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February 27, 2013

Running Etiquette Basics...Some (Informal) Rules of the Road

Written by Dena Evans

Beginners and experienced runners need to navigate successfully around other runners, walkers, obstacles, and shared spaces alike.  Although many small communities of runners may have their own language and habits for dealing with various situations, it is instructive to keep in mind a basic knowledge of common running etiquette.   Like many things in life, the golden rule applies.  Sometimes with outstanding running etiquette, we can even influence another runner to employ more people-friendly tactics their next time out.  Here are a few tips on how to manage a few recurring situations.

 

Passing someone coming the opposite direction

On a bike/ pedestrian path, sidewalk, trail, or other two-way, directional running surface, pass others as cars would.  If you are in the United States, that means bearing right, but perhaps that might mean bearing left if in the UK.  If you are running with a group, take care not to take up the whole path and slide into single file as necessary to let the oncoming runner have a straight path.  If necessary, make eye contact and even take a half step to one side to indicate your planned passing lane when you think confusion might be occurring.

 

Passing someone from behind

If moving in the same direction as the person you are trying to pass, again pass as cars would, with the faster party (you, in this case), moving by toward the center of two directional surface path or sidewalk or if narrow, on the left. First, alert them to your presence by saying “On your left” loud enough for them to hear you and not so close as to startle them.  Give it a little gas if you can and pass quickly so as not to dwell in the “two abreast” stage of the pass.

 

If the person in front of you is wearing headphones and can’t hear you, give a wide berth as you pass to avoid startling them.

 

If in a race, pay special attention before and after fluid stations, heading in and out of sharp and curbed corners, and at a turn around so as not to cause a pileup or a chain reaction.  You and the other runners are entitled to hold your own space, but it is your responsibility to maintain that space with the people immediately in front of you, and to not encroach that space by dangerously slipping by someone right at the curb before or after a turn.  If looking for a particular line for an advantageous tangent to a distant corner, to stay out of the wind, or for another reason, you must allow a step and a half of space between yourself and the person you are passing before moving in front of them into their lane / line.  If in doubt, give the other runner an indication by announcing your intention with an “on your left”, “head’s up” or a point of the finger where you are headed so they can see what you have planned.

 

If passing a horse on a trail, make sure you alert the rider well in advance of your arrival, and plan to walk around the backside of the horse with a wide berth.  Yes, that might be annoying and a disruption to your run, but a worse disruption is a startled horse and back kick into your stomach.  Don’t take any chances.

 

Running with a group

If running on a surface with any regular oncoming running traffic at all, two runners across is probably the maximum appropriate amount of width.  If running with three or more with plenty of room, be prepared to maintain the responsibility of yielding to an oncoming runner if you suddenly come upon one rather than force them to the shoulder or the bushes.  Even if there is no oncoming traffic, running with three across can prove a hazard as cyclists, cars, and other runners might be coming from behind and have to swing wide into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting your group.

 

Minding your manners on a busy track

Unless the track is empty or no one present is running for time or fast enough to encounter each other, do not jog in lane 1 of the track.  Many tracks encourage this through gates or signs to jog in outside lanes. Even if not, a community track is a treasure for all who use it and a very expensive item to resurface.  If you want to continue accessing your home track, it is best for all to allow lane 1 to wear out as slowly as possible.  Therefore, if you don’t need to use it for timing a workout, don’t.

 

Again, unless the place is empty or traffic is limited enough to definitely avoid bumping into each other, do not run the opposite direction (clockwise).  If you do for some reason, it is your responsibility to yield to those running counterclockwise.  Likewise, do not ever run clockwise in lane 1, unless you really, really, have the place to yourself.

 

If passing from behind on a track, always do so to the outside of the person you are passing, particularly if both of you are too out of breath to let them know verbally that you are coming by.  If someone (toddler, random person talking on their cell phone, slouchy teenager, or similar) is standing or otherwise blocking your lane while not running hard themselves, give them a sharp “TRACK!” before you come upon them to give them time to move out of the way.  Likewise, if you accidentally are daydreaming or forget where you are and hear “TRACK!” while standing in a particular lane, it is your responsibility to get out of the way immediately as you would hope another would do for you.

 

Fluid stations

Do not cut off other runners in a crazy diagonal direction to get fluid.  Fluid stations are often areas with slippery footing, and race-ending injuries can occur even when best intentions are met with poor geometry.  Prior to the station, merge as you can so all runners can get a clean shot at the drinks without banging into each other.  If you need to stop and consume whatever it is you picked up, do so AFTER you clear the table and out of the main line of travel.

 

Drafting

If it is windy, or the road is particularly cambered, runners will often naturally form a single file or thin line as the race stretches out.  However, if it is just you and one other poor runner, by yourselves into the wind for five miles straight, it is bad form to just silently just have them take the brunt of the weather without offering to take turns if evenly matched.  If you are hanging on to the pace for dear life and there is no way you could help, at least acknowledging their help or asking if it is ok for you to run along with them for a bit is far better than just wordlessly breathing down their throat the entire way.

 

Assorted other Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do shake hands with someone you just worked with or competed against for a large portion of the race.
  • Do look oncoming runners in the eye and say good morning or hello.  If running by yourself, this can also be a way for others to have remembered you if you go missing on a run.  Sounds scary, but it is true.
  • Do not knowingly (when possible) bring meandering children on training wheels or hard to control (even if good natured) dogs to a location where people are running hard for time in narrow confines.  Freak injuries and accidents from this type of thing are more common than you may realize.
  • Do wipe down your treadmill in the gym for the next person, even if they aren’t yet present.
  • Do not stop short in lane 1 of a busy track or in the middle of a busy bike path if doing timed intervals.  Decelerate by stepping to the side or the inside of the track, or take a glimpse behind you first to make sure no one is immediately on your tail.
  • Do not randomly “race” some person you just came upon in the park without exchanging pleasantries at least or acknowledging you are trying to stay with them.
  • Do completely clear the finish line of a race before engaging with your watch to check splits, etc.
  • Do not keep the beeping function of your GPS device on during a race.  It may not match up with the race markings and quickly becomes a stressor and annoyance for anyone running with you.
  • Do not wear headphones unless in a situation where you are sure it is safe for you and others to do so.  If doing so, always keep them at a level where you can still hear the ambient noise around you.

 

Most importantly, keep it light and try not to take yourself so seriously when situations requiring etiquette occur.  We all put a great deal of effort and time into our running, but most of us do so for the fun, relaxation, and enjoyment of the sport.  Acting in a way that allows your fellow runners the chance to do so as well is the least each of us can do for each other.

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