It seems to me that one of the main issues in the discussion on my running habits is that of situational awareness. (Brian raises an aesthetic issue, and while important, it comes down to an "I like chocolate, you like vanilla" discussion.) SA is one's awareness of the threat level created by persons, objects & possibilities for action in your vicinity. (My own definition.) Having headphones on compromises one's SA because hearing what's going on around you is an important part of your overall assessment of those persons, objects & possibilities for action. I am happy to stipulate, for this discussion, that headphones have this effect on one's SA.
That said, let me also say that I have a constant Threat Assessment program consciously running in my head at all times. I'm not saying that I'm the best at it, as I'm sure that specially trained military folks are way ahead of me here, but I do think that I take it very seriously. I think about it while running, while walking with Aidan to Sbux, while walking around inside my office, while walking through my own house, for crying out loud! In other words, I'm constantly updating my SA, even when I'm sitting at my computer in my dining room, in my own house, in the day, with all my doors locked.
There are a few things that have contributed to this:
--getting assaulted in Middle School: nothing alerts you to the physical threats of the world like getting punched so hard you are knocked out
--going to a very middle class and very overcrowded public high school
--studying Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate with blue collar folks where bruises were not optional and if you weren't ready to puke by the end of the class, you weren't at the end of class
--studying said Karate in a dojo located in a warehouse district in Miami-Dade County, across the street from a Miami-Dade County Detention Center
--going out with friends in Miami: Downtown, Coconut Grove, Hialeah. You know, places known for their safety.
--reading books like this, and this
So while I think the world is a beautiful place, filled with exciting possibilities, and I delight in sunshine on my face, a breeze ruffling my hair, and I look to see the Lord's gracious providence at work in all places -- I am equally convinced that there's a real possibility that around the next corner is someone/something that could do me serious harm. In fact, every corner I turn where there isn't someone/something lying in wait I thank the Lord for his gracious providence. In other words, rather than viewing the world as a good & happy place where bad things are the exception, I view the world as a place where bad things happen, and when they don't, it's a direct result of the Lord's gracious providence. Like Pope John Paul II & Jacques Ellul it seems to me that the world is bent on self-destruction and it is the Lord who preserves the world in spite of itself.
Getting back to running with headphones. I don't use them when, in my assessment, they put me at unusual risk. (Remember that I already think that the world is a risk, so going for No Risk situations is not an option, as well as being naive and foolish.) So running on the street and going around a blind corner: the earbuds are out. Running along a frequented trail the earbuds are in. Of course, being a fit (relatively) 30 year old, 6 foot, 160 pound male plays a big part in my Threat Assessment. And even when my earbuds are in, I'm observing shadows, looking for and avoiding the blind corners/dark alleys, visually sweeping my area, etc.
There are some days when I'm running to work out general frustrations with the day. And on those days, I occasionally run through a dark alley or two. Not because I didn't notice they're dark, but because maybe there'd be someone there who'd volunteer to help me work out my stress. But that's only occasionally. Seriously. Don't worry Mom.
I do, however, run with scissors. Is this a problem?