When in doubt, follow the rules.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
When a race posts that no headphones are allowed due to insurance regulations and because roads have not been closed, will they enforce this rule? I found a marathon that fits my schedule and sounds fun to run, but I cannot imagine running 26 miles without headphones. Thanks, Robin H.
Hi Robin: You raise an interesting question about "enforcing" the rules, no matter what the rule in question is. I suppose like many other experiences we all deal with, some rules are always enforced, some are never enforced, and some are enforced sporadically. In order for any rule to have any teeth or integrity, it needs to be regularly enforced or most people will not pay any attention to it. The frustrating part of this is that those who adhere and follow the rule can feel "burnt" when they see others break the rule and not get penalized.
A frustrating example for all of us is when you are on the highway stuck in traffic and there is a carpool lane next to you with cars flying by with only the driver in the car and no police present to enforce the carpool-lane policy. All this makes you want to do is "break the rule" yourself, jump the curb, and get in the lane like these other cheaters.
In your case, if you heed the headphone rule and don't wear yours, but then see others running in the race wearing them with no repercussions, that would certainly make your blood boil.
Bottom line is, however, if there is a stated rule, whether enforced or not, I would definitely follow the rule. Again, as an example, if you and all the cars around you are speeding on the highway, a police officer has the right to single you out and hand you a ticket while all the others "speed" away scot free.
If you saw others breaking the rule, I would definitely bring it to the attention of the race director and put the heat on them to do something about it—that is, either attempt to enforce the rule or eliminate the rule. Additionally, I would probably call the race director in advance and point blank ask them if they intend on enforcing the rule with everyone. Even if they were to say they will not enforce it, I'm not sure I would personally still try to challenge it.
Unfortunately, too many races create rules based on principle with no thought to how they will implement and enforce them. This creates justifiable frustration for those who do abide by the rules.
If it were me and I really needed to wear my headphones to get through the race, I would just try to find another race that allows them and run in that one, not the one that has stated a policy of banning them.