Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to Basics: Race Etiquette

I've been thinking about this post for a while and after some of what I saw at last weekend's race at Boordy Vineyards, I feel like I needed to just get it out.

I want to chat about race etiquette- the general do's and don'ts during any kind of running or walking event. You may be thinking, "Sarah, it can't get much simpler. Just start when they say go and then keep going until the finish line." And you'd be right- except that a lot of crazy and sometimes rude (usually not intentional) stuff happens in between the start and finish.

Race etiquette is important not only for maintaining a positive and fun atmosphere but also for runner/walker's safety. Anytime you have a large group of people in one place there is bound to be risk involved. But if we all follow a few simple rules of etiquette, a race can be an enjoyable event for all participants!

DO seed yourself appropriately. 
If your race does not have starting corrals, line up according to pace: faster runners in the front, slower runners and walkers in the back. This sounds really easy, but I can't tell you how many times I've had to slow down my race pace considerably because it just wasn't safe: too many walkers/slower runners in a congested area mixed in among faster runners. Conversely, if you are super speedy, please don't line up in the middle or back of the pack and then try to zoom past slower runners- it's creates an unsafe race for everyone.

I always line up about 3/4 of the way back and I've never really had any issues with feeling like I'm too far forward or too far back. In a perfect world, here's how I think it would work for a 5k:

DON'T stop in front of the water station. 
Most races have tables of water with eager volunteers handing out cups full to runners. In order to avoid a collision with others, grab a cup and keep moving! If you want to stop and walk to drink, please move to the opposite side of the water station so you don't impede other runners. I nearly ran into a woman last weekend when she came to a dead stop in front of the water station and waited for a volunteer to pour her a cup of water- even though there were several other volunteers handing out cups of water past the one she was waiting for.

Tip- don't try to get water from the first volunteer or table- they are usually mobbed. Run to the next table/volunteer- they will usually have plenty of water available without the crowd of runners trying to grab at them.

DO let other runners know if you are walking/stopping/slowing down. 
I'm a Jeff Galloway-er. I run/walk/run at predetermined intervals. This means that I'm slowing down to a walk every 1-2 minutes. To let runners behind me know that I am slowing down, I simply raise my hand for a few seconds before and after I start to walk. That way I don't get run over :-) Also, if you need to walk, slow down, or stop, move to the side of the course- preferably the right side. This follows the basic rule; try not to impede other runners.

DON'T walk or run more than two abreast. 
Matthew and I run a lot of races together. Sometimes I run with three or four people. But we always try to be no more that two across. And if we are running on a narrow course, we run single file. Again, you don't want to block the course with more than two people running or walking side-by-side.

DO keep moving through the finisher's chute.
Once you've crossed the finish line, keep moving. Again, there are going to be many runners coming in behind you and collisions are not fun. Grab your free banana, a water, and move to the side to get your finisher picture.

DO cheer for other runners.
Before, during, and after the race, don't forget to cheer for your fellow runners! You'd be surprised how easily you can make someone's day with just a little "looking good, runner!"

Following these simple tips can help ensure a fun-filled event for all participants. So, get out there and race with proper etiquette! :-)

QOTD: What else is on your race etiquette do's and don'ts list?


  1. Sarah, I could not agree more. We have encountered some interesting situations during races with behavior, but for the most part our races have been good. I am not sure about the cheering for other runners though. This has been debated alot through other blogs, and some people are offended if you cheer and run by. I am guilty of staying neutral.

    1. Yes, I have seen debates on the topic and I will usually stay after I cross the finish and cheer runners in. But I do understand how some people don't want to be cheered for.

      I was running the Baltimore half marathon earlier this year after running the 5k earlier the same morning so when I was coming toward the finish (about a quarter mile away), I was going pretty slow- after all this was my mile 16 and I was pretty tired. As I was rounding a corner, I slowed to a walk and a spectator yelled out, "You don't have time to walk- the finish is right around the corner!" I was furious. I *think* she was trying to motivate me, but it just made me angry. I would have much rather had a "good job runner!" than an attempt to get me to move faster :-)

  2. Gah! I hate it when ppl stop in the finisher's chute! My legs can't take the sudden stop! Grab your crap and go ppl! I also rather not enjoy when runners dump their water in the middle of the road... in/around/on other runners. Take it to the side... ditch it there! My shoes don't need to be wet for the next 5 miles.

    1. Ugh! Yes, totally forgot about that one! I HATE getting splashed when someone drops a full cup of water on the ground.

  3. Great tips for newer runners. My peeves were on your list - people walking more than 2 abreast (esp on race routes with narrow paths) and walking to get water.

    1. But at the end of the day, I never let it ruin my race experience :)

    2. Oh I cannot tell you how irritated I was last weekend! I literally had to jump out of the way at the water station because I was about to take this woman and the volunteer out!

  4. How about don't cut horizontally across the field to jump in front of a camera! Seriously, sometimes I just want to taser people who do that.

    1. I think the cardinal rule is this- "don't get in another runner/walker's way!" Just follow that and all will go swimmingly :-)