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Can I Wear Headphones in Races?

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Updated February 25, 2013

Question: Can I Wear Headphones in Races?
I'm running a half marathon and I want to listen to music during the race. Are headphones allowed in races?
Answer: While the use of headphones used to be officially banned in many races, over the years, the rules have been relaxed. In 2008, the U.S. Track & Field (USATF) -- the governing body for long-distance running and track & field in the United States -- amended their rule banning headphones and other music playing devices at all USATF-sanctioned running events. The USATF's rule previously had banned the use of headphones by all runners. Now it limits the ban to "those competing in Championships for awards, medals, or prize money."

Despite the official change, many race directors still discourage use of headphones and personal music devices during races for safety reasons. If you're listening to music during a race, you may not be able to hear instructions from race officials and other runners on the course. One of the basic rules of racing etiquette is that you can hear others, so you can move out of the way or stop, when necessary.

The other warning about wearing headphones during a race is that you'll miss out on a lot of the race excitement. You won't be able to listen to bands, hear people cheering, or talk to other runners. There's also a chance that your music listening device could stop working during your race, so it's important that you don't get totally dependent on it.

If you need your music to stay motivated or beat boredom during the race, try using it on a low volume or with one earbud out, so you can still hear.

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