Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Take a close look at this shot of one Jennifer Goebels running in a the Lakefront marathon in Milwaukee,U.S.A.  She was the second woman to cross the line but elevated to first place as the original winner was disqualified for accepting water from a friend outside the official water station point.  Then Ms. Goebels herself was disqualified.......can you detect why?   Check out the white earphones dangling down from inside her vest just below her number.  Yes, she was disqualified for using her ipod violating a USA Track and Field rule which  applied to elite athletes.
(Apparently it was a complete ban on all runners but then changed)  With a PB of 2.52, she ran 3.02 on the day, she had "signed up" to this rule as had the original winner about taking "unofficial" drinks.
 Her view of course was that if she was to be disqualified so should everyone who used music devices. She said she actually only tuned in between 19 and 21 miles when she became bored!  The argument is that if the music is so essential  to completing the event then it is a performance enhancing aid.
 You can imagine,  post race comments were divided between those who said that the women should have stuck to the rules and those who said  bo******! Sorry, balderdash!
   The pros and cons of using ipods whilst training has been well discussed.  Relieving bordom when running solo balanced against the dangers of traffic, being mugged, damage to ears etc.
I occasionally use the ipod when jogging around a grass 1/2 mile circuit before and after hard races  and on traffic free, rain sodden trail runs like today.  But I wouldn't dream of using one in a race itself.  
   At Wilmslow on Sunday, spectating the event whilst running along with the mid to back markers I was amazed by the number linked up to a device.  I would say it was the majority.   Can you imagine the scene if they had all been stopped just before finishing on Sunday and told they were disqualified!
No, I personally have always liked to interact with my fellow competitors whilst racing.  Probably more so now. Certainly in the recent Blackpool and Haweswater half races,  the younger runners seemed to enjoy a bit of banter and cajoling to keep us all going.  None of which they would have heard with ear phones in.
Even when racing at my best I was always a bit vocal which admittedly could tend to annoy some in the group. If I felt we were reeling in a group of slowing runners I might say, "I see death ahead" or if feeling good at half way I might say, "OK, joke over, let's start racing!" or "let's go get 'em!"  
  There was no sign of earphones at the sharp end on Sunday but even around the 7 minute mile pace they start to become evident.  If I overtake someone linked to an ipod  in a race now I'm afraid I can't resist saying, "What you listening to?"  Whatever they answer, I'll then say,  "You want to switch to something faster!"  Before pulling away!  You just have to hope they don't take the advice and come tearing past later!
  To conclude I think in major traffic free races if runners want to isolate themselves from the full atmosphere of the event then it's up to them. Just as long as they have listened at the start to any relevant instructions and  hold a strict straight racing line as they are unaware of overtaking runners.
   Ipods, help or hindrance?   Ban them for elite runners but OK or others? Where would you draw the line?  Will we see civil disobedience on the roads in England soon if a ban comes in? What do you think?


  1. Wow--that's the first time I have ever heard of the rule actually being enforced. Very interesting. I don't get the whole need for ipods myself--it seems to me that if you need them to get through runs, then you probably don't like running all that much in the first place. I am always amazed at races when I see the vast majority of people using them. I think that if you ban them for elites, ban them for everyone.

  2. Another interesting point brought up Terry.

    I have read on some entry forms that they are disallowed during the race. I can see why they need to do this, which is probably so that you can hear any instructions that may be given. This is a clear safety issue and nobody should argue with that. This may be a case of their insurers demanding it rather than the race organisers themselves. I personally don't use them at all. This is because running is kind of a mental therapy for me and I would not want to spoil this by playing music. As for myself and others racing with them(if it was allowed), I would certainly not consider it performance enhancing - far from it. I think it would just put me off and slow me down, even if it was a recording of some top class coach shouting in my ear. I can't imagine that any world records will ever get broken by someone with an ipod. If this ever happens that will be the day when they will be banned. I do hope that the athletic bodies sort out some clear rules on it.