Dear headphone manufacturers - Big opportunity to own the marathon market

Wireless, 100% waterproof, rugged and lasts for at least 6 hours per charge

I really wonder about headphone manufacturers and their testing. I own everything from no-name €10 Chinese wired earbuds to €100+ Jaybird X3s and every single one of them is problematic for running.

In the US alone, over 550,000 people ran a marathon in 2016. Scale that globally (with a 13% growth rate) and that’s a substantial, defined, receptive, target market.

My goto pair for the past 2 years are SMS In-Ear Wired Sport earbuds. They were expensive-ish at the time for non-bluetooth but have got me through many marathons. The problems?

  • The right-angled jack means I had to buy a straight inline adapter to connect with my phone when it’s in a running armband
  • Only the play/pause button works on Android
  • Being wired means I have a flapping, dangling, awkward cable running from my ears to my arm that I have to control with safety pins.
  • Taking the phone off my arm to do anything causes even more cable issues
  • Trying to use them when the phone is in a running waist-band is impossible

My second option was a pair of Anker IE20 Bluetooth “buds” with connecting wire. The problems?

  • Battery life of 2.5 hours means I’d have to be running near Olympic qualifying pace in the marathon
  • Connecting cable drags on the back of my neck
  • Buds are large due to batteries
  • Charging port is hidden if you attach optional (necessary) rubber wings
  • Audio drop-out if phone is in a running waist-band

My most recent attempt was a pair of Jaybird X3s. The problems?

  • They died after a couple of months just like everyone online said they would. Really Jaybird, really? I’m on day 5 of trying to get an RMA.
  • Connecting cable drags on the back of my neck
  • Charging connector already unreliable after a few months (and stupid money to replace)
  • Some audio drop-out if phone is in a running waist-band

Other options?

  • Obviously something like Airpods are a joke for non-Olympic-pace marathon runners.
  • The old Motorola SD10-HD head-grippers give me a headache after a few miles.
  • I’ve read that bone-conduction ones aren’t great for audio clarity on podcasts when running but I haven’t tried them.
  • The Sony SBH20 bluetooth adapter has big audio drop-out issues even with phone on my arm

So what do we marathon runners need?

  • Bluetooth to stop the dangling wires and for iPhone users
  • 100% waterproof and sweatproof. Not splash-proof or kinda waterproof or even IP68. I mean they can handle being covered by water and sports drinks at 10 waterstops in a marathon, every week.
  • A water/sweatproof charging system (See Fenix 3 watch)
  • A charging system that’s physically tested for at least a few thousand cycles
  • Play-time battery life of at least 6 hours
  • Rugged as hell. I never want to see a frayed cable
  • Ideally no connecting wire between the buds, but if it has one, it needs some way of not tugging on my neck
  • Waterproof control buttons. I should be able to press them when covered in sweat
  • Wings to keep them in my ears
  • €100ish price, ideally less

So build it and start advertising on the big (and small) running sites, along with running podcasts and magazines. Heck, sponsor some marathons.

What about the product name?

“Marathon Headphones - For people who like to run far”. Make them aspirational. Then everyone who runs 5k+ will want to own them.

You’ll have a slam dunk of a product.

Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland