Should You Listen To Music During A Marathon?

Most of us love to listen to music — especially while we exercise. It can help pass the time if we are not excited about the type of exercise in which we are engaging. It can reduce stress, blood pressure, and elevate mood. But when running outside, there are a lot of other factors that you might consider before deciding whether or not to put on those brand new headphones. Should you listen to music during a marathon? It depends.

First and foremost, if the marathon is an organized event, then they probably have a set of rules for you to follow. Many of these rules might be more like suggestions — etiquette, for example. Move aside so larger groups of faster runners can pass you easily. Depending on how fast you run, the organizers may have herded you into corrals so you don’t get in anyone’s way. No matter what the rules are, make sure you stick to them.

In metropolitan areas where traffic is closed off for a marathon, organizers might ask you to leave your headphones at home. This is for your own safety as well as the safety of the other runners. Busier areas require increased alertness. Plus, competitions might ask you don’t wear headphones so they can provide you with information if a race is rerouted or they need to shut it down. Don’t dismiss the rule as unimportant!

And even if the rules don’t expressly forbid the use of headphones or loud music, consider the environment beforehand. You and the other runners might still benefit from avoiding headphones if, say, you’re embarking on a trail marathon where cramped quarters might impede traffic. You want to hear runners behind you. If you do decide to listen to music, consider only using one earbud. 

When you choose to listen to music during a race, select songs with scrutiny. Slower songs will slow you down, while songs with a faster beat will ensure you unconsciously speed up. Many studies have shown a multitude of benefits to using curated running playlists. There are also benefits to avoiding music, however. For example, self-awareness is easier to maintain without distractions, and can greatly reduce the chance of injury.

Keep in mind that music has a noteworthy benefit only if you like what you’re listening to. If you’re not crazy about a song, delete it from your playlist! Streaming services also provide curated playlists for runners, so it might make sense to tune into Spotify or Pandora during a race!