I smiled, gave a thumbs up to the approaching runner and said, “Way to go, you're doing great! After me, turn right.”
She smiled and waved back enthusiastically as she ran past. Straight past, I might add. Straight past me and straight past a sign with an arrow pointing to the right.
I yelled, “Hey, you missed the turn. You need to turn right.”
She seemingly ignored me as she continued down the greenway.
So I took off, running after her and yelling the instructions even louder. As I caught up with her I saw she was wearing headphones. She was oblivious to my instructions, the sign and who knows what else. She was in a world all her own.
This happened at the Frontier Run n' Fun 10K/5K on May 12 in downtown Fort Wayne. And it followed a disconcerting and unfortunate happening at the beginning of the 10K. Shortly before the start, race director Jon Beasley used a microphone to address the field of runners. Among the list of important announcements was that the 5K would be starting exactly seven minutes after the 10K began. He began the announcements with this vital information and repeated it at the end.
And, you guessed it, several 5K participants rolled through the starting line seconds later. They had to be rounded up like schoolchildren on a playground and directed back to the start line. The problem? You guessed it again: All those runners were wearing headphones and heard their music instead of Beasley's instructions.
Running outdoors with portable music devices is a topic I've long ignored in my column. I don't think people should run with music but I understand the appeal. I have written about running with music while on a treadmill.
But there is a major difference between listening to music while running indoors and doing so outdoors on the roads or in a park. And the two instances pale in comparison to the biggest reason not to wear headphones: safety.
I'll admit: as a runner I'm “old-school.” I started running in 1979 when running comfortably with music wasn't an option. This was before even the Walkman.
Because of this, I was alone with my thoughts and I grew to enjoy the miles of solitude as I ran along the gravel roads of southeast Allen County. That was if I turned left from our farm along Paulding Road. If I wanted to be more social, I turned right and headed toward the hustle-bustle of Hessen Cassel and South Anthony where I was sure to see several people I knew.
Those diverse running routes provide examples of why it would not have been a good idea for me to be lost in the sounds of The Police, REO Speedwagon or Johnny Cougar.
While running through the country I was regularly “greeted” by dogs. If I didn't seem them, I certainly heard them coming after me. Dogs almost always attack from behind.
If I were running in town, I needed to be more aware of the traffic, some of which came from the side or behind. Simply put: I couldn't afford to be lost in music and not aware of the traffic.
And, finally, there is the possibility of being attacked. We need to be able to hear if someone is approaching from behind and completely aware of our surroundings.
In next week's column I will explore the benefits of running without music.