Grandma's Marathon recently announced that they will be complying with a new USATF rule banning headphones and "similar devices" in all Grandma's-related events (including the Fitger's 5K and the Park Point 5-Miler). The Star Tribune devoted some space to the issue, and talked to most of the major players (except anyone from USATF). According to the article, Twin Cities Marathon is jumping on the no-headphones bandwagon as well.
If Grandma's and TCM are interpreting the rule correctly, the headphones ban would apply to all events sanctioned by USATF.
The rule in question – #144.3b – falls under the "Assistance to Athletes" heading in the USATF rule book. It seems pretty obvious that it is intended to prevent athletes (most likely field athletes) from using an electronic device to gain an unfair advantage during competition. There is a "Medical and Safety Concerns for Road Events" rule (#241) which makes no mention of music devices or headphones.
So, are Grandma's and Twin Cities are overreacting? Are they applying a rule to an area of the sport that it was never intended to affect? Here's hoping that someone from USATF comes forward and advises their sanctioned events on the proper interpretation of the rule. It would be a shame for these events to lose runners just because someone on the rules committee didn't think of all the possible applications.
Image from www.mp3running.com