Press Room


Unsafe Use by Runners is Primary Target

NAPA, Calif. - May 1, 2007 - The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon announced today that it has adopted a USA Track & Field (USATF) rule that prohibits the use of personal electronic devices such as portable music players in the competition area of its sanctioned long distance running races. Race organizers said that the Napa Valley Marathon, a sanctioned USATF race, will enforce the rule starting with its 30th annual event scheduled for Sunday, March 2, 2008.

The new USATF rule (see below for full text) will be printed on entry forms and race packets for all 2008 Napa Valley Marathon scheduled events. Additionally, participants in the Napa Valley Marathon will be advised against bringing personal electronic devices with headphones to the race course. Athletes carrying these devices will be asked to surrender them to a race official prior to the race. Surrendered devices will be returned to their owners following the race. Participants who violate the headphone ban risk disqualification from the race by a certified USATF Referee. The names of disqualified participants will not appear in final race results.

"We totally support USATF's ban on the dangerous practice of headphone use in road races," said Rich Benyo, who co-directs the Napa Valley Marathon. "USATF makes the rules and regulations of our sport. As a sanctioned USATF race, we are committed to follow them. Plus our title sponsor, Kaiser Permanente, is committed to preventative personal health. We believe this action contributes to the personal health and safety of our participants."

USATF is the national governing body for track and field, race walking, and long distance running in the U.S. Last December, at USATF's annual meeting, over 1,000 federation delegates approved a rules package that included amended rule 144.3(b) which prohibits the use of portable electronic devices by participants competing in long distances running races. Previously, the rule applied to USATF sanctioned events conducted on the track, but it merely strongly suggested the prohibition for road and cross country distance events.

The rule amendment came in response to a recent increase in use of music players by recreational runners in organized running competitions, and on open roads in general. Increasingly, this practice, for which the listener typically uses headphones, is viewed as unsafe on roadways. In March, 2006, Ashlyn Dyer, a 27-year-old female runner who was wearing a portable musical player while on an early-morning workout, was struck from behind and killed by a hit-and-run driver on a road in San Francisco's Presidio.

The USATF rules package contained the following justification for the rule change:

The huge proliferation of MP3 players and other audio devices using headphones by road race participants constitutes a safety hazard. These devices can prevent runners from hearing critical instructions from course monitors, police, and other race officials. Many race directors are reluctant to prohibit these devices in their races for fear of losing entrants. A firm prohibition by USATF will make it easier for these directors to justify bans on these devices in their races.

Earlier this month, Grandma's Marathon (Duluth, Minn.) announced that it will apply the electronic device/headphone restriction for its June 16, 2007 race composed of more than 9,500 runners. A number of top international track and field meets also prohibit headphones. The Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford University contains the following in its instructions to athletes and coaches: "No headphones or radios will be permitted inside Cobb Track and Angell Field. These devices present a safety risk for everyone..."

"While there have been great advancements in portable music devices, wearing them on the run is simply not the safest choice," said Jean Knaack, the Executive Director of Road Runners Club of America. "We recommend against their use because they limit a runner's ability to be aware of their surroundings, especially things going on behind them and in their periphery."

The Road Runners Club of America is a non-profit organization consisting of over 800 running clubs and 175,000 members across the United States. The organization's safety guidelines for runners warn against wearing headsets while on the run. The Napa Valley Marathon has served as the RRCA's National Marathon Championship since 1998.

Benyo advises runners to "please leave your headphones at home on race day to avoid inconvenience and help us make a safe marathon."

For more information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, go to

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USATF Rule 144.3(b): The visible possession or use by athletes of video or audio cassette recorders or players, TV's, CD or DVD players, radio transmitters or receivers, mobile phones, computers, or any similar devices in the competition area shall not be permitted.

Mark Winitz
Win-It!z Sports Public Relations
Tel: (650) 948-0618