the runners on.

I race with one ear bud unless I’m running with my friends or the race specifically prohibits them.

I will say I ran the Cherry Blossom for the first time last year and it was one of the worst races I’ve ever done when it comes to etiquette. I was spit on 3 times and I had a cup on water tossed on me too. I ran my first 5k back in 1991 and have lost count of how many races I’ve run since then and that one ranks as the worst.

I agree Susie. I am a middle aged runner and love music when I run. I keep it low enough most of the time to here what’s going on. I have an extremely hard time running without it. I still get the odd snot rocket accidentally flown at me and often encounter 3 or 4 runners side by side which, to me, is way more aggravating than someone wearing earbuds.

I ran the ten miler yesterday with my headphones on. Had the blossoms been in full bloom I probably would’ve focused more on the scenery and not in my time. But being that I ran part of this course before, my own motivation is to eradicate my old PB which I did by 20 minutes, using music. I know enough about running etiquette to keep the volume down low enough I can hear the person next to me breathing. What I found more annoying is the fact that the water and Gatorade stations were bunched together so closely that it bottle necked the course.

I should have found you! But it was good to see others. I also use these races to interact with runners who I only see at races. DC is great for this because we have so many events here. Ran I to a couple of people I met at other races. Met some new people too. Listened to others, zone out listening to my breath and looking at the Potomac. The usual 10 miler run – just going through so many things, ah? 🙂

I usually run in them, but want to lose them because then I don’t focus on my breathing. When it’s training for a marathon though, I need them to get through those long runs. I find that except for the beginning waiting to start, people don’t really talk during races and that’s

I run with one headphone in (usually the ones that came with my phone) cuz I want to listen to some music, which is relaxing to me and I never get to do with two littles at home who are parrots (so now y’all know my taste in music 😉 ) Plus I’m still nursing my youngest, and I never stray far from home so my SO can call me and reach me if he needs too since my youngest won’t take a bottle.

Barbara, agree – Blossoms was not the most enjoyable out of DC offers. Looking forward to the MCM series – so different running with the marines

I always run with music… as an introvert with significant ADD, it helps me channel my energy into running but I either run with one earbud or the volume low so that I can hear what’s happening around me. On the other hand, I’m also half deaf in my right ear which makes it difficult as well, but running is an individual sport (unless you’re doing relay but more often than not, you’re running alone).

LOL…your post sounded like I could have written it myself! I run/walk in the exact same way. Not a ‘racer’ but do one occasionally, like maybe 2/yr for a good cause. (I have entered some virtual races so I can enjoy “my time” aka running and also ‘race’ –again, for a good cause.)

I have to music to keep my pace up. But I keep it pretty low, I can hear my feet hitting the pavement.

I really love listening to music when I am running, it keeps my pace up, my attitude positive, it transports me. I wouldn’t do a run that stated ‘no head phones’ because for me that would ruin it. Most of the time I am doing something I call ‘dance run’ lol. I try to contain myself when running around others though. Also, I am hard of hearing so I cannot usually hear what others say when I am running when I am not wearing headphones so it doesn’t make a difference other than the fact that I am very perceptive of my surroundings.

A couple of people have mentioned snot rockets. In my opinion, those are NOT acceptable when running in a crowded race! You know somebody behind you is going to end up wearing your snoggers. Gross! Carry a Kleenex people! As far as music, to each his/her own, as long as you can still pay attention in a crowd. I’m with the one ear bud group.

I listen to music 90% of the day. I can’t stand or handle silence with my thoughts, too disturbing. I get pumped up listening to music. I plan on having one earbud in not both so I’m alert to my surroundings.

I run without music….I like it…no distractions….I don’t mind if others like to hear music. But I agree that you should be aware of what is happening around you during a race!

Once the crowd thins out I put on my music and I just stay to the far right. My playlists really help me keep cadence. But I make sure to take the earbuds out approaching aid stations & officers directing traffic…so I can say thank you 🙂

I used to run with only music and felt I would not be able to run with out it. I ran my local 10k a few years ago and my Ipod died I was devastated at first, but had no choice to run with out it. WOW I had the best race and was really able to dial into my breathing, Now the only time I listen to music is when I’m on the treadmill.

At crowded races, I leave an earbud out and tucked into my bra strap so it doesn’t bounce around. I know that I find it easier to regulate my breathing when I can hear myself breathe, so you do have a point! That being said, I really love listening to my favorite tunes and I’m usually the one dancing from the waist up in a race. LOL

Also, I never snot-rocket in public. I even worry that someone might see me doing it when I’m running in my little rural community!

I have never ran with music. I feel it is safer and I see and hear so much more then I feel runners with music experience I always run alone also it is wonderful to enjoy the outdoors with no distractions.

I for one need the music. Just me personally. Like a few others said its relaxing & motivating for me. I cannot run as well when I hear myself breath & hit the pavement. The music also clears my mind as weird as it sounds & I think of nothing but the run. On Half mar like many others 1 earbud out to stay alert for all the people. Again everyone is diff. whatever helps the person run I would say

I ran this race yesterday and enjoyed the scenery but also had 1 ear bud in. I also could carry on a conversation with my running partner. This is a crowded race period. Everyone has their own way to get through a race. You are going to run into all kind of people when you run a race with this many people. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up to run this race. Do I love having to bob and weave around people? No, but it was a great experience and will take that with me. It is personal when you post something like this. This was an accomplishment and you are trying to take away from that. This is just my personal feeling and everyone has the right to their opinion.

I have run without it before,so l know how it feels. I escape in my music. I want to have the only me feeling. I get distracted easily and my music keeps me focused. I think everyone should do what they enjoy,but while being respectful of others. We can’t be quick to judge. I like listening to worship music when I run,reminds me why I run.

I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say that one doesn’t know their true run until one unplugs – everyone is different and they still may be enjoying the scenery and listening to their body in different ways than you do. I live in the Pacific NW so 100% of my runs are surrounded by beauty, mountains, water, etc – I still take it in but I listen to music to help my pace or to rehearse (I’m a singer in musical theatre) If it’s getting in the way of people listening to instructions, I understand that complaint but otherwise, it’s really everyone’s personal choice and we are all out there running.

To say “I firmly believe that one doesn’t know his/her true run until one “unplugs” – there is no secrete there that music makes one run differently.” — is implying that those who run with music aren’t “real runners” which makes your post kinda snooty. Just sayin’ …. 😉

“I almost felt yesterday that it may have been a function of age and one’s running experience. Older runners ran bare as did those whom I’d call seasoned runners.”

I never run races with music. I prefer to take in all the energy around me. Plus I think it can throw off my pacing. I do prefer to train with music, but I don’t use headphones (as long as I’m not in a crowded place) so that I can be aware of my surroundings.

I ran this race yesterday! It was amazing! I should say 1st I run with my iPod. I have it low enough to hear what is going on around me. It was a crowded race but you know that signing up. With that, I loved every second of this race from listening to the national anthem in front of the Washington monument, to running over the bridge seeing Arlington. Just because I listen to music doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate the beauty. I actually came way feeling honored to run in this race. I found a few things annoying/rude but that happens when you get over 17,000 people in one place.. Happy running everyone 🙂

I always run with music. In races I’ll take out one of the earbuds. I’m not inconsiderate, but it’s how I like to run. My choice, my race. Don’t know why anyone would care, life’s too short to be bothered by something so petty.

I cannot run or walk without music. I am new to running. I started to prove to myself that I was capable of something and to help my stress and anxiety. I can’t listen to my feet or breathing over my loud thoughts do music is a must to keep me out of my head. However, my first and only race so far was a runDisney 10k. I had one earbud in to hear my pacing but I never turned the music on! I enjoyed the scenery and the other runners and I was blown away by my lack of need for the music. As soon as I got home I tried to run without it. I didn’t even make it half a mile. So to each their own as long as they are safe and courteous.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I listen to Howard Stern. Because music makes it difficult to use my own pace and also be aware of my surroundings. I have ADHD and Dyslexia. So when I run, my mind wanders and I get bored/distracted very easily. Same thing when i read. It’s a super challenge for me. So when i run, I listen to the classics, look at the views, and have no problem hearing, “Excuse me,” or the stride of someone coming up behind me. I find that if I listen to music, it dictates my pace and I lose steam all too quickly (I love metal). Just because someone is listening to something, doesn’t mean they are tuning out. Running is an individual sport.

Wondering…since I only run with one earbud unless I’m on a treadmill, is there a company that makes runner’s earbuds specifically that way? I always tuck the other one somewhere in my shirt to keep it from flying around, but a one-bud option convertible could be a thought. Hey, maybe I should invent that? 😉

There’s one called OneGood Earbud. I tried it but I ended up sending it back. It made my music sound crappy ( at least it sounded that way to me).

Music motivates me…it moves me…songs help me pace…I am a novice runner and it helps me a lot…I always practice running etiquette with my ear buds in…I even pop one out when I see people…just in case someone is trying to speak….to each it’s own…

I’m not finding anything condescending or elitist. Nor is there judgment on what your true run is. You need to start running more if you’ve never encountered offensive runners. I’ve posted some very supportive things to you in the past, Dawn but I can’t agree with you here. The Cherry Blossom 10 miler is a race event of the senses. One, the rules say no headphones. Ok, many races say no headphones but people do it anyway. Not a big deal. It’s just sad that such a beautiful race seems to be ignored by people who are wearing ear buds. It’s only 10 miles so it’s not like people should need music to survive the run.

I read the post as an editorial on people wearing earphones and not as any directive or condescending remark. Seems as if your judgment of her post is a bit off. Personally I don’t care if people wear earphones or not. I just think people should experience it both ways. Oh and if anyone wears earphones on the Big Sur Marathon then I will judge and say that they officially suck! lol

I find music very motivating and can pump me up when I’m ready to quit.. but overall I have asthma and if i don’t listen to music I focus too much on breathing. There are many different reasons out there for the plugging in I’m sure.

I read all the replies and I held myself from responding. In the end, I decided to reply. Yes, reading my comment back, it is a judgment. I do not deny the value of music in one’s training. I don’t deny that it may not allow one to enjoy the run as much as running unplugged. But I was of the OPINION (perhaps an elitist one at that) that running was a way for, at least, me to take me to MY edge. To find out where that is. Race is a good place to put all of that on the line. Can I go the distance? And by “I” I mean myself, without enhancers. True, here we can argue fueling and hydration as such, but I assume that those are generally accepted as necessary. I think what I appreciated the most in this exchange was that it reminded me that we each have different reasons to run and our races are very individual even if we run together. And it is a good reminder. Thank you!

I must say, I never appreciated the power of running with music before I started setting time goals for myself. I think the race experience is different for everyone. If you are running a race for the experience, then by all means enjoy every second of the scenery. However, if you are going for a PR, a sub 2hr half, or other time goal, it can be very beneficial to shut out distractions and focus on your race. I always try to be aware of those around me, look behind me at water stops/corners, etc, so I don’t cut anyone off or block someone who is trying to pass me. Having ear buds and being totally oblivious to fellow runners is a no-no; but being able to focus is HUGE when you are racing. Just my two cents.

That is why I like triathlons. No listening devices allowed by anyone, period.

I was elbowed in the mouth by a runner who ran past me and was NOT listening to music. There are going to be those types of runners regardless if they are listening to music. I appreciate anyone who can run without music, i am not one of them . There is not a right or wrong way to run. And everyone appreciates races in their own way. Do you judge the elite runners who run so fast that they are not able to enjoy the scenery? They dont have that luxury because these races are their employment. The people who are rude are rude regardless how they run. I run with music and i have it in my right ear so i stay as close the right side. Judge all you want but i try to respect every runner in a race.

I was hit in the forehead passing (on the left) a guy who was so busy talking with his friend that he swung his hand out to point at something and my head got in his way. No headphones, he was too busy talking with his hands on a crowded course. 😉

But i did not get so mad. It happens in a race with a lot of people. I just continued running and had a great race. It is that simple

LOL! I am not an elite runner by far! But if you think about it (and this topic has been broached many times) just about anyone can do a half marathon. This was only 10 miles. But I see your point and that is pretty funny 🙂

I run with both earbuds in if I’m alone, one earbud in if I’m with someone directly. Music keeps me motivated to keep going, and helps me find the power to dig deep. I have absolutely 0 issues with earbuds so long people are still aware of their surroundings (as much as they would be without them). If you wear both ears, just keep it low, or lower/pause when you’re coming up to an intersection/water station. Common sense people, but live and let live. Plenty of “seasoned” runners prefer music too. Those of us who can’t turn our brains off can only relax with some help of the ol’ iPod, and the runs can suffer because of it.

Many people sign up for 13.1 and just walk most of it. Some people get pissed off about that. I don’t care.

People who be on there phones annoy me….maybe because I need every drop of breath to chug along…and I am moving slow! Lol

I don’t see that very often but two years ago, my friend was caught on photo texting on his phone while running the Marine Corps Marathon and finishing in the low 3 hour mark. That was hilarious!

I run with my headphone, but when i am with people i only have one on so i can hear them

I went to pass a lady who had ear buds in and she turned to spit and almost got me. I would’ve announced my intentions to pass her but figured she wouldn’t hear me anyway. Good grief.

I don’t think anyone has to justify the use of music when they run. Most runs say no earphones. I think they would find it hard to police that and would lose needed race fees. The biggest issue is trying to work on courtesy when running in a race or otherwise. There are SO many things that CAN irritate you as a runner, but the POINT of my runs is to focus on getting the minutiae OUT and for me to “better” me. And pretty common sense to take it out of one ear or turn it down or whatever. We are all adults. I think a better post of the day could be about inconsiderate drivers and the potentials there. THAT’S what scares and bugs me! Lol.

I used to run with music all the time, training runs, races etc…but lately I just feel so much better not having my ear phones in. I love my music but the cords and ear plugs annoy the heck out of me! I ran my first marathon with no music and I was so happy I did. I got to enjoy the experience more of interacting….

Well ain’t this is a hot topic. Ha! I understand preference for sure. Most of my friends are all about the music. They all admit that it does hinder them from the overall experience at times but it’s worth it because that’s how they have trained & know how to get through the mileage. Much like treadmill vs road vs trails…it’s still running. Just be smart about how loud your music is playing and be aware of your surroundings. Run on, friends!

Maybe someone could run next to use with a boom box so we didn’t have to wear headphones lol!!

no, not all runners are trying to PB or BQ or PR or XX. Some are, some aren’t. I suppose this is why some races require a qualifying time to enter. But, if you’re not in an elite race environment then you just have to set yourself up better at the start. as far as listening to music and your comment about not being plugged in to have a ‘true’ run. i pretty much think that’s hogwash.

and for those of you that think we can’t hear just because we have earbuds in….then i guess you don’t really know if you don’t wear them. but i can hear all the runners around me, the wind blowing, my feet hitting the pavement…AND my music. It doesn’t drown out all sound…haha

I forgo the ear buds. Better to hear cheering crowds and possible danger anyway. I completely agree with your vent.

I understand people wanting to run with or without music. What I don’t get, is why anyone cares what someone else chooses to do! Live and let live, geez! As has been pointed out in previous comments, inconsiderate people are everywhere, and has absolutely nothing to do with earbuds.

You know what didn’t stand a chance when I plugged in yesterday? My 7 year old PB. If that isn’t an indication of how far I can go as a true runner, then I might as well just give up now.

I’d also like to qualify … there is a difference between being an “elite runner” and making an “elitist” comment. The latter is an act of snobbery and/or making a comment that makes you somehow ‘superior’ (ie, I run without ear buds therefore I am a ‘true runner’). An elite runner is a FAST bad ass! Let’s not confuse the two ….. 😉

I keep them low, barely audible. I have noticed that the lack of communication seems to do more with novice runners than with music. Many new runners just don’t know about runner courtesies. I learned by talking to experienced runners and joining this group, but some people just haven’t learned yet. It seems worse with shorter races and “fun” races (color, mud, etc)

i get the frustration of running over crowded races….but, we don’t need runners turning on each other….the organizers should think about overcrowding when they put these on. I ran the B.A.A 5k a couple years in a row and it was packed, and i had to run around a bunch of novice runners. then the next year i created a strategy to be ahead of them from the start. use obstacles as challenges, not a moment to complain about other runners.

I am seriously annoyed by the half marathoners who walk the course. Okay when there is an injury then walk, if you are disabled walk, but I see hundreds and thousands walk and I just want to yell, “this is a race!” “Act like it!’

I don’t mind the walkers, what I do mind is when they start in a low corral near the front – with a double jog stroller, surrounded by friends that also have strollers.

At least those folks are moving, but still try.

Ok everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we should be able to write how we really feel but not sure what walking a half marathon has to do with wearing headphones during a race?? I don’t wear them anymore only for the simple fact that the cords get tangled and start to annoy me and make funny noises in my ears.

As long as we’re onto pet peeves now… I get really annoyed when groups of friends walk or run 3-4 people wide and make everyone run around them.

Unfortunately for one reason or another I ended up having to use Jeff Galloways Run/Walk method for my 1st Half marathon a few weeks ago. Better than not doing it at all. Thanks!

For some people it is exercise or maybe they are doing it in honor of someone? As long as they are out there you gotta be happy for them well I know I am

I have attended and ran a lot of races … most crowded. I live in the mountains and have a lot of pretty places to run up here. I always run to music be it a 5k, 10k, 10 mile, 13.1 or 26.2. I zone out and really don’t care what the other people at the race are doing. The only person that I worry about is myself and doing the best that I can do. I have not walked during a race but if people need to walk or walk an entire race then so be it… I am in it because I love the run… be it with music or no music .. and will support anyone that is off the couch trying and pushing to better them selves.

sorry, its my personal choice to run with my earbud on, doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the scenery, and amazing people around me…call me not real runner. its fine with me…I just run race with good attitude that’s all. 🙂

I have Muscular Dystrophy and I’ve been training the Galloway run/walk method for a year. I always start towards the end and stay off to the side so I’m not in the way. One bud in and music low so I’m aware of my surroundings. We’re all trying and that’s ALL that matters.

Novice or not, wearing headphones is a personal preference. Music distracts me from the fact that I’ve got miles to go before I’m done. I’m not being rude or ignoring people; just my strategy for finishing. 10 miles might be the longest run yet for some…. Let them have it the way they want.

I disagree that people shouldn’t run with music. Just because I have music on my ipod doesn’t mean I am not aware of my surroundings. It might be helping someone who runs slow (10 min miles or worse) get to the end of a race and feel good that they finished.

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