Posted by: Joe English | January 1, 2009

Rules: USATF Lifts Headphone Ban for most Road Races

USA Track & Field has amended its Rule 144.3, the much debated and disliked rule which banned the use of headphones and other electronic devices at most road races and marations sanctioned by the body. The rule now enables race directors to choose for themselves whether or not to allow the use of headphones by runners in non-championship races.

When the rule was abopted back in 2006 it instantly became a hot-button of debate between runners who wanted to wear headphones while running, running purists, and people that didn’t really care one way or the other.

Many race directors insisted that headphones prevent runners from hearing communications on race courses from officials and emergency vehicles. Yet other race organizations not only ignored the ban, but used it to their advantage in marketing their races. The Portland Marathon, for example, took a stand as the “MP3 Friendly” race in 2008, welcoming runners to wear headphones if they so desired.

Only a few large marathons took on the challenge of trying to enforce the rule in 2007. Some race directors said that enforcement of the rule would be almost impossible. The lack of uniform enforcement left some race directors feeling stuck between trying to follow the rules and trying to listen to their runner constituents. In the end, now the race directors will get to choose.

The new Headphone Rule
At USATF’s 2008 Annual Meeting held in December in Reno, the rule was ammended to read:”The following shall be considered assistance and therefore not allowed:

“(f) The visible possession or use by athletes of video, audio, or communications devices in the competition area. The Games Committee for an LDR event may allow the use of portable listening devices not capable of receiving communication; however, those competing in Championships for awards, medals, or prize money may not use such devices.”

The rule previously had banned the use of headphones by all runners. While headphones remain banned for any athlete competing in a USA Championship, they may now be allowed by race directors in other circumstances, at the discretion of each race director.

Enforcement of the previous ban was in the hands of race directors, with some enforcing the ban, some simply urging runners not to use headphones and others not enforcing it.

According to a press release from USATF: “the rule had drawn passionate feedback from all sides, including from runners who hated the rule and runners who loved it; from volunteers who had seen the logistical difficulties of having participants wearing headphones; and from race directors who supported it and others who had had encountered logistical difficulties enforcing it.”

“The difficulty in enforcement was part of the reasoning,” USATF Rules Committee chair John Blackburn said. “However, several good-sized races have demonstrated that they were able to enforce the rule. There were strong opinions on all sides of this discussion, both understanding the issues related to athlete safety, race organization, difficulty of enforcement. This resolution appeared to be the best position for USATF overall.”

Source: USATF
Running Advice and News


  1. […] Here is a small ray of hope I just stumbled across regarding the headphones ban. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)GOAL!!!!!!New Year = New ChallengesManage Your […]

  2. […] actuality, we can thank the USA Track and Field (USATF) for the return of Grandma’s tunes. Just last month they amended Rule 144.3 to allow portable listening devices for the masses, sorta […]

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