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A seasonal confession

Comments (6)
By Peter Hadzipetros

Forgive me Pre for I have sinned. In thought, word and deed. Indeed.

You know that I have always been a purist, boosting my meager athletic abilities with nothing but guts and determination. The sight of someone ahead of me and the sounds of my breathing, my thumping heart and my feet pounding the pavement have been all I've ever wanted or needed to push myself in this wonderful sport we call running.

Well, Pre, I have let you down.

Lately, I have taken to sharing those most intimate limit-pushing moments with the likes of Bob Marley, Annie Lennox, Bruce Springsteen and, yes, even Frank Zappa. You see, I recently came into one of those top-selling personal digital audio devices — a few of which also have video capabilities — and, I must say, I am somewhat hooked.

Now, it's not something I sought out. Past experience has not been very positive. It was very tough way back in the late 70s carrying music on your daily run. Those boom boxes had great sound, but they came at the expense of weight.

Even portable CD players were a bit of a nuisance. It's tough to change discs while you're trying to crank out four-minute kilometres.

But those new-fangled top-selling personal digital audio devices? You could run from Toronto to Winnipeg and not exhaust your music library.

Throw in that partnership with that multinational running shoe company and you've got a top-selling personal digital audio device that tracks your workout. Tells you how far you've gone and how fast you're going — or how far off your pace you are. You can even go online and compare your performance to your friends'.

You can be sure there will be a lot of both of those devices under the Christmas trees of homes inhabited by addicted runners. The ranks of the purists are thinning out.

But, Pre, you can rest assured that the bodies that oversee this wonderful sport of running do have the purity of the sport at heart. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) forbids the "possession or use of video or cassette recorders, radios, CD, radio transmitters, mobile phone or similar devices in the arena." It's right there under article 2d.

There's been a huge debate south of the border. Last month, delegates to the U.S.A. Track and Field convention debated the issue. Some folks are worried that the ban would drive away recreational runners — the ones who actually pay the bills for these races.

Very few American races have enforced the ban. One — the Twin Cities Marathon — disqualified 176 runners for wearing headphones. Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, says it will confiscate such devices in the starting area and arrange to mail them back to their owners.

It's partly an insurance issue, they say. If Bono is blasting your brain, you probably won't hear some race official telling you to stop because the course has been washed out.

On this side of the border, the Ottawa Marathon says it abides by IAAF rules — but doesn't actively go after people with headphones.

The folks who run the Toronto International Marathon "strongly recommend you do not wear iPods, walkmans, or similar devices which inhibit your ability to hear surrounding sounds."

Pre, I promise I won't wear my brand new top-selling personal digital audio device (which may have video capability) in any marathon. Wearing one would make it hard to hear the bands that race organizers have persuaded to come out to play early on a Sunday morning. It would also make it hard to hear those college kids hanging out on their dorm house porches yelling out "only 20 miles to go!"

I am a purist, after all. Well, mostly a purist.

Pre, I have another confession to make. The weather's been pretty seasonal lately — lots of snow and cold temperatures. The sidewalks have been in pretty bad shape. And it's really slushy, too.

I've taken to staying indoors more and more. Made friends with a treadmill. And I've brought Bob and Annie and Bruce and even Frank along for the ride.

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Comments (6)

Brian

Calgary

Luckily I'm in front of most of the earbud-wearers in a race, but I deal with them all the time on the pathways, whether I'm going for a run, or when I bike to/from work. In Calgary it's a bylaw to have a bell on a bike on the pathway, but that doesn't help if people can't hear it (it's obvious when you ring the bell then get the startled look or exclamation after passing). Between IPOD-wearers and dog walkers with 30-foot leashes, the pathways are a gauntlet.

Posted January 9, 2008 05:22 PM

Jim

Timmins

Upon further consideration...
I may have been to hasty in my comments. I just came back from Xmas/New Years holiday in the states. The 30hr trek from Timmins to St.Pete's with 8 close friends-4runners, was broken up by stays (and runs) in Hamilton and Chattanoga. In Florida, the 4 of us entered the "Blizzard Bash Run" - a very well organized 5K in Tampa Bay. The two things that stuck out were the non-blizzard weather (80F and sunny at post time), and the numbers of runners with personal music devices. At least half of the 240 runners had some type of music. For the first time, I will say that they were an annoyance bordering on dangerous, and discourteous. Many times I had to take the grass or the street to pass people. I don't know if they were all listening to Micheal Bolton, or the calming stylings of Zamfir's pan flute, but they were a pain.

Posted January 8, 2008 08:00 AM

Adeel

Toronto

Some folks are worried that the ban would drive away recreational runners — the ones who actually pay the bills for these races.

That's not true. Running was a healthy sport long before "recreational runners" (presumably code for "slow") entered the picture. Races weren't as big, but there's a lot more to running than the size of marathon fields.

Posted December 31, 2007 12:23 AM

gord

mississauga

We've missed you the last couple of weekends. A snow storm with a compimentary exfoliation when running east and pouring rain at 5 degrees C which was even tougher. Those pounds you talked about losing in the summer were added on in water absorption this weekend. Get those plugs out of your ears and get back out on those roads where you belong. You need those character builders. Got any Kool and the Gang on that music maker?

Posted December 23, 2007 06:20 PM

Robert Long

USA

It never ceases to amaze me that some people can't understand the hazards associated with runners who wear headphones during races. In addition to not being able to hear instructions from race officials (which might have prevented some of the problems at this year's Chicago marathon), runners wearing headphones have tripped other runners during races because they were unaware of these peoples' proximity to them and have gone off course in a few cases. Making light of these issues is a bit of a disservice to your readers. Also, recreational runners do not 'pay the bills for these races' as you put it.

Posted December 21, 2007 10:48 AM

Jim

Timmins

Peter, Peter, Peter...
I would have thought you were more old-school jazz/fusion/rock....Gentle Giant, Genesis, ELP etc. I have no problem with anyone listening to music, just dont get in my way, and when (if) i pass you dont freak out. Personally, I cant do it-I love music, and the music I listen to should have me at 3:30 Km's. I guess I have so little rhythm that there is no way I can concentrate on two things at one time (other than Left and Right). Although, whenever I jump on my Bike, I'll go hours with music in my ears. To each their own, and like music taste, everyone is different. I think if Pre was here today, he'd have soundgarden and pearl jam on at 11 as he passes mile after mile.

Posted December 20, 2007 10:01 PM

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