Running Bug Forums Debates and polls Headphones at races

  • Headphones at races

     Richard Woodfield updated 4 years ago 3 Members · 6 Posts
  • andyp9

    April 29, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Most events ban headphones on safety grounds because you can’t hear marshall instructions.

    Some events will allow bone conducting headphones (e.g AfterShokz) with the reasoning being you can still hear a marshall

    So on that basis. Why don’t running events make any specific arrangements for deaf runners?

    My wife is deaf. She can’t hear anything a marshall says while she’s running yet not once has a race entry form asked about hearing loss

    So if headphones are banned specifically because you can’t hear a marshall. Why don’t they make any provision for the safety of deaf runners?

    P.s I’m asking as I’m curious. I never wear headphones during a race myself

  • Richard Woodfield

    April 29, 2020 at 11:35 am

    Andy – as sensory impairments – hearing, sight etc – are very specific to the individual I’d have thought that, realistically, in the first instance it was probably down to the individual runner to raise issue and discuss as necessary with race organiser. I recall that most online race entry forms do have a section on health asking about any medical conditions race organisers should be aware of…? Is your wife accompanied on races by a friend or does she wear a running top indicating she has a hearing impaired? 

  • andyp9

    April 29, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    I’d agree it’s up to the individual if they wanted specific adjustments to be made. 

    For example, if the race briefing is going to be particularly important for some reason then she’d get in touch and ask for something printing

    my point here though is if the race rules are saying “you can’t wear headphones because you won’t be able to hear”. If they are that crucial then surely they should be actively finding out if any participants can’t hear so they can keep those people safe too?

    In terms of the health section on the race form, they aren’t using it for that. It’s for emergencies. They store it in the event of needing it. They don’t do anything with it beforehand. My wife always fills that out to say she is deaf. Nothing else happens with it. 

    Is she accompanied on races? It’s the same as anyone else. Sometimes she’ll go on her own, sometimes she’ll go with me or friend. Those people may run difference paces though so not really of any use from a safety point of view

    In terms of the running top indicating she’s deaf. We’ve had many conversations about this. 
    From a practical point of view yes it would be the best thing. But for it to be useful it would have to be really visible so a marshal could see it quickly and easily amongst potentially hundreds of runners at larger events. From a personal point of view she’s not overly keen running with something that broadcasts “I’M DEAF” to everyone (the ins and outs of that are a whole other thing)

    My personal view on it is that if being able to hear the marshal is so important that headphones are banned then they should have a tick box on the race entry form to indicate that person may not be able to hear. Then the bib should have something indicates to all marshals, have the corners of the bib a solid colour for example. They do this with bibs all the time to indicate runners doing different distances in the race for example

  • andyp9

    April 29, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Just in terms of getting in touch for specific adjustments

    My wife sometimes does triathlons. 
    In short events that are in a pool she can’t hear the starter or the safety briefing. For those events she will always get in touch beforehand and on the day to make sure they know that she’s deaf. Even more important with water!
    For example, she’ll ask to have some one touch her shoulder to start instead of whistle, gun, shout, etc

    My point with this post really is when a race has specific rules that say you can’t do something to impair your hearing, why don’t they do anything about people who already can’t hear

  • sharnie1

    April 29, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    The original reason for banning headphones at races actually comes from performance gains listening to faster or tempo music can give, and the fact that for the lead runners they can be used to gain info about how far ahead or behind competitors are, hence the original bans by UK athletics following the lead from the US.  I’m not sure precisely when the more common misconception of “it’s for safety reasons” crept in – perhaps to make the ban more acceptable to the masses, though it does make some sense from a safety point of view.

  • Richard Woodfield

    April 29, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Another angle (just thinking aloud) is that I would guess that being highly alert to possible danger and behaving in ways to minimise risk would become the default setting for a runner with a substantial hearing impaired.  Whereas in contrast I’m sure we’ve all come across countless runners wearing headphones who are totally in their own world and apparently oblivious to anything going on around them. Having a load of such runners taking part in a road race open to traffic is clearly “a bad thing” froms safety angle.

    You know the kind of road races on semi closed roads or quiet roads where an occasional car goes past and runners up ahead or behind shout “car” as a warning? I’m guessing in that kind of situation your wife would not position herself on the outside of the stream of runners where she would be most vulnerable to getting clipped by a passing car.  So it could well be that sensible risk avoidance behaviour of that kind could largely compensate for any additional risk in not being able to hear marshals out on the course?

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