Silence is Golden

I used to wear headphones just about every run I took.  I remember the runs that pre-dated my MP3 player, when I would run with a bulky Discman.  Unless I held it perfectly flat and stable, the music hiccupped with every plodding step.  I might as well have been trying to run with a miniature Victrola.
Admittedly, Walkmans worked better, but the only cassettes I could ever find were some Wayne Dyer audiobooks from the mid-eighties.  MP3 players worked the best for running of course, but those were only slightly less of a distraction than the Discman. I found I still devoted as much attention to the music as to my run.  I was either fiddling with the volume or trying to find just the right song for the moment, or trying to keep the ear buds from flopping out of my ears.
I didn’t like my dependence on music, yet still, I never went on any runs without it.  Just like shoes, it was simply part of my running equipment.
And then I started running barefoot, and I haven’t worn headphones since.
For one thing, the sound of my footsteps helps coach my running form: the quieter my stride, the better my form.  Also, I discovered that the primary reason I run barefoot is to connect with both my surroundings and myself, so cranking up music masks too much of that connection.  It’s like spending an entire camping trip watching YouTube on your smartphone.  Sure, you’re still in nature, but you’re simply not getting the full benefit.
Besides, I found that I didn’t need headphones to listen to music.  Our minds have a remarkable ability to play whichever song we want to hear, and it is often more interesting to watch where your thoughts take you.  It’s more meditative, more ‘go with the flow’.
Wearing headphones became an unnecessary issue of control, however minor.  I wanted to choose the right song, at the right volume, and keep those ear buds in my ears.  Of course, I would come to a song I didn’t want to listen to at that moment, or the volume would be too high or low for the circumstances, or those ear buds would fall out of my ears.  I wasn’t sure whether I was controlling the music or the music was controlling me. When I left the headphones at home, I found that I was watching my thoughts, but not trying to control them.  are an impartial observer of your thoughts, there’s much less to frustrate you.

So if you like running with headphones; do so- whatever helps you run is a good thing!  But you may be surprised how much music is out in nature, and within you, and how freeing it can be to let go of your headphones!