Dear Dumb Runner,
So a friend asks to run with you, but always puts on her headphones before you start running. Is this rude? Sure, the music must be low enough because she can still carry on a conversation, but if you tell the person it bothers you and she still does it, is it better just to say no next time she invites herself on a run?—Anonymous
There are two questions here, so I'll address them one at a time.
First, is it rude for a friend to join you for a run and then to use headphones or earbuds? I think it is. (I'm not a fan of using headphones or earbuds while running outdoors in general, but that's a topic for another day.)
I consider it rude mostly because of the signal it sends and the tone it sets, before you've taken a single step—i.e., "Hey, thanks for letting me run with you. Now excuse me while I physically plug my ears." It's tacky and graceless. (And I know that plenty of running partners both wear headphones while running together. I find this mystifying, but that, too, is a topic for another day.)
The fact that your friend can apparently still hear you and engage in conversation is beside the point. So is the fact that "lots of people do it," which is a defense I suspect she might use. Lots of people stare at their phones while dining with others, too. Doesn't make it any less tacky or graceless.
Are we really unable to pry our phones and music players from our clawlike grips for the duration of a run with a friend? To just unplug and enjoy the company of another human? Must every moment of every activity be accompanied by a soundtrack?
Have we really become this dull?
Even if you dismiss all of the above as Grumpy Old Man blather—and I know some runners will—there's the fact that this friend persists in her behavior even after you told her that it bothers you. That's not just rude. It's boorish.
So, to answer your second question: Is it better just to say no the next time this friend invites herself on a run?
Given how much her habit seems to bug you, I'd say yes.
If she asks why you're suddenly snubbing her, be honest. (But not judgmental.) Maybe she'll decide she values your companionship more than her '90s R&B Pandora station. Or not. At least you'll have cleared the air.