Sound vs Silence

To run with music or without? Join the debate

361 to 380 of 525 messages
18/06/2008 at 17:11

I nearly always run with my iPod when alone as the music motivates me and I find if I can run in time with the beat it helps.  I've never had a problem hearing traffic noise as my iPod is never on at eardrum splitting level and I ALWAYS look both ways - I learned the Green X Code when I was little!

I feel naked without music and I don't like to hear myself breathing on a run.  I think that's where where my dependence on music stems from originally - I started off on a treadmill and I didn't like hearing the machines and other people panting away so I used to plug in and listen to whatever music the gym had on.

I had my iPod with me during the London Marathon this year but I hardly turned it on at all - I was so in awe of the whole day and listened to everyone shouting out and the music on the route etc.  But running alone on a dreary snowy Sunday morning I need my music to get me through.  I belong to a running club but I would never use my iPod, it's nice to chat to the others and the time goes quicker.

18/06/2008 at 22:07

When i started running i didn't have an mp3 so got used to running without listening to music. I run early in the morning when there isn't much traffic around which is lovely and quiet except for the sounds of birds and trees and nature!

Don't get me wrong tho; I'm totally a party animal and really enjoy dancing, so I imagined that i would really enjoy running with music but to my shock-horror, i actually found it distracted me from the running - i felt as though i couldn't connect with myself because the music was causing interference.... Not only that but it took ages to find 'the right kind of tunes'. Songs that i thought would be great to run to (probably cos they're good to dance to) turned out to be rubbish and others that i thought would be unsuitable really push me along nicely.

These days i can take it or leave it, depends on the mood i'm in when i get up.  My default is silence.  If i need extra motivation i'll reach for the ipod - fatboy slim and black eyed peas are favourites. Could be good for fartlek i suppose?!

Edited: 18/06/2008 at 22:08
19/06/2008 at 01:44


There are many reasons why you may have found running with music distracting.

Most people run with their favorite playlists of popular music. The problem here is that most of that music is composed at Beats per minute of 80 - 120bpm. Just a casual stroll will see you taking 120 steps per minute.

When we listen to music and dance we allow the music sounds and rhythms to comsume our minds and our bodies. That is why when we dance we move 'in time' with the music. Our body movements equal the musical rhythms. It is easy and comfortable and makes us feel good.

And so it should be when running with music. If you run to the rhythm of the music you will be amased at how great it feels.

Unfortunately the greatest part of discussions about running with music centres around peoples favorite playlists - invariably always out of sync.


19/06/2008 at 03:23
As I run alone, I feel that listening to music motivates me a lot more. I went for a run one day with an iPod, then the next run without, and the run without was about 1 minute slower. Maybe it was just the day, but I don't know, I just prefer to wear an iPod when running.
19/06/2008 at 13:45

I have strong views on this subject that may evoke a response (or two). Brace yourselves!

I'm a trail runner and ultra junkie. I don't run in silence because I am fortunate in still having my hearing. I run with the sound of the countryside, my breathing and my footfall caressing my ears, not to mention the conversation I may be enjoying with fellow runners. Anything else would be an intrusion. Why venture outside then shut yourself off in your own world with music? You are effectively removing one of your senses - the ability to hear what's going on around you. To do it could even be dangerous because you become unaware of impending danger (marauding people or cars while road running), or of someone who may wish to overtake while running narrow trails. Also, while running technical trails you need all your attention on avoiding trips and falls; music would be a distraction from the 'job in hand', therefore dangerous to your personal safety. Music deserves more attention than as a foreground noise squawking out of tinny earpieces while running. Music while running is only safe while running a safe and repetitive (dare I say boring?) run, like 24 hours round a track, for example. If some people are so bored by running that they need music to take their minds off it, I'm surprised they go out running in the first place.

The rightful place for music is from a decent Hi-Fi system, without distraction, eyes closed.

19/06/2008 at 22:13


It kinda isn't just the playlist... Like BritNick i like to hear my footsteps, my breathing and be aware of what's going on around me. Call me selfish if you like but sometimes i just want to be with me. All i'm thinking about is how i feel so when i'm in the zone it's pure, just me. (Before i started running i didn't know you could feel like this.  I'd heard about the 'runners high' but thought it was an myth until training for my first 10k.)

However...  when the desire takes me and i'm out with ipod, i also get the same feeling that i get when dancing - of being in the moment with the rhythm of the music, which is superb of course.   

I really don't believe that you have to choose - its like forcing a choice between water and wine, isn't it? I couldn't live without the one but life would be pretty dull without the other.

20/06/2008 at 12:14 your opinion

....for some, listening to music whilst running is thoroughly enjoyable and I think that should be accepted in the same way that others prefer to run with the sounds of the countryside etc. even if neither can understand the mentality of the other. 

I run mostly with music but it has an off button if I'm crossing a busy road or wishing to say good morning to a fellow runner I'm passing or if I reach an area where I like to listen to the birds singing.

Why does there HAVE to be a right or a wrong when we're talking about something we all enjoy as individuals.

20/06/2008 at 13:10

Hi Fat Fyes (and anyone else). It was just my opinion, and I admit I am probably in the minority.

Perhaps in my efforts to provoke a response I made my point a little too forcefully a couple of times and it came across as critical of others' choices. I do not mean to criticise others for their choices or opinions. I know everyone has their own, which I respect.

20/06/2008 at 15:16
 See, we're just one big happy family we are!
20/06/2008 at 21:08
So true      
20/06/2008 at 23:53

Well, I used to say that I didn't like running listening to music. But I changed my mind.   I still very much enjoy running without music, just listening to whatever is around me, specially if I'm by the sea.  But,  now I also enjoy having my ipod-nike+ with my favorite playlist, and if I'm training for a especific run to know how many km I have done and what speed I'm doing,etc.

I think with and without music is fun, depends on where you are running and what your surroundings are.                               

21/06/2008 at 08:48
I rarely ever run with music, and when I do I try to keep the volume down so I've got some (limited) hearing of the world around me.  That said, to the two cyclists who came up behind me on a narrow footpath on Thursday and had to bellow several times before I heard them, sorry...
21/06/2008 at 10:48

I nearly always run with music. I've got to the stage where I have panic attacks if I don't have my walkman with me whatever I'm doing.

However, I don't listen to the music, sometimes it even irritates me being on.

I have found cetain tracks effect my running. I was listening to a new album, hardcore rock, fast and heavy. I ran very fast and completed my long run in a much shorter time tham was healthy. I suffered the following day when I struggled with a hill and had to walk half of it.

Your choice in headphones effects how much ambient noise you hear more than volume level. Don't go for those with 'in ear buds' stick with the cheaper variety if you want to hear what is going on around you.

22/06/2008 at 14:50

The fabulous Queen - Don't stop me now.  Gets me going every time!

Plug in, switch on when you want to then off when you don't.  Best of both worlds I'd say.

Personal choice wins though - do what you want!

Edited: 22/06/2008 at 14:50
22/06/2008 at 17:16

When I'm running at a big event I love the crowds and the music - whatever the sort. There is always great music at the Great South Run and my children's school fun run. However, during the summer especially I love the sound of birdsong as much as the sights and smells of the countryside and gardens where I live.

As a Mum who also works full time, I don't get much thinking time - so I catch up on it when I'm running. More importantly,  I wouldn't dream of plugging noise into my head because I would consider it a safety risk, expecially when running on a road without a pavement - you need all your senses when you run including your ears!

23/06/2008 at 08:33
If i was going to run with music regularly it probably would be with a specific training programme but i haven't managed to sus out tempo music yet. I'll have to check out that website that Gary suggested.  I'm also toying with the idea of getting the new samsung mi-coach. haven't seen any reviews of it tho, has anyone else?  has RW reviewed it or is it too new?
24/06/2008 at 15:09

I can see both sides of this argument. When I started running I always used an mp3 at a reasonable volume, so that I could hear what was going on around me, when training solo, but didn't when running with the Club.

I started to experience a practical problem however. When I run my ears get very sweaty (sorry, I know, too much info) and most of the bud types of earphones kept popping out meaning I had to keep stopping to adjust them. Eventually I got so fed up with it I stopped completely and enjoy the experience more now.

Anybody who has music up so loud they are oblivious to everything else is a danger to themselves and others. If you keep it low and have a quick glance over your shoulder before changing direction, running through gaps etc then that is not so bad.

On a practical note, I took advice from an insurance broker friend of mine who told me that if an accident to a runner could be proved to be due to the wearing of an ipod then the insurance would almost certainly not pay out, leaving the organisers in danger of being sued. However, if the organiser bans music, and the runner chooses to ignore them, then the fault lies with the individual.

24/06/2008 at 22:52
I've read through all of this debate with interest. Here's my contribution and opinion. I personally think there is no 'right' or 'wrong'. It should be a free choice. It's a free country.

The big argument against seems to be 'in races' rather than 'in training', and on the grounds of safety. If you can't hear what's going on around you then you are a danger to others. Ironically, I think use of MP3s in races is safer than in training. On race day, there are loads of runners, everyone is going the same way, most often on traffic free routes. Training is often done alone, with traffic and other pedestrians, cyclists etc coming from any direction.

I see several anomalies in the 'safety' argument....
.... why the assumption that everyone with an MP3 has it so loud that they can't hear anything else; or even that they have it on all the time.
.... if not being able to hear is so dangerous, then what about deaf runners - are they not a danger by the same logic.
.... what of the very loud 'entertainment' music - especially those drummers at the FLM!! - surely they are causing danger
.... then there is the noise of the crowd - should the cheering be limited.
.... what about the safety aspect of someone in a large fancy dress costume that may muffle their hearing AND restrict their vision.

If safety really is the issue then we must strive be totally safe, and not just selectively safe.

Race organisers have the ultimate control. They should state UP FRONT on the application forms whether or not MP3's are to be allowed. That way anyone who is passionately 'for' or 'against' can make a choice BEFORE they part with their money, or do the hard work of collecting sponsorship.

I run with an MP3 somethimes, not all the time, but I would like to have the freedom to decide for myself.

25/06/2008 at 12:09

I don't believe you can race effectively with music. If you need the rhythm, then get it stuck in your head beforehand, or count to yourself. You need to be able to hear what your competitors are doing, and what marshalls are telling you.

Music can also stop you achieving a better time - you get stuck into a beat or a rhythm when you may actually be able to run faster. It's also important to be able to hear yourself - you should be absolutely in tune with your breathing to hear how hard you're working.

To the people who have said that their own breathing puts them off, you need to embrace that - you need to know how your breathing sounds when you're working at different paces - when you can speed up and when you need to back off, And similarly, you need to hear what the people around you sound like - if they're struggling, push on, pick your moment to get rid of them. On the other hand, if they sound like they're about to have an asthma attack you might want to look across and check they're ok or offer them a word of support.

 Running with headphones is not only dangerous for you, but also for other people - I find people running with headphones are often completely incapable of running in a straight line, meaning you end up running straight into the back of them. This is particularly annoyin in races which have laps, when the faster runners are trying to get past.

 The appropriate use for MP3s is for track sessions when you have the track to yourself, or for sessions around a field where you are safe and on your own or with very few other field users. The rest of the time you need to be able to hear cars, cyclists, potential muggers/rapists, cows, marshalls, members of the public, other runners etc etc etc... and the MP3 is best left at home or in the car.

25/06/2008 at 13:53

I don't think I would have started or continued running if I didn't have my ipod - it definately helps relieve boredom and keeps the spirits up on long runs.

 When I am in a race I don't have the volume so loud that I can't hear the crowd or other people - but there is not always support all the way along the route and the music really helps on the quiet stretches.

 As for the safety issue i am still aware of other people around me and there are lots of people who push past or run into people or stop dead who may or may not be wearing headphones - they are just rude people.

When training i also like to have earphones in so that when I get comments from scallies and white van drivers (which I do hear as I don't have the volume high) i can pretend I haven't noticed them.

the number of people participating in running events has massively increased over the last few years and I think this has a lot to do with mp3 players and being able to listen to music on the go - surely this is a good thing.

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