Business & Tech
    Next Score View the next score

    Some Boston Marathon runners can’t leave their phones behind

    “A marathon is very much a psychological game as much as it is a physical challenge, and you start having voices in your head saying, ‘You can’t do this. You should stop,’ ” said Myla Green, a 34-year-old manager at a nonprofit. “Being with people, whether I’m running with a group, or calling people on the phone if I’m running solo, helps.”
    Rose Lincoln for the Boston Globe
    “A marathon is very much a psychological game as much as it is a physical challenge, and you start having voices in your head saying, ‘You can’t do this. You should stop,’ ” said Myla Green, a 34-year-old manager at a nonprofit. “Being with people, whether I’m running with a group, or calling people on the phone if I’m running solo, helps.”

    You won’t see Tom Brady pulling out his phone at midfield to read an encouraging text from Gisele. Chris Sale can’t snap selfies on the mound. But at some point along the 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon Monday, Myla Green is planning to call her mom for encouragement.

    Running may be one of the purer ways to pursue the athlete’s high. But Green is among the thousands who cannot imagine getting from Hopkinton to Copley without their smartphones to keep them on pace, distract them with music, record the feat for posterity, and provide a lifeline when they need help getting up Heartbreak Hill.

    “A marathon is very much a psychological game as much as it is a physical challenge, and you start having voices in your head saying, ‘You can’t do this. You should stop,’ ” said Green, a 34-year-old manager at a nonprofit. “Being with people — whether I’m running with a group, or calling people on the phone if I’m running solo — helps.”

    Advertisement

    In a survey of 7,389 runners in last year’s Marathon, the Boston Athletic Association found that 43 percent brought their phones with them during the race. Though it does not have an official preference, the BAA does gently suggest that runners would do well to soak up the experience sans headphones.

    Get Talking Points in your inbox:
    An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    “We always encourage participants to take in the crowd noise and listen to the competitors around them. The fans along the Boston course are unlike anywhere else in the world,” said T.K. Skenderian, spokesman for the BAA. “It’s almost like the reward. You’ve been training for months.”

    Indeed, for every phone-fixed runner, there is another for whom running — and the Boston Marathon in particular — is a sacred break from screen time and all the tweets, notifications, and other distractions that come with it.

    “I want to absorb the whole experience,” said Ken Kansa, who is coming in from Chicago to run his third Boston Marathon this year. “Like everybody else, I miss a lot of my day-to-day experience because I’m plugged into this or that on my phone, and this is an occasion to be without it for a good reason.”

    Janice Hodgins Spiotta has grudgingly come to accept that she should carry a phone with her during training runs on the rural roads of upstate New York, after a pair of encounters with angry dogs that underscored the need for an emergency lifeline. But the Batavia, N.Y., runner doesn’t expect any canine threats Monday, and so plans to run Boston phone-free.

    Advertisement

    “I run to tune out. I don’t want to have the distraction of technology,” she said.

    Members of the pro-phone running group say there are many reasons to stay connected, most of which revolve around communications: from small-scale coordination like arranging meet-ups, to security concerns that are no longer an abstract threat after the deadly 2013 bombings near the finish line.

    Runners use phones to update family and friends on their finishing times, or alert them to an injury. Tommy Collins of Farmington, Conn., wants to know he can find his wife and 11-year-old daughter during or after the race.

    “It’s peace of mind knowing that if something happens, then I could get in touch with them,” said Collins, who is running to benefit the American Red Cross.

    The phone will also allow Collins to include his family in the race experience. He expects to get texts from them while on the course, and his daughter has already loaded background tunes for the long run. “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” by Daya, Collins admitted, has a nice beat for running.

    Advertisement

    Since the first days of the Walkman, listening to music has been another one of the bright — or, as it were, loud — lines that divide the running community. Headphones are particularly unpopular among visually impaired runners, who say electronics make it harder for other runners to hear warnings from their guides when they are trying to pass safely.

    Elite runners competing for awards aren’t allowed to use headphones. But even if she were, Desiree Linden, a two-time US Olympic marathoner running in her sixth Boston Marathon on Monday, can’t imagine lugging a phone with her.

    “Having a phone out there would definitely be a total distraction,” she said. “I want to know how my breathing is doing, and how relaxed I feel, how stressed I feel, how my muscles feel. If someone’s texting me, or I’m getting updates on the game score, it’s just drawing attention away from the actual activity.”

    For Green, Monday will be her third marathon, but her first in Boston; she gained entry by raising money for charity — nearly $12,000 for the Fenway Health Center.

    And since this is her inaugural Boston Marathon, she wants to be able to savor the experience. That means pulling out her phone to record memorable moments, such as the “scream tunnel ” of Wellesley College students about halfway through the race.

    “I have been known to take a selfie or two on the route at a point,” she said. “Yeah, I’ll probably do that.”

    Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com.