“Don’t forget to follow my race tweets!!” my friend* texted me on the eve of her big race. A marathon was last month –- but I figured she was kidding. Who tweets while running a marathon? Remembering the last time I ran farther than 20 miles (um, over two years ago, sigh), I was a) too exhausted to form a coherent post and b) so sweaty that had I even had my phone on me I would have fumbled it through my slippery hands and drop-kicked it over the finish line.

So imagine my surprise when my phone chimed with an announcement from her at the start line. Well, I figured, she’s not running yet. But then mile marker two brought a hot foot alert. The aid stations were serving Powerade in red cups, just in case you are curious. Possible blister at mile 14. Definite blister at 16. Cramp at 17. Ominously (or mercifully?) that was the last text I got from her. While the blow-by-blow was very entertaining for me, as it went on I began to worry about her safety on the race course. Twin Cities is pretty strict – they won’t even let you use your iPod on the course out of concern for the safety of all the runners – so I can only imagine what they’d do if they caught you texting. In other races, I’ve heard many a runner complain about getting veered into by electronically distracted racers. Of course the complainant is generally sporting white earbuds but that’s another issue I suppose.

Just walking while texting is risky – you may remember the 15-year-old girl who walked into an open manhole in Long Island whilst texting. Plenty of us have walked into walls, fallen off curbs, and apologized to a mannequin after bumping into it in the mall, thanks to walking and texting. (Yeah, that last one was me. It was super embarrassing.) So if walking and thumb-typing is that tricky, it’s a miracle more runners haven’t been injured fussing with their gadgetry.

And it’s not just phones that are the issue. I once tripped over a tree root and did one of those face-plant prat falls in the dirt thanks to messing with the readout on my heart rate monitor. (It said I was flat-lining! Clearly an emergency!) Thanks to iPods, GPS systems, heart rate monitors and, yes, phones, runners have a million reasons to take their attention off the road. But is it worth it?

For myself, running without music is pure agony. I better either have a friend loaded with juicy gossip or an mp3 player loaded with a heart-pounding playlist to get me through my long runs. (Side note: I can walk for hours listening to podcasts but I can’t run to them. Also, I can’t stand books on tape. The people read … so … slow … that I just want to grab them by the lips and scream, “Talk like a normal human, not a robot!”) I also generally wear my heart rate monitor. And if I were rich enough to have a Garmin I’d darn sure be wearing that bad boy too. But all of those are, in theory anyhow, “set it and forget it” (I’m the Ron Popeil of fitness!) gadgets. Properly set up you shouldn’t have to mess with those for the duration of your run. Texting on your phone, however, is a different story.

What’s your opinion on texting while running? Have you ever fallen in a manhole cover? Anyone else totally unable to run without music? ‘Fess up: How much of a techno-geek are you on your runs? (Anyone else think people on books-on-CD read too slowly??)

*Details have been changed to protect the, er, innocent.

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  1. I don’t understand how one can run and text at the same time. If you’re racing, I guarantee you’re going to slow down so you can see the screen as you type. I don’t think that’s smart lol. I mean, how do they do it? I can’t even speed walk and text at the same time. Your phone is jumping out of your hand, the words are all jumbled, you have to look close at the screen to type, plus you’re sweating and you have a hard time just trying to keep it in your hands. SMH texting isn’t worth it.

  2. How funny, the other day I had a friend of mind race in the NY Ironman, and said I could follow his progress online. I don’t think they are literally “texting” while racing, but more so documented by the officials at every checkpoint they get to.

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