Apr 2016 16

Running & headphones

By: Dave Wheeler

British Athletics has just introduced a rule change to races held on roads in the UK.

From 1st April 2016 the wearing of headphones (other than medically prescribed ones) will not be permitted on any race held on single carriageway roads in the UK.

It's a sensible change, and one that's worth considering if you run on roads or pavements in your training.

I know a lot of people like to listen to their favourite music whilst they run - it can help the miles pass.

But getting "lost in the music" isn't necessarily a good thing, your hearing is an important sense when it comes to alerting you to danger.


Running in urban areas

If you're running around Hitchin, Letchworth or any built up area, you're going to need to cross roads - even if you're running the local Greenway, there are still plenty of times when you have to navigate roads... some busy, some less so.

If you're running in your own little world with a soundtrack to your running, you're more likely to step out in front of a car without having checked properly - it's human nature to get lost in the music!


Running in countryside

If you're lucky enough to be able to run in the countryside, then it's perhaps even more important to be able to hear that car coming round the bend, so that you can get out of the road in time.


The research on wearing listening to music

I'm not aware of any research specifically on runners who listen to music and car accidents. But back in 2012 the professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr Lichtenstein, carried out research on the accident rate of pedestrians generally who wore headphones and listened to music.

The study looked only at fatalities and found that you're 3 times more likely to be killed when listening to music and walking along the road or roadside than if you're not. Lichtenstein called the lack of ability to hear oncoming vehicles, "sensory deprivation".

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) recommends remaining aware of your surroundings if you're a pedestrian - whether you're walking or running.


Personally, I prefer either to nose in other people's gardens & through their living room windows, or to take in the view of the countryside that I'm running through. I'm with UK Athletics in recommending that you don't wear headphones if roads are involved in your run.,