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Race Etiquette

Regardless of the size or importance of a particular race, safety and manners matter. Whether you are training in a heavily congested area, racing a small local road race, or a big city marathon these rules should be followed.

General Rules for Running in an Event

  • Follow the rules of the race outlined on the race entry form! All runners have a collective responsibility to keep the event safe. Races generally discourage running with dogs, headphones, cell phones, and jogging strollers.
  • Pre-register even if same day registration is offered. This will help ease the registration process for everyone involved.
  • Arrive early for the event, especially if you are picking up your number on race day. Check your registration information carefully, especially if you are racing with a club, for an award, or prize money.
  • Use the facilities before the race start to lessen the need once on course, and help keep the facilities clean for the person in line after you.  Plan to do this well in advance, as the lines get longer the closer it gets to race start.  Also facities near the race corrals are usually the longest.
  • Pin your race number on the front of your shirt/shorts. This is where it is most visible for photographers and race officials.  Using a race belt is a great option if you don't want holes in your clothing.  The key is to have your number on your front.
  • Line up according to how fast you plan to run or walk the event. Slower runners and walkers should move to the back of the race pack. Just because you arrived early does not mean you should be at the front of the starting line.
  • Pay attention to the pre-race instructions. This is not the time to be blaring your favorite song on your personal music device, which really should be locked in your car or at home.

Race Etiquette on Course

  • If you drop something as the race starts, don’t stop and pick it up! Wait until almost everyone has crossed the starting line then retrieve it.
  • Don’t drop clothing on the course after you warm-up. If you must shed layers of clothing, tie them around your waist or place them on the side of the road where no one will trip over them. If you drop it; don’t expect to get it back.
  • Run or walk no more than two abreast.
  • Do not block runners coming up behind you by swerving needlessly back and forth across the course.
  • If you are walking in a group, stay to the back of the pack and follow the two abreast rule.
  • Bodily functions are a fact of life during a race. If you need to spit, blow your nose or throw-up, move to the side of the road and do it there. If nature calls, check for a port-a-potty, an open business, a kind neighbor along the course, or as a last resort, a discreet clump of bushes before relieving yourself.  Again, follow the rules from the race entry form.  In some races you will be disqualified if you relieve yourself anywhere other than a port-a-potty.
  • Move to the side if someone behind you says, “Excuse me” or “on your right/left”. The person behind you is giving you a heads up before passing. It’s proper race etiquette to let that person pass you without blocking their effort.
  • If someone in front of you is wearing headphones, and they are blocking, gently touch their elbow or shoulder as you pass to alert them to your presence.
  • If you need to tie your shoe or stop for any reason (phone call, nose blow, etc) move to the side of the road and step off the course.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. The course may or may not be closed to traffic. It is your responsibility to watch for oncoming traffic!
  • Yield the right of way to all police and emergency vehicles. Yield the course to wheel chair athletes, you can change direction or stop more quickly then they can, especially on a downhill.
  • Don’t cheat! Don’t cut the course or run with someone else’s number.
  • Enjoy your race!

Aid Station Etiquette

  • When approaching an aid station to hydrate or re-fuel,  move in and grab your fluid/nutritional needs from the volunteers or the aid tables then continue forward away from the volunteers or aid table.  Do not stop in front of the tables.
  • If you need to stop at an aid station step to the side of the road and proceed to the aid station, but do not block others from accessing the aid tables or volunteers handing out fluids.
  • Throw your used cup to the far right or left side away from the course and as close to an aid station as possible.
  • Say thank you to the volunteers manning the aid station!
  • If you see someone in distress on the course, report their number to the aid station and try to recall the approximate mile maker where you saw them.

Finish Line Etiquette

  • If you neglected to leave your personal music device at home,  now would be the most important time to remove your headphones.
  • Follow the instructions of the race officials at the finish.
  • If a friend or family member is running the last stretch with you and isn’t in the race, he/she should move off the course before the finish chute starts.
  • Once you have crossed the finish line, keep moving forward until the end of the finish chute.  If the event is not electronically timed,  stay in finishing order so the finish line volunteers can remove the pull tags from your number for scoring.
  • If the event is electronically timed,  be sure to return the timing tag/chip before leaving the finishers chute.
  • Exit the chute and wait for friends or family in a central location.
  • Enjoy the post-race refreshments, but remember it is not an all you can eat buffet for you and your family.
  • Stay around for the awards ceremony to cheer on the overall winners along with the age group winners.  Running is one of the few sports where the participants get to mingle closely with the event winners.
  • Be proud of your accomplishment!

Remember no event is perfect and people work hard to make them safe and enjoyable.  Primarily volunteers staff most events, but there is always a race director or race committee that is responsible for an event.  If you have ideas for improving an event or concerns you would like to address, share them with the race director or race committee in a positive and productive manner.

Running Safety- What you need to know

Running safety is something many runners do not think about, but learn as they go.  Don’t let a bad experience catch you off guard, instead think about some of my tips here and apply a few of them to your training. I thought about writing about safety as I was heading out for a run on a wintery day, so much of my advice applies to other seasons, but is particularly useful in the winter.

HAVE A PLAN AND DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET.  Always plan your runs.  What course to you plan to take?  What distance or time?  Does anyone else know where you are going?  Tell a family member, send a text to your running buddy, or leave a note behind regarding your plans.

LOST WITH NO WAY HOME.  Whether you are running on your own turf, or in an area you are unfamiliar, you should always know where your home is.  If you are staying with friends write down their address and phone and have it on your body.  You should always have some cash as well.  I also recommend carrying a house key.  My favorite way to deal with these little details is a shoe wallet.  It attaches to the top of your shoe and is large enough for some cash, a house key, and a piece of paper identifying where home is.

TAG, YOU’RE IT.  You should always carry ID on your body, regardless of what you are doing, but particularly when you are out exercising.  If you have an expired drivers license you can carry that on your workouts.  My advice is to purchase an ID bracelet.  Go to roadid

They have multiple options, but the basic name, address, phone numbers, allergies info etc is $20.  I never run, bike, or swim without mine and it has come in handy (unfortunately for me).  Because mine is worn on my wrist any emergency responder will know who I am and who to call in an emergency.

YOU LOOK GREAT, BUT CAN ANYONE SEE YOU?  Whether it’s day or night you want to dress to be seen.  Some things to consider are light colored clothing.  This one isn’t real reasonable; just think about how much of your workout attire is white.  So other really good options are a safety vest or a brightly colored accessory.  The safety vests are made of a very lightweight mesh with reflective materials that can be worn over any shirt or jacket so is multi seasonal.  If you don’t like that idea, choose to wear one accessory that is very loud.  I have a pair of thin gloves that I wear much of the year.  They are crossing guard yellow color and extremely noticeable when I run.  I had a traffic cop stop me once and comment that he could see me coming up the street a half-mile away.  Reflective headbands and ankle bands are some other ideas.  Many manufacturers are adding reflective bands to clothing and shoes, which is great, but sometimes not enough, and may not be worth the additional cost.

ROAD RUNNING RULES- Why would you run in the road if a sidewalk exists?  Sometimes sidewalks are more dangerous than roads, over crowded with pedestrians, poor footing, construction, or slippery surface.  Under good conditions always choose to run on a sidewalk; after all even though you may feel like a machine, you are still a pedestrian.

The other day I chose to run in the street on the way to the track.  It was in the morning after a snow and the sidewalks were slippery but roads were clear.  I chose a road that had a bike path and ran against traffic.  Here are some things to consider when running in the road.

  • How well do you know the traffic patterns?  Is a seemingly rural road going to suddenly become busy and there is no shoulder for you to move to?  Be very cautious when choosing to run in the road in an area you are unfamiliar.
  • Is it day or night?  Sunny or cloudy?  Raining or snowing? Is oncoming traffic perhaps looking into the sun?  Don’t run in the street if driving conditions are not optimal.
  • If you are going to run in the street always run against traffic.  It’s wise to choose an extra wide street, maybe one marked with a bike lane.  One-way streets are sometimes a better option then two-way, drivers have less to think about, and usually have more space to maneuver.
  • If you are fortunate enough to get to the country for some training beware that drivers are not expecting runners in the street.  Stick with running against traffic, stay close to the shoulder.  If a car approaches and doesn’t appear to be giving you some breathing room, stop, step off the road, and let them pass before proceeding.  If you are listening to music and running along a winding, hilly road, with blind spots, stop the music, and listen for traffic.  You don’t want a car going 40mph to get to the top of a hill and be surprised by your presence. The best way to stay safe in a road is to be friendly.  Wave at everything approaching.  They will be more likely to notice you and maybe you will even get a smile or wave back.

AID STATIONS- wherever you choose to run, if it is more than an hour you may very well need water or a bathroom of sorts.  Know what your options are for your route.

HEY, YOU LOOK LIKE SANTA- Not something I ever want to here.  Protect you skin in freezing temperatures.  If it’s below freezing you definitely want to cover as much skin as possible.  Dress in layers.  Eventually you will be able to look at a weather forecast and know exactly what to wear.  Until that day comes (took me at least a year) too warm, is better than too cold.  You don’t want to finish a long, blistery cold run and look in the mirror and see really red skin.  That’s very damaging to your skin.  If I run in the morning I do not wash my face, instead I leave the natural oils on my skin.  I apply a fairly heavy moisturizer to my skin and expose as little of my face as I can bear.  Recently I purchased a great product that protects much better than regular skin lotion.  It’s called Dermatone Skin Protector Pommade and since using it my runs are more comfortable in windy conditions and my skin isn’t ruby red when I get home.

RUNNING SNOW SHOES? -  I have been fortunate to never fall during a winter run but I see so many people slipping and sliding around that I think this product is worth mentioning for everyone who wants to get around more safely in the winter.  And if your are the type who makes excuses about exercising in the winter because the conditions aren’t ideal, I’ve got a solution for you.

Yaktrax are a product designed to fit over any type of shoe and they provide stability on slippery, snowy surfaces.  When I go for runs in the snow I hardly see anyone out running with me.  Everyone is afraid of injury, and for good reason.  This product really works.  I used them for the first time this December in the morning following 12 inches of snow. I was doing a long run in Prospect Park and no way was a foot of snow going to screw up my training schedule.  The first 2 miles were all up hill, almost all the sidewalks were completely snow covered and my footing was very secure.  In the park the drive had been plowed, but not salted, or at least most portions were not salted.  Again, whether the surface was flat or hilly the yaktrax really gripped.  As with any unsure footing, you want to be careful, but I’m really happy with this investment and will use them anytime following snowfall.

Yaktrax come in two models, one for outdoor adventurers/runners and are the “pro” model, and a less hefty version is made for people who simply want to walk more safely in snow.  They are also a great gift idea for any of your family who needs a little assistance.  My mother in law is recovering from a hip replacement surgery and I let her use them over the holidays.  She walked with much more confidence and felt a big difference from walking with just her winter boots.

Please let me know if you have any additional tips I may have missed.