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Etiquette for Runners

The summer season always brings a lot of new runners to the mix. As beach season begins, training groups form for fall races and new faces appear on the roads, sidewalks and trails. If you fall into the “newbie” category, please know that you are welcome! Most of us who’ve been running for some time thoroughly enjoy sharing our sport with newcomers and we recognize your importance to the growth of our favorite activity. Having said that, you can sometimes be a little annoying, but it’s only because there are a lot of unwritten rules you might not know that you’re not following. So, it’s high time somebody wrote them down:

Know where you belong
You belong in the race, but if you’re not trying to win, you don’t belong in the front of the pack. Most races have starting corrals that are divided into general pace categories. Find the one you belong in and start there. If you start further up because you’re afraid of being stuck behind slower runners – guess what? You’re going to be one of those slower runners people are stuck behind. Eventually, you may get faster and you’ll be there in the front. Until then, find your designated spot in the starting corrals and start from there.

Be aware of others
If you’re in a road race or just training on a track, be aware of other runners. If you’re slowing down, stay to the right of the road (unless you’re in a race and the road is curving to the right), or move to the outside lanes of the track. Before you do, glance over your shoulder and make sure there’s not a runner already starting to pass you first. You probably hate it when people go slow in the “fast lane” on the highway, so don’t be that person in the race or on the track.

Don’t hog the road
Running with a group is great (and highly recommended), but be aware that faster runners may be behind you, so leave them plenty of room to pass your group. If you’re in a race and you figure there’s no way any faster person could possibly be behind you, also be aware that people run races in run/walk cycles and those cycles are not necessarily in sync. So, when you go into a walk phase, someone else might be going into a run phase and vice versa. You don’t want them blocking you, so don’t block them.

Be careful with your bodily fluids
The need to blow a “snot rocket” or rid yourself of a big loogey is understandable – especially in the winter months. Just be careful where you aim. Look both ways and make sure nobody is approaching from behind before you expel your fluids. If you’re trying to get rid of it, you can be pretty sure nobody else wants it.

You’re not almost there until you’re almost there
This one is for the novice spectators. The 20 mile mark in a marathon is not “almost there”. There’s still 10K to go! While that may seem like a short distance relative to the whole marathon, keep in mind that a lot of people in the world will never run 10K in their lives, and the furthest many of the people in the marathon have ever run while training is 20 miles. So, in many ways, the race is just beginning at the 20 mile marker! No matter the length of the race, don’t yell “almost there” unless you can see or hear the actual finish line. Please don’t let that stop you from cheering in other ways, though!

Don’t be the running etiquette police
Nobody really likes a know-it-all. Just because you’ve read this article doesn’t mean you have the right to harass your fellow runners. Some people are selfish, others are unaware and there are exceptions to every rule. Besides, to paraphrase Captain Hector Barbossa, running etiquette is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. So, just behave yourself, enjoy yourself, and please let other runners do the same!

Is there anything else you find rude or annoying? Let us know!

Written by

Brian Darrow is a running coach in St. Petersburg, FL who specializes in online coaching for beginners. Follow him at

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