The Noise Police (me) vs the bureaucracy of ParkRun.
I’m fighting a war.
Ok, it might more correctly be labelled a skirmish or even closer to the truth a difference of opinion, but you know how it is; when you’re up to your knees in it, mere conflicts can appear to take on battle-size proportions.
I’ve heard it said the first casualty of war is truth but I’m going to try to relate the events and circumstances of this tussle as factually as possible.
Most Saturday mornings for the last six months – including the last twelve consecutive Saturdays in a row – I’ve been going for a 5km ‘ParkRun‘ with a couple of hundred other people, kicking off at 7am. The venue is Rocks Riverside Park, Seventeen Mile Rocks, 13km from my house, which I travel to by car.
In the time I’ve been doing it I’ve seen my time come down from around 34 minutes to close to 28 and a half minutes. Considering the men’s world record for the 5km distance is just a single panted breath over twelve and a half minutes, it’s fair to say I’m in no danger of pushing for a place on the Ethiopian Olympic distance running team.
Still, according to statistics from ParkRun Australia www.parkrun.com.au, my time of 28 and a half minutes puts me ahead of what the average recorded time is for joggers completing the distance, which apparently is 31 minutes. For me, the sweat-soaked runner’s high I get after crossing that finishing line lasts me for at least the next couple of hours, making for the perfect start to my weekend. Did I just say perfect? Better make that near perfect…
Recently the shine has come off my Parkrun experience somewhat, and by shine I refer not to inclement weather (I enjoy running in the rain!). Rather, I speak of the peace-shattering experience of coming face to face – or should that be ear to ear – with the phenomena that is the Saturday morning Parkrunner who insists on carrying handheld speakers turned up to volume 11 (stadium concert level) and thereby treating all other fellow runners within a 50 metre blast radius to their taste in tinny-sounding FM radio-style rock music.
Carrying one of these hand-held noise-makers set on ‘annoy’, while running amongst hundreds of other people in a tight-knit group, should be enough to get you ‘run’ out of town. Or at the very least be on the receiving end of a stern warning from the Noise Police.
About a month ago I encountered a runner carrying a blaring handheld speaker. At first I thought he was part of the official volunteer organising crew, perhaps placed in the field to provide some kind of motivating musical accompaniment for everyone. I soon realised he wasn’t there in any official capacity but merely operating under the supremely arrogant belief that the entire suburb would benefit from being treated to hearing his taste in tinny tunes. Apart from the deafening noise it also made for somewhat of a sight. There he was, running along with everyone else, while holding in one hand a speaker the size of an envelope mounted weirdly on a metal stick that looked like a cross between a divining rod and an old-school tv antenna. This chap was even more ‘singular’ (allright, I mean ‘eccentric’) then the gents that run the course in a pink tutu.
At 7am, even with 250 people huffing and puffing alongside you, it’s quiet. You can hear the birds tweeting in the trees, the flow of the river 10 metres to the right of you, while the early morning rays of the sun lightly caress your skin (before the real sweat-soak sets in). But not on this morning. The ‘amongst nature’ aspect of this morning was completely not just absent but obliterated. I noticed that, conveniently, everyone else seemed to pretend the eccentric noise pest was not in our midst and was happy to let him settle in the upper portion of the middle of the field. When he went to run past me I turned and asked, “What’s with the speaker mate?” but he either didn’t hear or chose to ignore me and kept on running past.
30 minutes later when I crossed the finishing line I sought out the event organizer and registered my complaint along with the request that our loud jogger be asked to wear earphones like everyone else who opts to listen to music while they run.
The following week I turned up again at 7am but this time with backup – a fellow male running mate. Noise guy was there again but minus his boombox-on-a-bent-selfie-stick. Problem solved – or so I thought. One week on again (now two weeks after the original encounter) and the guy was back with his same weird stick-speaker smashing the sonic landscape for all it was worth. This time however there was an added bonus. A young mother pushing a pram (with baby miraculously somehow asleep inside) decided she’d join the ranks of the noise polluters and use her smart phone (minus earphones) cranked to maximum volume to treat others to a selection of delightful (to some) Katy Perry tunes. Not quite to the lawn-mower level of shared audio as handheld-speaker guy but same principle in operation – inconsiderate, attention-seeking behaviour by a lone individual seemingly oblivious to the unwritten rules of shared space and no-one prepared to call them on it.
At this point I sensed the battle was deepening. My mind jumped reflexively to advice contained within the pages of an ancient text that has stood proudly in my bookcase for many years – 5th Century BC Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu‘s THE ART OF WAR. It was time to switch tact and target the head of the snake. Thus commenced some ‘shots across the bow’ email correspondence between PARKRUN AUSTRALIA and myself –
I wish to register a complaint regarding runners who play loud, blaring music on hand-held speakers or mobile phones while they are running without the use of headphones. This practice is frequent at the Park Run I attend which is at Seventeen Miles Rocks – Rocks Riverside Park. Yesterday there was a male person holding hand-held speakers while running. Anyone within a radius of 50 metres was blasted into oblivion on what would otherwise have been a peaceful Saturday morning.
Also yesterday a woman pushing a pram treated everyone (including her own baby) to her tastes in loud rock music from the speakers of her mobile phone turned up to volume 11.
I have expressed my concerns before to staff at Rocks Riverside Park regarding the inconsideration of these people who refuse to don earphones and instead inflict their noise on others, but a few weeks later the problem returns.
Could someone please contact me regarding this matter.
My phone number is 3372 3958.
This is a tricky one as while I can completely appreacite that the music is annoying and disruptive to your planned peaceful Saturday morning ParkRun, as the volume wouldn’t be above noise restrictions, we can’t stop people from playing music while they walk or run.
You and the event team can certainly let the people know that not everyone loves hearing music while they ParkRun, but we can’t stop them. We do hope they will take other people’s opinions on board and be considerate of others.
To be honest I find your response a little weak.
You say that you ‘appreacite’ that the music is annoying and disruptive to ‘your’ (meaning my) ParkRun in some attempt to reduce the size of the complaint to just one person – me, whereas, as with most things of this nature, I am merely the one person who has spoken up on behalf of the hundreds of others that suffer in silence or at the finishing line have a good whinge amongst their mates about the ‘nutter with the blaring speakers’ but don’t take it any further.
Basically you are washing your hands of the matter and wanting me to risk having a possible face to face altercation with someone to convince them against their wishes to show some basic consideration. You say “we can’t stop people from playing music while they walk or run”. Is that what I’m asking you to do? No, it’s not. What I’m calling for is a common sense request that if people wish to play music while they run or walk they do it with headphones on. At the very least, this request could be made by the person behind the microphone who speaks to the assembled runners prior to the commencement of the run.
Not at all satisfied with the response Nikki so I would like to be put in communication with another person from your organisation – preferably the organiser of the Seventeen Mile Rocks Brisbane ParkRun – so I can discuss what can be done further.
Ph: 3372 3958
Nikki Waterfall forwarded me the email conversation you have had with her in recent days.
I would like to reiterate Nikki’s comments that the issue of ParkRun participants running with speakers is not one that we are looking to police centrally.
Since we launched ParkRun in Australia back in April 2011 we have seen 396,855 people participate across 35,047 events and you are the first person to ever raise this issue. I have also spoken with the country managers for ParkRun in the UK, South Africa and Poland and they have never had a complaint about this either.
As such, if there are others who feel the way that you do could you please encourage them to provide similar feedback so that we can see this issue is bigger then it appears and needs to be addressed.
CEO | ParkRun Australia
m: 0414 388 747
Sure thing Tim.
10 million people times by x to the factor of whatever have participated in ParkRuns and no one’s ever mentioned it before. That must prove the problem doesn’t exist then, right? Next time you have a barking dog problem or noisy neighbours after midnight problem please think of this dismissive reply you’ve forwarded me.
And no, I won’t be starting any on-line petition in an effort to attract your attention with the weight of numbers behind this complaint. I still might go ahead and ask a couple of mates of mine to email you but sounds like you’d just dismiss that as merely a few like-minded sore heads that don’t really represent the masses and are just as easily ignored.
Guess also you won’t be turning up anytime soon to the Seventeen Mile Rocks Brisbane ParkRun to hear all the not-so-light-hearted whingeing that goes on at the finishing line regarding the couple of attention-seekers who run with blaring audible speakers minus the headphones and ruin it for the rest of the ‘silent majority’.
Thanks for absolutely no help at all.
How very corporate of you.
I’m going to blame battle weariness for resorting to dropping all the smart-alecky sarcasm bombs towards the end there but that’s what tends to happen when frustration starts to creep up on you like a slowly rising tide. You feel like someone’s not really listening and instead just smugly quoting statistics in an attempt to shrink the importance of the problem being described down to zero.
Next month a new weekly Saturday morning ParkRun will begin in my local neighbourhood of Forest Lake. That will mean I’ll no longer have to travel the 13km to the venue at Seventeen Mile Rocks. Would it be too obvious an ending to this post to say I’ll be praying on both knees Mr-Handheld-blaring-speakers and Ms pram-pushing–iPhone-blasting Mum don’t both suddenly start turning up to this new venue as well?
Ps. Here’s your medal for getting through a 5km long post.