Suffice it to say, most people would prefer to listen to music during a race than go without. That’s not a surprise: music can make time seem to fly by, whereas going without can force a runner to spend more time inside his or her own head. For some runners, that’s exactly the point of running a race music-free. Especially when the race is conducted in a natural environment like a mountain trail. Isn’t nature worth listening to?
But as with everything, there are pros and cons to keeping the headphones firmly affixed to your ears.
First, be sure to check in with the race organizers. Once upon a time, most marathon rules required runners to go without headphones. It was especially important for races conducted in major metropolitan areas where a single mistake could be fatal. Organizers might also need to pass on important information, a much more difficult task when runners aren’t actually listening to anything except Lady Gaga.
Running a marathon absent headphones also makes more sense from a traditional etiquette point of view. You want to be able to hear runners who are about to pass you. If you’re too busy listening to your music, then you might impede the flow of race and infuriate competitive runners at the same time. Not a great idea. Fights have been known to break out for this exact reason.
Of course, marathon rules have become much more relaxed over time. There’s a good chance your race won’t ask you to remove headphones before you start. But even when headphones aren’t outright banned during a race, you might consider removing them anyway.
Studies have shown that running without music can improve self-awareness and decrease the opportunity for injury. Besides, if you’re running through a quiet forest or along a mountain ridge, then why not listen to the natural environment around you? It can be a great chance for self-reflection in an otherwise hectic world.
Should you choose to run with music, it’s smart to leave one earbud out so you can still hear most of what’s going on around you.
Music can be beneficial as well, according to a number of studies. If you’re a fan of the song to which you’re listening, it can elevate your performance. This is especially true if you’ve curated a playlist specifically for running. Music streaming services often provide playlists that you might like, so it could be worth checking them out. Be sure to scrutinize every song selection and delete the ones you don’t enjoy. They will slow you down.