I have noticed how often those who follow my training on dailymile comment on my wildlife encounters. Many people seem to really appreciate hearing those stories, and the ecologist in me really appreciates that. But I'd like to point out that the only reason I even notice most of the wildlife is because I'm listening and watching the world around me as I run through it. I'm not running inside my head with my auditory senses saturated by music from a set of earbuds. I don't run with music.
I tried to run with music when I started pushing my runs up to an hour or more months ago, but because portions of my runs were on roads, I became uncomfortable at not being able to hear approaching vehicles or bicycles. I would move sideways to avoid stepping on a rock I would have noticed earlier if I wasn't internally focused on my music, and almost into the path of cyclists riding by because I didn't really have time at the last moment to look back before I veered from my "line."
I quickly realized that in just one or two runs with an mp3 player, I had become the inconsiderate, self-centered runners that for the year before I started running had veered unexpectedly in front of me on the multi-use trails around town, forcing me to brake hard or steer off the trail to avoid them. With their earbuds in, runners often forget about the world around them, and I guess that's the idea, to be distracted from the drudgery of a long run.
On the third day, I had forgotten to charge the mp3 player, so I had to run without music, and to my surprised... it wasn't boring at all. There's a lot going on, and running without music made me aware of much more of it. Foxes frolicking in a field I would not have even looked into as I ran by if I were singing Barenaked Ladies tunes in my head, migratory warblers in the riparian vegetation along the creek path that wouldn't even be in the area in another week or two, vehicles approaching with distracted drivers that might veer into me, dogs rushing me from a side street, pleasant and courteous interactions with complete strangers that I otherwise might not even know were attempting to reach out to me as they passed by.
It's not limited to runners, either. I see obvious cyclists speeding down the path with their ears plugged with artificial sounds who are so distracted by their inner world that they fail to warn walkers and runners they're about to pass at high speeds. What is up with that?
There is so much to experienced in the world every time we step out our front doors, that I would encourage people to leave the ipod or other mp3 player at home, and spend some time rubbernecking when they're out on a run. You notice things that way. You see some pretty cool shit. Plus, you're safety is enhanced, because you have all your senses fully available.
I've heard people say, "Oh, I keep the volume down, and don't plug my earbuds in tight," or, "Oh, I don't use sound-blocking headphones or earbuds, so I can hear." Yeah, well, that's what I was trying. Much of the problem isn't in not being able to hear what's going on outside, though. It's in failing to notice because your focus is elsewhere.
Anyway, this is why I gave up running with music, and I haven't been sorry. Just read about the encounters I have with people and wildlife on dailymile and you'll see what I'm talking about.