Running with music is cheating

***Yesterday I successfully made it through DAY 1 of the no-sugar challenge!***
Oddly, the hardest time was around 11 a.m. because I was craving sugar (I guess it doesn’t help that I usually have a sugary breakfast and a sugary snack by that time of day usually). The rest of the day went by OK, and I learned that some interesting foods have sugar in them: ranch dressing, BBQ sauce (at least Kraft’s version), ham. I learned that cheese does not! <— this makes it that much easier.





Anyways, sometimes I am completely oblivious to things and yesterday I took a running survey for fun and found out that some people think that running with music is cheating? 


When I first started running, I ran with music. It helped me get out there and stay motivated on the run. Knowing that a favorite song was coming up one or two songs later made it easier to pass the time. I switched to a no-music runner once I signed up for my first marathon, because at the time, running with headphones was banned. 

This rule has since been removed and it only applies to elite athletes. 

So, of course, there is a debate that rages on in terms of elites and music, but that’s another can of worms I don’t feel like touching. 

But when it comes to a normal person running, some people consider that running with music is cheating. 

Because the music elevates your feet off the ground and gives you an unfair advantage? Because music is a magical drug that makes the pain disappear? 

Either way, WHAT? Perhaps it gives you an “unfair” advantage, like drugs that are banned for cheating. But an “unfair” advantage against who? Most people run for their own reasons. That’s part of the magic of running. So, if you run with music because it makes you happy, do it (but do it safely… like with one headphone out). If you don’t run with music because that makes you happy, go for it. 

Personally, I like to get lost in my thoughts and after training myself to run without music, it seemed like the natural thing to do. However, I have never even considered that the music-loving runner would be “cheating” or getting an “advantage” in their run because of it. 

Let’s just file this under things that make you go hmm. 

What do you think? Is running with music cheating? 

Do you run with music? Why or why not? 

Categories: running


  • I never understood these debates. These are a matter of personal preference and you will never get someone to jump ship just because “I” prefer one of the other. I agree 100% with your assessment, do you makes you happy.

    For the most part I run with music but have started to make the transition. I read a blog that interviewed an elite runner and he laughing said “dont drown out the pains of running” and that got me laughing so I figured I would try it. Boy was he right lol. Hearing all the huffing and puffing, all the stomping is definately a different way to run lol.

    • CrazyRunningGrl says:

      Ha that is true! But I feel like it gives you a better sense of yourself, if that makes sense… nothing like clearing your thoughts when you have nothing else to listen to! :)

  • This really annoys me when people say this. I have done several races without music because headphones were banned (the roads weren’t closed so it was down to safety which I completely understood and respected). But I found it quite boring to not have any music. I love running with music as it’s like having a soundtrack to the run. I also run my long runs listening to podcasts. Of course I can run without music (and often do, especially when I’m out running with other people) but I find music helps encourage me and motivate me and a good song can make me run faster. But it’s ridiculous to think that that’s cheating. It’s only cheating if I’m the only one allowed!

  • Carson says:

    I am living proof that running with music does not give you an unfair advantage. No matter if I run with or without it, I still am middle of the pack. I think it would only be cheating if everyone wasn’t allowed to do it. I am a little baffled that people think it’s not okay. Most days I can give or take it, but for a couple of years it got me through many tough runs.

  • I can run with or without it. All through high school and college we couldn’t run with it so I knew I could race without it. Once I started doing road races, I ran with music because it helped motivate me. Now that I do tri’s (where music is a big NO), I’ve been able to run more without the music. I do still like it because it helps me zone out and just go but I don’t rely too heavily on it. I don’t think it’s cheating because everyone has the same rules (except elites like you said). You go into a race, you can choose to run with or without it, just because someone chooses to and you don’t doesn’t make them cheaters.

  • Vieve says:

    Great debate! I’ve run marathons both with and without music. I don’t think it made a difference in my performance. Personally, I don’t think it’s cheating. I don’t consider someone with music having an “unfair” advantage. I don’t think it literally impacts your physiology, giving you an impact in performance. That said, I think it does impact mental toughness. So a person may deal with mental struggles better with music than without, or vice versa. Most of the time I listen to podcasts, it’s a similar distraction… but doesn’t have the beat you described. So for the opposing arguments, is that cheating? What about audio books?

    All in all, I view the marathon as a physical competition. How you deal mentally… to each their own. Let’s not make it harder on each other.

    • CrazyRunningGrl says:

      This is true… and I guess it's more so about finding what makes YOU mentally strong. Some people may find that music does that, others may need to talk out loud.

  • I don’t think it is cheating, but I think it is a bad idea to run with it outdoors because it is dangerous to not be able to hear your surroundings. I do use it on the treadmill though, because otherwise running on the treadmill is miserable.

  • I tried running “naked” for a while and I’ll admit it made running more enjoyable mainly because I wasn’t worried about time and was running for fun. And like you I got to get lost in my thoughts and think about all the things I normally block out. BUT when I am trying to reach certain goals I NEED music to move my feet. And keep my soul pumped. Is it cheating? I have no idea, but it is an interesting debate.

  • I run with sometimes and other times without. I say whatever helps you run, more power to it!

  • Corrie Anne says:

    What an interesting question!! I don’t think it’s cheating. I think… THINK that the athletes in the CrossFit Games listened to headphones when they rowed a half marathon. So that’s interesting. I think rowing in particular is hard to do without music, but I like to listen to music when I run too. I feel like I’m unsafe running in the city with music though so I generally don’t.

    • CrazyRunningGrl says:

      Oh that is interesting… I don't think I could listen to music while rowing?! Too much movement… hahah

  • Judith says:

    I listen to books when running. Is that cheating?

    Personally, I need the distraction from my negative self-talk. I can hear great when listening to a book vs music, so it isn’t a safety hazard any worse than if I’m totally zoned out. I think the people who claim it’s cheating are running snobs vs really feeling like a music listening runner is going to best them in a race solely because of a musical advantage.

  • Ugh, stuff like this is so stupid to me. If you’re running, you’re running! Who cares what you’re doing while you’re doing it? Sometimes I enjoy listening to a podcast, sometimes I enjoy listening to music, and sometimes I don’t want to listen to anything at all. It’s personal preference, just like what you wear. I’m sorry, but there’s no authority to decide whether someone is legitimately running or not. If you’re putting one foot in front of the other and you’re not walking, then you’re running! Case closed! 😉

  • Paulette says:

    I don’t run with music, but I wouldn’t see it as cheating. Weird! Do what makes you happy. :) Mostly I just don’t like having cords and extra stuff to deal with, plus I like the get-lost-in-my-thoughts part too.

  • Rachel O says:

    I’m a proud back – of – the – packer and listen to music. I figure I’m not harming anyone with my music, as I will never win a race. I don’t understand why it’s cheating or why elite athletes can’t listen to music either.

    • CrazyRunningGrl says:

      Agree — very interesting concept that it's considered cheating. One that I'll never understand!

    • Jonathan A says:

      I think there are a number of reasons why elites cant. And I can understand them. In theory, they can find the right songs to set certain cadences and rhythms for pacing which should be up to the mental effort of the runner. Plus, in theory, the technology is there that a runner could actually have Bluetooth or something going and get coaching piped in while running, which for a fair and level playing field should only come from the sidelines unless everyone gets the same tech advantage.

  • Jonathan A says:

    I agree with most of your assessment. Aside from obvious safety and competitive situations (real competition, not what many of us do), I think music only enlightens life. I always loved the idea in the movie City of Angels with Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage that life could have a natural soundtrack. I always envied the idea that the angels stood on the beach each morning as the sun came up a d heard music with it. If only we could hear music throughout life! It’s why we enjoyovies so much; a great soundtrack can make even a dull movie entertaining. At the same token, I see way too many people “plugged in” on a routine basis. Just yesterday I saw a mother and her 12ish year old son both with headphones in just shopping in the mall, and at that time in the Disney store. I wonder why a mother and son can’t even go shopping together without some meaningful conversation. But I suppose it goes back to this point. I think more and more people just like the idea of a running soundtrack. As a high school teacher, I see at least half the kids sitting in the cafeteria with buds in.

    Personally. I love listening with music for the same many reasons already stated. And actually, forost training runs, I even prefer podcasts where I can just get lost in the conversations, humor, debates etc. But for races, I love setting up play lists and letting it carry me through. I’m not winning any prize money or anything, so what’s it to anyone else if I do, right? Life is too short, so whatever makes our moments more enjoyable, than why not?

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