I got a complementary issue of Running Magazine for having run in that half marathon. The “letters” section was devoted to a discussion of one of the editors’ previous rants against the use of iPods. The official position of organizing bodies is to ban iPods or other music players from races. This “rule” is universally ignored from anything I can see — maybe folks who are actually in danger of winning are subjected to the regulation, but slow moving cattle such as myself are not fazed by it.
The discussion had a certain “whippersnappers with their music players” quality to it. The curmudgeons who had always run without the players begrudged those who used them. There were reasons advanced about how those distracted by music interfered with others. I’ve also seen arguments advanced about how the music interferes with the purity of the run. The safety or interference arguments are mostly anecdotal; I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone point to anything like evidence that this is a Big Problem. For my part, I flat out would not have gotten through the early stages of running: those miserable few weeks where I couldn’t yet run 2 miles without stopping. The music really helped. Right now, I probably *could* do it, but it’s a lot more enjoyable to run with the music. When I have been in races, I have not noticed anyone getting in my way because of music players. I suspect that, for the curmudgeonly, when someone interferes with them, they notice it a lot more if the person has a music player — much as I notice it more if someone cuts me off in traffic has a “W” sticker or an “In God We Trust” plate.
The grumpy old man “that’s the way it was, and we liked it!” mentality certainly isn’t unique to running. There is always a contingent of elders who had to come up through the ranks of whatever without some luxury or in some way that was harder than those below them. In fraternities, for example, I suspect a lot of fraternities insist on hazing simply because the older guys had to go through it. They’ll tell you it needs to continue because it builds brotherhood and bonding. But there are other ways to do this than through sleep deprivation and forced consumption of raw eggs or whatever. Law firms will insist on abusive hours for new associates; and 72 hour residency shifts will be imposed on new doctors.
Tradition for tradition’s sake is a silly reason to continue (or prohibit) a practice.