Earphones while you run – your opinions!

The people have spoken; the runners are listening!

The people have spoken; the runners are listening!

Do you listen to music, radio, podcasts or other audio while you run?

As someone who doesn’t wear earphones while running, I’ve been curious about whether I’m in a minority or majority.

And so I put the above question in an online poll so that I could survey the august followers of this blog and its Twitter account.

Thanks for your responses and for the fascinating comments (below in italics) you left on the poll site, Twitter and elsewhere.


Yes, I’m in a minority – or as I like to think of it for the sake of my ego, a ‘select and exclusive group’.

64% of people who took the poll wear earphones either always or sometimes while running, with almost an even split between those two groups. Only 36% said that they never wear them.

(The readership and Twitter followers of this blog are a mix of marathon runners, beginners, club members, bootcampers, parkrunners and more. I have seen sub-3:30 marathon runners wearing earphones in races and beginners not wearing earphones in the park, so I’m not assuming a strong correlation between running level and earphone-wearing.)

I’d always advise against wearing earphones while running – I’ll get to the reasons later. First, though, why do runners wear earphones?

Earphones in!

Motivational music must be a big factor. Even the record companies have seen this, by bringing out compilations designed for runners. Could this be the influence of the gym workout environment, where high-energy beats are pumping up the adrenaline?

I know of some runners who listen to podcasts or talk radio on their long runs. The Sunday morning run might be a rare occasion for these people to have some alone time away from the pressures of commuting, work and noisy households, so they catch up on their favourite radio shows.

Also common is listening as a distraction from the rigours or tedium of running:

Can’t tolerate my heavy breathing if I don’t listen to music 🙂 (Sinéad)

However, listening can be an intrinsic part of your running if you’re using a training app like Couch to 5k, which have been a great support for many people:

Always headphones but just to hear my run keeper updates no music (Julie)

Earphones out!

As I said above, I never wear earphones and I’d advise other runners not to wear them either.

The main reason for me is that I find it more relaxing and stimulating to run without them. If you run in the country or by the sea, surely the natural, ambient soundscape is as invigorating as the fresh air and scenery.

Also, if I’m training I like to travel light and focus on the job in hand. If you’re busy listening to music, you might be distracted from your effort, your posture and your times. What if I decide I want to skip to the next track, or if my earphones are uncomfortable, or if I drop my MP3 player? The less extra fiddly stuff with me on my run, the better.

Perhaps safety is the main argument against wearing earphones while running. No matter where you run, you need to be able to hear what’s happening around you – and what’s coming towards you. In a race you need to be alert for ambulances and police motorbikes coming through the course in an emergency. I’ve seen earphone-wearing competitors having to be physically dragged out of the way of a course vehicle beeping the horn furiously behind them. Marathon organisers are now trying to discourage competitors from listening to devices during the race.

While training, on pavements you have pedestrians, dogs, pushchairs, rogue cyclists, other runners (a greater danger than you might think) and cars pulling out of blind driveways. Even in parks you have people, pets and vehicles around you. On country roads where you share with traffic, it’s essential to hear an oncoming motor:

Never, because drivers here in Washington are terrible and it’s dangerous. (Paul)

Whatever about wearing earphones while you’re training, you’d be mad to wear them during a marathon:

Always for training never during a race! (Brona)

Wear earphones during a marathon or other race and you miss the point of running in a public event. The race-day atmosphere is electrifying: the buzz of excitement at the start, the swarm-of-locusts drone of feet over tarmac, and especially the cheering of crowds. It strikes me as absurd for a runner to listen to music for motivation while all around you are crowds of people cheering you on! As a marathon spectator, I’ve given up cheering on runners with earphones on – what’s the point, if they can’t hear me?


You’re a grown-up and you’ll do what you like. Acknowledging that, I strongly advise you to leave the earphones at home for your next run. You might find your run to be more relaxing, more stimulating, more engaged with your surroundings – and certainly safer.

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5 Responses to Earphones while you run – your opinions!

  1. irishnomad says:

    I never wear them as I run mostly on the street and need to be able to hear traffic. And TBH, the crime rate in Kuala Lumpur is too high to allow me to get ‘lost’ in a run. I need to be on the alert all the time for snatch thieves unfortunately, so no music for me. I agree on the fact that you miss out if you wear earphones at a race – it’s great to hear cheers!

    • Run and Jump says:

      Yikes, thieves and crime rates are something I hadn’t thought of – I suppose runners are vulnerable enough out on their own without the telltale earphones of an iPod or smart phone attracting unwanted attention! Be careful over there, hope the injury is clearing up.

  2. dynomum says:

    When I started running 11 months ago I wore my earphones, partly to listen to music, partly to hear my couch 2 5k app, in the last 2 months my husband started coming on my long runs with me in preparation for the marathon and so I ditched the earphones and opted for conversation. Last night was my first run post marathon and I brought the dog and my earphones, what a difference, I couldn’t control my pace, couldn’t control my breathing, and was knackered after 5k all because I was distracted from the main job at hand by music!

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