One of my buddies and I have made up a game based on the iPod. When we pull up behind someone wearing an iPod we try to guess what they are listening by looking at them. Then we get their attention and ask them.
I have seen people remaining relatively happy in longer races by having their own entertainment with them. You pass them and they are singing off-key to themselves and have a little boogie in their step.
I have run a few races, short and long with the iPod. I’ve had good and bad experiences. In one short race the pounding Nirvana music that I had selected was a huge boost to my energy and focus. I’ve worn it at marathons when I hit the wall and it was just a big pain in the ass. It was just one more thing to worry about. I’ve worn it in marathons that I was running for fun and have had some nice epiphanies.
I don’t wear it that much anymore because I like to talk to the people in the race. That has become harder to do with everyone wired up in his or her own worlds. In that sense I would say this trend has moved to isolate people further in an already individualistic sport.
My official position so far has been one of social Darwinism. I say let them wear whatever they want. If they get hit by a car, that’s the choice they made. I’m sure the whole insurance liability thing could be solved with a waiver of some sort.
This is not the end of the issue. This is the tip of the iceberg. With the advance of technology, there are stranger conundrums coming with new technology. What about cell phones in races? What about devices that network runners together? Video devices? Where does it stop?
Let’s face it folks, whether you’re for it or against it, we have to come up with some sort of détente that allows everyone their space, freedom and safety.
What do you think?
Chris Russell is a frequent contributor to CoolRunning.com and has published “The Mid-Packer's Lament” a series of short stories on long distance running, racing and the human comedy inherent in all sports enthusiasts. Chris is a compulsive mid-pack competitor who is honored to be running his 10th Boston Marathon in 2008. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org