Time to Ban the Selfie Stick?

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Commentary

Some races say no to strollers and dogs, others elect to outlaw personal music and even walkers. Depending on the size and level of competitiveness, some will at least discourage all of the aforementioned (or put some combination on their list of no-no’s). But what about the mid-race selfie? Isn’t it time that we took a good hard look at that vain, dangerous practice?

My first (and hopefully last) encounter with the mid-race selfie caught me by surprise…and luckily nothing else. I was at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5k on Halloween and got stuck a little further back from the starting line than I had hoped to be. Still, I wasn’t far enough back where I thought things would turn circus-like. Instead of a race, a circus is exactly what it turned out to be.

It took about 10-15 seconds for me to cross the starting line and considering the field size of more than 9,000 runners, that’s not terribly far back at all. I expected to encounter many slower runners, which is fine, but that wasn’t all. In that crowd, with so many people jostling for position and trying to move forward, a guy in front of me jammed on the brakes to take a damn selfie less than 100m into the race. Really? Really?! Come on…really?

He almost had a size 12 firmly embedded in his backside. I avoided that though, mainly out of concern for the cleanliness of my shoe. Hate to say it, but any harm coming to these people is sort of asked for, right up there with crossing a street without looking. It’s also easily avoided. Not only are they risking harm to themselves, but also to anyone they get tangled up with. If they get tripped up taking that damn selfie, then how many people can they bring down with them? How long before we see someone impaled on a selfie stick?

It’s right up there with cutting people off. You wouldn’t intentionally step in front of someone without leaving enough room to avoid a collision, right? Even the thought of acting otherwise should be registering as a big breach of racing etiquette. Just think about water stop etiquette: you are never justified in crashing over to the side to grab a cup without looking. NEVER. Ask any runner if they would come to a dead stop in a crowd at the beginning of a race and they’d probably think it to be a crazy question. Same if they were in a pack of runners at any other point in a race. So why isn’t the selfie thought of in the same manner?

These might seem like unwritten rules, but aren’t in the same vein as baseball’s archaic, senseless unwritten rules. These are steeped in common sense, and almost biblical (i.e. treat others the way you want to be treated).

I realize this might sound a touch crotchety, there might even be shades of ‘get off my lawn’ in there, but I don’t really care. It’s not about being elitist (which is a lazy argument, by the way), it’s about letting people do what they paid to do: run the race. If my running interferes with your selfie, well tough shit. I didn’t pay for that, and quite frankly neither did you either. You can’t be a runner and a photographer at the same time, not without compromising the safety of all the other runners around you.

Did this one encounter sour me on an otherwise harmless act? Or is it really a problem? It didn’t take long to find out. A couple of days later I heard from a coworker of mine who ran the NYC Marathon on Sunday (sub-3:30 debut!) that also had an encounter with a selfish runner. The clown was on a bridge further along in the race and abruptly stopped to get a picture, causing another runner to crash into him. My coworker only avoided this because the collision luckily knocked them out of her path. Can you imagine putting in all of that training, then investing the time and money required for the travel, only to have your race affected by a careless, reckless individual?


Perhaps it’s time to add selfie sticks to the list of banned race day items. That wouldn’t totally eliminate selfies since it would be hard to police taking a selfie with just the phone, but strongly discouraging it would be a start. Even Churchill Downs banned selfie sticks for the Kentucky Derby this past May. “The racetrack joins a growing list of museums, music festivals and sports venues around the world that are doing so.” They did so as a safety measure. You can argue that the only thing endangered there by the selfie stick are those fancy hats that the highborn are sporting, yet the sticks are banned. But somehow it’s okay to have them in a moving mass of hundreds, thousands of people? Seems to defy logic.

When done right, I’ll admit that a running-themed seflie can look cool but certainly not cool enough to justify interfering with others on race day. Whether you realize it or not, runners become the props and in that moment are only existing to make you look cooler. Right away it makes it a terrible and dangerous idea.

So please, don’t engage in pre-finish selfie. And if you’re too weak to resist the temptation then at least practice safe selfie. Remember, you’re not only jeopardizing your own race, but also that of everyone else that appears in the image.

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