As much as I loved last weekend's Pittsburgh Half Marathon, there is one thing that continues to irk me about crowded races - the inconsiderate people with headphones. I know this post is going to ruffle some feathers, but in large, really crowded races I think headphones should not just be discouraged but banned.
Other than on the treadmill I've never been a fan of running with music, but I get why people want to. I'm not opposed to training with music or even using iPods or phones during a small race. But in the last month I've done two very crowded races, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in DC and the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. The Cherry Blossom race prohibited headphones even though I did see some people with them. Fortunately there were way fewer people with headphones at that race.
First off a runner should never EVER be talking on their phone during the race. It's bad enough that I have to listen to your private conversation while I'm waiting in line at the bank, post office, store, insert other waiting location here. But shouldn't a race be the one time where you can be unreachable? To the guy who was weaving back and forth over the West End Bridge in Pittsburgh talking on his cell phone - I wanted to punch you in the face. As I was trying to pass him he kept cutting me off. Of course he didn't know I was there because he had headphones on and was oblivious to his surroundings. The course was so crowded that there wasn't a lot of room to pass. I finally got around him and shot him a dirty look. Of course he was too busy on the phone to notice.
During the race I was bumped HARD by several runners with headphones - they were just not paying attention. I find it disheartening that as a society we are so obsessed with being distracted that runners are unable to unplug for a few hours to run a race. Unlike a lot of races where the energy level is low, Pittsburgh was rocking the entire time. There was plenty to see and hear along the way. I feel sorry for the people who were listening to music - they missed an amazing experience.
I think these crowded races should just ban headphones period. There are few feelings better than taking in the crowd, the atmosphere and energy of a race. I would encourage runners to unplug, enjoy your run. Your soul will thank you.