Headphones Policy


The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) prohibits the use of all electronic devices on the race course—in accordance with Road Runners Club of America guidelines and USA Track & Field (USATF) Rule 1.44.3(f). These devices include cell phones, MP3 players, and other portable audio or video devices using headphones. We ask that you not bring them, or stow them in the provided sweat check bag. Course officials will be monitoring the starting line and the course, and there will be a USATF Referee monitoring the finish line. You are subject to disqualification should you choose not to follow this policy.

NVM has established a Games Committee in accordance with USATF rules. The Games Committee has renewed the NVM ban on personal electronic devices such as portable music players in the competition area, which it adopted in 2007, for the following reasons:

  • NVM’s top priority is to ensure a safe and fair race for all participants.

  • NVM regards any use of headphones as a safety hazard since such use may compromise a participant’s ability to hear critical safety and/or directional instructions, especially instructions that may arise in an emergency situation.

  • Approximately 11 miles of the marathon course is open to vehicle traffic on the east side of the highway. California Highway Patrol officers direct traffic, however race participants must be fully aware of vehicles on the roadway, and directions given by officers and race officials.

  • NVM has again been selected by the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) as its National Marathon Championship, a designation it has received since 1998. NVM is an RRCA sanctioned race. The RRCA regards headphones as a safety hazard in a running event and recommends that RRCA sanctioned races prohibit the wearing of headphones.

  • NVM is conducted according to USAF Rules of Competition. USATF’s Rule 144.3f (see below for full text), amended in 2008, prohibits the use of communications devices in the competition area, and gives the authority of an event’s Games Committee to disallow the use of portable listening devices not capable of receiving communication by general race participants.

“We totally support USATF’s rules, and the RRCA’s safety guidelines regarding the potentially dangerous practice of headphone use in road races,” said Rich Benyo, who co-directs the Napa Valley Marathon. “Headphones use may be less of a safety issue for some events, such as trail events, or a cross country race conducted on a golf course. But, the Napa Valley Marathon’s road course demands that we take particular care for the safety of our participants. Plus our title sponsor, Kaiser Permanente, is committed to preventative personal health. We believe this action contributes to the personal health and safety of our participants.”

Jean Knaack, RRCA Executive Director, explained: “Banning headphones or advising participants to leave them at home or in the car is part of the risk management responsibility of a race director. Many participants do not understand or respect the awesome responsibility a race director shoulders to ensure the safety of every single participant in an event. Respecting an event director's choice to ban headphones is a shared responsibility of every participant to ensure the safety of all runners, the future success of the event and the sport as a whole.”


USATF Rule 144.3(f)
The following shall be considered assistance and not allowed:

The visible possession or use by athletes of video, audio, or communications devices in the competition area. The Games Committee for an LDR event may allow the use of portable listening devices not capable of receiving communication; however those competing in (USATF) Championships for awards, medals, or prize money may not use such devices.