I am certainly sympethetic to the view of people who think that the best running experiance involves awareness of the environment and of your effort. That is fine and on some zen-level, they are probably right. So what? Not everybody is out running to achieve oneness with nature. I run, mostly to allow me to eat a lot without getting fat. This is pretty much the opposite of spiritual.
There used to be practical considerations. When I was a younger, faster runner and the music devices much larger and heavier than the mp3 players we now have, my objection to running with music was that it looked really uncomfortable and not at all worth it. Now that an Apple Shuffle is about the size of a matchbook and holds about 16 hours of music, the practical problems are gone.
The whole controversy is about banning headphones in races. There is a whole liability issue, which in our risk-adverse society, makes it understandible for race organizers to entertain bans. A well-enforced ban might casue fewer runners to enter a race, so organizers will have to take that into consideration too. If I ever run a marathon distance again, I think it would be nice to listen to music--three and one half hours of just pounding the pavement with no entertainment doesn't sound fun to me.
Why would anyone else care? I mean, yeah it is all, "you're missing the whole spiritual side of running dude", but making rules involves telling people what they can't do. Most people are fine with rules when it is all about protecting innocent bystanders but if the only justification is that it ruines the experience, well that is tyranical or at least bossy and not in a good way.
I say, unless there are a few specific instances of accidents in races, traced directly to headphone use--let people do what pleases them.