Playing Music Out Loud? Environmental Running Expectations

A fellow runner recently posted the following on a local running group page on Facebook…

So, I have a question. When did it become socially acceptable to play your music out loud with no headphones during a race?  In the past year of two, I’ve been coming across this more often during races. Honestly I don’t care if you run with music … when you’re wearing your headphones and I can’t hear it. I personally don’t run with music while training or during a race. I mentally play music in my head, if I am not problem solving, and when I am near a runner playing music it frankly annoys the crap out of me.  I was near at least two runners during yesterday’s Cap 10 miler who did this. Has anyone else experienced this?

This post really got me thinking about what we as runners should reasonably expect when we head out the door for a run. (I’m not going to debate the idea of listening to music or not when you run. That’s another post for another day.) After 25 years of running and racing on roads, tracks, and trails, it has been my experience that much like everyday life, your expectations should vary with your environment. I’m gonna take a crack at describing what I believe to be a set of reasonable running expectations for some of the more popular running environments. Nothing is an absolute, so feel free to add some comments and put any of these ideas up for debate!

What you can reasonably expect when running on the…


  • Lane 1 should be clear of walkers if there are people running
  • If you’re there during the school year, give any sports teams the right of way. For example, the lacrosse team may have gear sitting in lane one. While frustrating, just run around it. It’s the students’ facility first.
  • If you’re running SOLO at a slower pace in lane one, stay there! Faster runners should just go around you. If you’re in a group running at a slower pace, don’t run 2-3 abreast taking up lanes 1 AND 2. If that’s the case, slide over a lane to open up lane one.
  • Expect others to be wearing earbuds (and expect them to NOT hear you coming up behind them, so be cautious). Also, you may have people listening to music aloud from a phone or even a stationary music player. I’ve seen groups bring a set of speakers to share their music.


  • Expect peace and quiet! We hit the trails to unwind and get away from the noise of the world. If you’re a “listen to music without earbuds” person, this is NOT the place.
  • Dogs you encounter should be on leashes. (I’ve been bitten twice in my running career, both times in county parks by dogs off leash.)
  • Give horses (you read that right, horses) the right of way.
  • If you wear earbuds, keep your music down so that you can listen for mountain bikers. They’ll be saying things when they’re about to pass you such as, “On your left.”


  • Expect drivers to either not give a shit that you’re even there, or to be staring at their phones. Be defensive and leave plenty of room on the shoulder.
  • If you’re running in a small group, move to a single file line when there are cars passing.
  • Wave to other runners!
  • If you wear earbuds, keep them at a level in which you can be aware of your surroundings.
  • DO NOT expect that every dog will stay in its respective yard.


I have virtually no experience on treadmills in gym settings, so…… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Regular Road Race

  • Expectations change as you go from the front of the pack to the back.
  • If you’re a front runner, you can expect a more serious atmosphere free of people listening to music. Many runners will be talking about certain paces/time goals here.
  • As you make your way to mid-pack and beyond, expect anything. Music being played out loud, large groups runner together, goofy costumes, strollers, dogs (if allowed), etc.
  • No matter where you are in the race, it’s reasonable to expect that everyone is friendly and ENCOURAGING! (Newbies, that’s the way we roll.)

Holiday Race



There you have it! Again, everything I mentioned above can be put up for debate. I’d love to hear what others might have to say. No matter how you feel about running environment expectations, always be positive and encouraging to others!

Happy Trails,



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