Race Manners

When you enter an event, your behavior is important.  Know the basic rules of race etiquette before you cross the starting line.

  • Line up properly:   If the event has different pace groups set up at the start, get into the correct one.  Nothing is more annoying at the start of a race than having to weave around slower runners and walkers after the gun goes off.  You may think you gain something by starting closer to the front than your pace would allow, instead you’ll become an obstacle.  Most races use timing chips, so the time it takes you to reach the starting line won’t count in your final net time.
  • Don’t jingle: Don’t carry loose change or a set of keys in your pocket.  Although it may not bother you, the constant jingling can be really annoying to those near you.
  • Don’t take up the whole road:  The biggest complaint you’ll hear from other participants is difficulty in getting around a group of walkers or runners.  The simple rule is – no more than two abreast.  Even if you start off at the back of the pack, you can be assured there’s somebody behind you getting angrier and angrier that they can’t easily pass you.
  • Allow yourself to get passed:  Be aware of people who want to pass you.  You’ll be correct if you just assume that somebody always wants to pass you, so leave room to allow them to pass on the left.  If they ask to pass on the right with a “Passing on the Right” then keep your arms in and let them pass on the right.
  • Don’t pass somebody and then slow down right in front of them: Run/walkers are the biggest culprits in this.  Remember that the folks behind you don’t slow down when you do.  Never race ahead of someone unless you continue to check that you’re still going faster than them and continuing to gain distance on them.
  • Pull to the side if you must stop:  If you have a shoe problem, get a phone call, want to take a photo, etc., you must move completely to the side of the course and ensure you’re not blocking anyone.  If possible, step off the course and onto the sidewalk or grass.  Don’t stop near the start of a race or you’ll risk being trampled and tripping others. 
  • Move through the water stops:  The proper way to grab water at an aid station is to do it at a steady pace, on the move, and pull completely through the aid station.  If you need to stop, go all of the way off the side of the course to do so.  Don’t stop within the aid station.  Even at smaller events, take your water and move to the side if you plan to chat with the volunteers.  Watch where you fling your cup after using it so you don’t toss it on racers approaching you from the side.
  • Move predictably and keep your arms to yourself:  Try to move predictably rather than weaving and veering into other people.  Don’t fling your arms out suddenly – someone may be trying to pass you and get clothes-lined.
  • Show appreciation to volunteers: Say “Thank You!” to race volunteers who hand you water or put your medal around your neck.  They’re volunteering their time, and the race wouldn’t be successful without them.
  • Use caution when wearing headphones:  Yes, most races allow participants to listen to music (as long as they’re not competing for a prize), and a lot of runners can’t race without their music.  But, for your and others’ safety, you should make sure you can still hear what’s happening around you.  Keep the volume low and use just one earbud so you can hear instructions from race officials and warnings (i.e., “on your left”) from others during the race.
  • Thank supporters, too: Acknowledge race spectators who cheer for you as you pass them.  If you’re too tired to say “thanks,” show them a smile, wave, or give them a thumbs up.  It will make them feel good and encourage them to keep rooting for others.
  • Keep moving at the finish: Don’t immediately stop at the finish line or in the chute.  There will be others coming in right behind you, so keep going until it’s safe to come to a stop.  
  • Don’t be a glutton:  Don’t take more than your fair share of food and drinks at the finish line.  There are other, slower people behind you.  Take only what you need at that moment.  Above all, don’t cart off a box of goodies from the finish unless and until you are the absolute last finisher, and everybody else is out of the finish area and the medical tent.  That food is for others, not just for you, and for today only.
  • Spit happens – don’t share it:  If you need to spit, or vomit, or toss anything liquid, try to pull to the side and ensure you aren’t projecting onto somebody else. 
  • Portajohn line courtesy:  Somebody in line behind you is desperate for that portajohn.  If there’s a line, line up close to the doors and keep paying attention to a portajohn being vacated – don’t delay the others in line by dithering or being distracted.  If you’re going to hand stuff to a friend or put it outside the door, do that or plan for that before you are at the head of the line, so you’re ready to race into the john.  Allow others with greater need to go first if they look desperate.  Don’t complain about “smelly portajohns.”  We love all portajohns.  We think the world needs more portajohns.  Tell that to the race director for planning for next year.  It’s best to carry your own toilet paper or kleenex and hand sanitizer as the portajohn may be out of those.