Saturday, March 30, 2013

Listening to Music While Running? Foul! Two Shots!

"The future will be better tomorrow" - Dan Quayle, former Vice-president

With so many marathons and ultra marathons this time of year, you may still find on some of the entry forms "Any portable device requiring an earplug will not be allowed during the race event.", however USA Track and Field has removed its prohibition on earphones as a sanction requirement. Never really understood the ban...let's face it, you're not going to get hit by a car because you're listening to AC/DC on your iPod during your race. Of course, if you're listening to AC/DC, maybe you do need a little extra help with your playlist selection (this from someone whose playlist includes Celine Dion AND Barry Manilow!!). Also, one of the reasons for the ban was that you couldn't hear instructions being shouted. Ummm, either you're running a road race where you follow the couple of thousand of runners ahead of you from Aid Station to Aid Station, or you're on the trail and there ain't anybody out there to holler anything! 

The use of mechanical aids to assist a runner in moving forward is against the rules in most races, marathons, and ultramarathons. For instance, a runner will be disqualified for getting a lift in a car, taking the subway, riding a bicycle, or hopping along on a pogo stick. But, I recently read that ''Music is a legal drug for athletes," claims Dr Costas Karageorghis, an expert on the effects of music on exercise (doubt he has much competition on that "expert" tag), at Brunel University (outside London). In his latest book, Inside Sport Psychology, he claims that listening to music while running can boost performance by up to 15%. That's a whopper of an aid, but to declare it a legal Performance Enhancing Drug is, I think, stretching it a little. 

Was reading ULTRARUNNER magazine the other day, and I noticed that in mountainous ultras, many runners will carry Trekking Poles. I've been thinking of getting me a pair because they can fold up like those folding canes and you can carry them in some kind of quiver in your fanny pack. Come to a big hill and you can whip these babies out like Sir Lancelot, give them a shake, and voila! - you start pumping your arms baby and all of a sudden you've made a molehill out of a mountain!  Some fools classify trekking poles as mechanical aids and ban them from their races. Remind me again -- exactly how many moving parts does a trekking pole have? Is it therefore also illegal to use the branch of a fallen tree as a walking stick? If so, is it illegal to grab rocks and branches with one's hands while climbing up a steep slope? During last year's Crusher Ridge 42k Trail "Run", Moha and I were going up what seemed like a 60% Grade incline. We both grabbed large sticks to help us get up the hill (more like to keep us from falling back down). Moha said "We must look like Moses and Joshua". So now we refer to steep climbs as "Moses & Joshua" hills.

But it's not my purpose in this post to argue in favor of trekking poles. Rather, I would like to consider for a moment whether the iPod (and similar mp3 devices) give you, the runner, an unfair advantage, making us a low profile Lance Armstrong!

Should the iPod be declared an illegal mechanical device? It has two buttons and a spinning disk drive, which makes it considerably more complex than a trekking pole, and could be classified, according to the famous Dr. Karageorghis, as a drug delivery system, in that playing good music is known to stimulate the production of endorphins and adrenalin which assist to make a runner, or any other athlete,  perform faster, higher, stronger (to steal the Olympic Motto).

I began running with a Sony radio many years ago, listening to anything that was being broadcast. During March Madness one year, I was running a 24 Hour Run in Atlanta, and literally listened to 4-5 games in a row. I didn't have the foggiest idea what teams were playing, but it did keep my addling mind occupied. I guess it was all those drugs flowing through my arteries! Now, with my mp3 player, I listen to mostly podcasts. Haven't read any studies that say listening to podcasts help your running, so I'm still clean. Now, I'm afraid I'll feel like I'm dealing from a dark corner if I dare listen to Gordon Lightfoot singing about the Canadian Railroad.

But, think of the possibilities: You could sabotage someone else's race by erasing all the good music on his iPod and substituting tracks of Enya, bringing the listener way, way down. You'd be able to beat him walking on your hands. But some people would probably think that would be cheating. Kinda like a Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan thing, just less violent.

Maybe the only solution is to ban iPods entirely. No warm-ups with them, no races with them, no cool-downs with them. But, let's keep the Trekking Poles...they may be an illegal aide, but they look so cool. And please, let's not even begin to talk about the added advantage I get from my Hokas with all that extra cushioning. I'm a Hoka addict and I'm not giving them up...and I'm not going to Hoka Anonymous.

Just a wrapup from last week. If you read this blog a week ago, you'll remember I apologized to all the Indiana basketball fans because I picked them to win it all in my March Madness bracket. Well, as sure as the sun coming up, the Mighty Hoosiers went down in flames Thursday night. So, the Prognosticator-Al saga continues. To give you a clear picture of how well I'm doing, out of 384 players in my league, I'm sitting at a pretty #316. I'm still beating the "Alphabetical" bracket and the "Coin Flip" bracket. It's a good thing I know this stuff or I'd really be embarrassing myself.

I hope you all have a great Easter this weekend. And we can talk about who I think will win the World Series this year when I see you on the roads - AL  

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world" 

1 comment:

Run, Karla, Run! said...

Funny post, Al. I run with music on the treadmill and designated running paths, but not on roads or the track, and never in races. I find it funny that it's SUCH a contentious issue. To each his own, I say. If Jane Runner does a 60 min 10K and gets a boost from running w/music, great. Now let's talk if the pros start racing with music. THAT would be a topic for debate!