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Darker nights, safer runners: the music debate


Posted by Cags R under Running on 5 November 2013 at 12:00 AM

Last month, we went through some of your top recommendations for staying bright at night and now that the clocks have gone back an hour, it's the time to make sure you're keeping safe in the darker evening.

It's not just staying bright that's important when training in the dark, research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore released in January this year suggests that the number of accidents involving pedestrians wearing headphones increased by 300% in the last 6 years - with 70% of these resulting in fatalities.

Running with music

There's a correlation between number of traffic collisions with pedestrians and the increased popularity of auditory technologies with headphones. The combination of reduced visibility at night and impaired aural awareness caused by wearing headphones will put you at a higher risk of having an accident on the roads.

Join the I Run To No Music Tribe which was founded by Peter M and see if your running can improve as well as your safety!

But how does music actually influence your running? There are some really interesting points raised in Tamara A's question which reveals how - although music is a great motivator - it could be holding back your running progress:

Laura L"I HATE running without my iPod.  When I run crazy races like the Warrior Dash and Zombie Runs, I can't wear it because of the water and mud :(  Then, all I hear is my shallow breathing and think I am dying.  Sure, I like listening to the conversations of other runners, but there's too much time with nothing but my own breathing.  Yuck.  I definitely run slower without it." - Laura L

Laura's not alone, using music to drown out the sound of running is a common reason runners choose to run with music, but here's 3 reasons this could be hindering your running:

  1. Connecting your steps with your breathing is a great way to pace yourself - drowning out the sound of your breathing with music may be detrimental to pacing yourself.

  2. Listening to the sound of your steps can tell you a lot about your running, if your foot falls are getting louder, it's a sign that you're getting more tired and your form is stuggling. Poor form is one of the leading causes of injury to runners.

  3. Pick your playlists wisely - if you really want to run with music, use it to help pace yourself and make sure you're listening to consistent beats, otherwise your splits will vary with the tempo of your music.

Do you think you can go a month of running with no music? Take the Challenge and see if you notice a difference in your running performance!


Need a little more convincing? We want to help you stay safe and be seen when out on a run, cycling or just training in the dark. That's why we're giving away one Petzl Zipka Plus 2 headlamp. It's adjustable, lightweight and - as an added bonus - runs on batteries that you can pick up from a regular shop which won't break the bank! So take the Challenge and you'll be in for the chance of winning the headlamp.

Petzl Zipka Plus 2

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    I have put away my iPod since I made the conscious decision not to run with it during my first marathon on October 13. I loved soaking in the atmosphere of the big run, and felt more connected to my fellow runners and the crowd. I think it is also more respectful to the run, listening to the volunteers and thanking them at the drink stations. I also find that I can concentrate on my running technique, cadence and lower my breathing rate without music. I tend to fluctuate too much with the different tempo and rhythm of music tracks, which adversely affects my running. I can't seem to hit a rhythm with my running, when the rhythm of the music takes over! At night time, it is safer, the five senses are all important and if you can't see as well as night, you at least need to be able to hear!


    “ Music, DOES work for some. It makes the workout, a bit more fun & enjoyable...while taking the mind off the pressure & fatigue that one may feel....while running. However, listening to music, does have its setbacks. Though we may have 5 senses...only 3 are primarily used, while running : Sight, Hearing & Feel/Touch ( we feel the terrain, under our feet, as we run ). With headphones in our ears, or awareness is reduced by 1third%....making danger, a stronger reality. I've trained myself, to run without music....especially on the roads. Its just not safe. Without the music, not only would I hear my physical surroundings better....but my breathing & the sound of my feet.....pounding the pavement....which I can quickly adjust, accordingly. If I must listening to music....I'll run with my cellphone & let the music play, through the phone's speakers. This Tribesports Athlete, is better off safe, than sorry! "


    I usually listen to music when I work out, including the treadmill, but when running on actual ground, no. Overall, I perform better on ground than treadmill with or without music, but I am so much better off without it. I do, however run with my Kindle in a tight pocket with earbuds in as part of a training program app where a woman's voice periodically says to either walk or run. Easier than trying to keep track on my own and one less thing to focus on.


    @jamesg5 - I agree, banning music in events is just unnecessary, events would be one of the safer environments to listen to music IMO as there's no traffic to think about. In regards to music in the gym/treadmill, I find external music motivating whereas headphones cut me off from the activity

    encouraged this.


    I am going to give this a try, generally I train with music. Recently when I ran the Berlin Marathon due to a last minute mix up I was at the start without my earphones, so ran without music, which was cool as I really got a feeling for the atmosphere. Seeing the comments here I will try without music especially if it is going to improve performance and ultimately my times.


    I have odd shaped ear holes (no laughing please :-) ) - the result is that any earphone ends up falling out of my right ear after about 10K, which is annoying and definitely must be taking my concentration away from my cadence. So I can completely identify with your comment Cags :-)


    I run with music, and Zombie, Run!, as I get bored - if the statistics are true, it means that a lot of runners are running in area where there's a lot of traffic, and are crossing lanes all of a sudden, oblivious to approaching vehicles. I always check many times before crossing a street, I just do not dart out all of a sudden from the sidewalk Maybe it's the drivers that should be educated, it happened twice to me that a car turned right in front of me, practically on my toes (I could not resist, I slammed a fist in the back of the car, the first time), and in both cases it was a bright, sunny morning


    Safety above all if running (or cycling!!) through streets with a lot of traffic. Yes, free choice... but please also consider the driver that hits you when you run out in front of them without looking. Just be extra concious you may be absorbed in your workout and the music and not pay as much attention to the traffic (while most runners are careful - sadly the statistics show that many aren´t). Although, many drivers do need educating and consideration for other road users. But even if not your fault, in car vs. pedestrian ->my bet goes on the car. Hope you put a dent in that car Giorgio :p A small reminder to that driver to pay attention to other road users. Had to jump out of the way just the other day as a car decided to take a small corner at high speed and drove up onto the curb where I was walking. Didn´t get to kick the car but sure made my feelings known to him as he was driving away.

    encouraged this.


    @ingridr - total agree re: cycling - I am still baffled at people who cycle on the road with headphones in, you may as well wear a blindfold too! I don't know at what point pedestrians and runners stopped using "stop, look, listen, live" but on a daily basis I see people step out into roads without looking properly because they don't hear me on my bike - add headphones on the pedestrian and it results in A LOT of emergency stops!!

    Stephen C and Neil P encouraged this.


    I don't think banning headphones is necessary as long as one stays vigilant.... females was when we're not paying attention to our surroundings that bad things even if you not wearing headphones vigilance is still matter what you're doing

    encouraged this.


    I've never run with headphones in and never will, it would be too much of a distraction for me and I was almost run over earlier this year by somebody pulling out of their driveway without looking, fortunately not having headphones in meant I reacted far quicker than I would have done with music playing in my ears. I would never run wearing headphones at an organised event either, I find the crowds to be more of a motivation than anything else and I've run two events this year on behalf of a charity, they go out of their way to cheer people on and give support on the route and I believe it would be disrespectful to shut myself away whilst they are cheering me on. I certainly wouldn't have been able to listen to music during the obstacle races, an ipod would not have survived! :)


    “ Well said, Neil ( athlete after my own heart ). I just can't see myself running on the streets, with headphones. At an organised event.....a definite NO NO. Safety & well-being, always remains the ATHLETE's responsibility....not the race organizers.( even though they still do what they can, to ensure an incident free event ) Else they would not ask us to sign waivers, before participating in any road running events. Either play your music through your device's own speakers....or plug in your headphones & hit the treadmill. Never compromise your safety & well-being....for a moment of comfort or what I say! "

    Stephen C and Neil P encouraged this.


    Lol! Thanks James. But I should clarified & mentioned , if you're doing a solo run or out training on your own. ( Notice I mentioned treadmill, in the comment too ) Of course you won't play music like that, during an event. That's even worse than the headphone issue! "


    I run with music when I'm not with my other half and during daylight hours only. I am always aware of any traffic, probably more so, because I know I can't hear it. I wouldn't run with music though if it was dark, I want to know if anyone is coming up behind me!! The tempo of music I think can push me more depending on what is playing. Example, The Prodigy!! My biggest mistake music wise whilst running, even though I enjoy their music, was having Joy Division singing Walk In Silence!! I don't recommend lol.

    Stephen C and Neil P encouraged this.


    I find that running to music makes the runs more enjoyable, but what I do is I have the volume low. The songs I listen to I "know" so I can keep the volume down and when outside noise (cars, breathing, whatever) overrides the song my brain fills in the song. I like to think this gives me the best of both worlds. However all that aside I make "being vigilant" part of my running game, I keep an eye out all the time for bikes and cars even in driveways. Every car I go close to I view as possibly moving. Even then I have had close calls too, a car ran a red light once when I was crossing and had I not been eyeing that car and noticing it wasn't slowing down as it approached the intersection who knows..I actually reverse and got well out of the way. Be safe out there! As an earlier post implies, it doesn't matter who is right or wrong.. the rules of Physics says the car wins the argument every time.

    encouraged this.


    I run with music because it honestly keeps me from getting bored which makes me want to turn around and go home. I keep the volume low and I run during the day in well lit areas. I also tend to run mostly on sidewalks so I'm not actually on the road. If a car hits me on the pavement then I think music or no, I was meant to get hit. If I do venture into an area with no sidewalk, I take one ear bud out. I also only wear one ear bud when I'm with my running group. If I strike up a conversation, I take the headphones out completely.

    Neil P encouraged this.


    The idea behind the article is totally right. Running, at the speed an exertion levels where the people who use headphones run, has to feel easy and you should not have any type of issue with your breath. Any. You shouldn't even have to mention "breath" in relation to running at this level. IF you have issues or even notice your breath and IF you need to have something to keep your focus away from what you are doing, this means that you are definitely DOING IT WRONG. Period. And when we are talking about exercise, doing it wrong means INJURY. Add your own safety and the safety of other to the equation and recall that the streets are not for you alone.


    I have been running for over 10 years now and have never used earphones. There is so much going on inside my head which i find to be much more interesting. Besides i have never been a big music fan ( weird eh ? )

    Cags R encouraged this.

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