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There’s no question that music can be a powerful motivator when we run. The beats of a favorite track can keep us going when we want to stop, or help us kick into high gear near the end of a hard run. Striking the ground in sync with a song’s rhythm can elicit bursts of endorphins in the brain, giving us that wonderful feeling known, appropriately, as the “runner’s high.”

But wait. Consider a race environment: hundreds, if not thousands, of people moving through a city park, down narrow streets, or on tight paths just a few feet wide. In those situations, headphones pose a significant safety hazard. What’s more, they can cost a lead runner the win.

Here’s why: When you’re wearing headphones, you often hear just one thing — the music. You don’t hear the people around you or those approaching from behind. On a single-loop or straight-path course, this can lead to runners colliding with one another because they’re deaf to the sounds of footsteps and breathing that might have kept them moving in a straight line.

On a multi-loop course, people in the front of the pack are often weaving through the back of the pack after they finish their first loop. This requires careful maneuvering and the ability to communicate with other runners — “Coming through!” or “On your right!” If a runner does not hear someone approach from behind, they might make a move to obstruct that runner’s path, or else fail to move out of they way when the approaching runner announces they’re coming. In close races, this can mean the difference between a win and second place. More universally, it can cost any runner a new PR.

This is why we strongly discourage headphones in our races, and in some cases, even forbid them. It’s not to deprive the runners of that infectious, motivating power of music, but simply to ensure a safe environment for everyone in a given race — from the lead runner to the last one across the finish line. We sincerely appreciate your cooperation.