As a runner, I feel that iPods have tainted us. Years past a runner would traverse long stretches of concrete in nothing more than a red bandana and tube socks. This limited attire was the mark of an accomplished sprinter and careful observers would take notice.

“What are you doing?” an onlooker would ask.

“I’m running!” he would shout, before taking his pulse.

Today’s runner, however, will likely ignore such queries. If he’s like the runners that frequent Runyon Canyon, he’s too busy listening to Beyoncé while sipping an iced Chai Latte from his designer thermos. How many running-related questions have gone unanswered because of this despicable behavior? Can one even fathom such a number?

My frustration with the iPod began with my father. Each morning I watched Dad lace up his Asics and embark on a four-mile run. It was quite a feat considering he wore a freakishly large size 14. Dad was not cheap, but he rarely spent money on himself. A portable radio was simply not in his budget.

When I took up running, I decided to go at it the same way my father had, without an iPod. The era of affordable MP3 players had already peeked, yet I was determined to run without one. It was a bold move, yet one I was prepared for. At least I thought.

I should have known better than to venture outside my usual route and into the no-man’s land of South Los Angeles (formerly South Central). But what can I say? I have the tendency to overachieve and wanted to extend my three-mile run into five. Just for kicks.

Crenshaw Boulevard was bustling with activity. Vendors hawked Lakers gear, Rottweilers chased after them and children ran wild in the streets. With a cool summer breeze to my back, I coasted through the final stretch. I was less than a mile from the finish when a black Mercedes drove up beside me.

“Do you have the time?” the driver asked.

He seemed like a civil young fellow, with his braided hair and sideways baseball cap, and I was more than happy to do him the service.

“Just one moment,” I said.

I have had plenty of bad stuff happen, but I never had a milkshake thrown on me. What kind of twisted individual finishes a quarter of his delicious ice cream concoction and says to himself, “Hmm, maybe I should throw the rest on someone?” Now covered head to toe, I decided to walk.

As countless people laughed and pointed from their porches, I thought of my father. What would he have done in this situation?

He’s too proud to allow an isolated innocent destroy his morning routine. He probably would have wiped his face clean and completed his run. I only wish I was as strong-minded.

Later that evening, I went to the local Target and bought my first iPod. I use it for various activities, but mostly as a distraction when I run. People still stop me from time to time. But now I just ignore them.