The Savvy Runner's Guide to Etiquette


Great Strides 2006

Shelly Florence Glover


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Keep these ditties in mind to keep peace in the park.

Consideration of Non-Runners

In a group run, don't take over the road/sidewalk/trail. On sidewalks, especially, single-file it. Leave room for someone to pass or otherwise get by without being swarmed.

Let a body know you are coming up from behind. "On your left/righ." or "Watch your back" are great watchwords. Of course, "Excuse me," is just fine.

Stay out of bike and traffic lanes for both safety and courtesy. Many parks and recreation areas have designated lanes for wheels and feet. Show a little respect to get some respect.

Don't litter. In all likelihood, the scraps of your PowerBar or Gu wrapper are going to end up on the bottom of someone's shoe or in the belly of rat before they have a chance to decompose.

Consideration of Other Runners:

Leave keys, loose change and other jiggling matter home. Tinkling sound effects do not enhance running.

Be runner friendly. If your running group gets spread out during a workout, agree where to re-group. This takes the pressure off the faster runner to run too slowly and pressure off the slower runner to run too fast. Regroup a few times during the run for the ultimate in safety and courtesy.

Running with a slower runner is not an invitation to coach them. When running with a faster runner, don't make excuses about your talent. It degrades you and, in makes both runners uncomfortable.

It's good to be a step ahead in business, in housework and holiday shopping. It's even good to be one step ahead of your competition, but not your training partner. Run side by side.

Don't assume because someone is slower they want your coaching advice. Speed is not an indicator of knowledge. Slower does not mean dumber.

If you are injured, it's okay to whine a little. After that shut up. Everyone has their own problems.

Look before you spit, snot rocket, or otherwise expel bodily fluids. It's rude to catch another runner in your splatter.

Groaning, grunting, wheezing and otherwise broadcasting your discomfort are not considered in good taste. Slow down if you must, but don't make the rest of us miserable listening to you.

Learn to dress and undress on the run. Don't ask the group to wait while you tie your shoe, take off your jacket or otherwise adjust your attire for comfort.

If you are running along in a tight pack and see a hazard on the course, call out or raise your hand so those following will know something is up before they have to leap.

If you are using a race as training run, don't chat incessantly throughout the event. Folks around you are trying to concentrate and race.

If you run with a leashed dog, make sure the dog is also controlled. Dog slobber is really yucky. Your dog's jumping, jerking and darting are as dangerous to another runner as your dog's teeth.

Don't antagonize hecklers, even if you are really really fast and can out run them. The next runner to happen upon the angry cat callers may not be so speedy.

Avoid wearing really noisy clothing. Swish scritch, swish scrich swish of a Gortex running suit can be maddening. My friend Barry's running suit was so loud he thought there was someone chasing him.

Don't run through puddles and splash other runners unless you want to be chased and dunked.

Don't feel obligated to tell a pregnant runner she should/should not be working out. In fact, about the only appropriate comment on someone else's appearance/weight/clothing is "Looking good!". Otherwise, keep quiet and keep moving.

Don't try to race cars, bikes and trains across intersections. This can get very messy and endangers everyone involved.

Don't run through wet cement; it makes your shoes heavy. Fresh tar likewise messes up shoes, sidewalks and driveway.

Don't take off running shoes in public. The smell spreads like potpourri and sometimes peels paint.


Turn that beeping watch OFFFFFFF! Same goes for heart rate monitor alarms. Talking on a cell phone during a race is also out.

Line-up pace appropriate at races. Use common sense about where to stand. Don't toe the front line if you can't run the fastest time.

Don't go for a lengthy cooldown after a race and leave your bag unattended in the baggage area. It really imposes on race volunteers to babysit your bags after a race.

Don't be a piggy with giveaways. If you take armloads of bagels or other free goodies, there probably won't be enough to go around. It's not an all-you-can-eat event.

Volunteers are often from a church, school or other community organization. They are often inexperienced. Accidents can happen. Be nice. Be patient. Say thank you.

Cooperate with race directors. When the race director says "Back Up!" to the starting line -- back up. Yes, they are talking to you.

Have class. Plan and use the Port-A-San. Using bushes can disqualify you.

If you are running a race with your buddies don't run two and three abreast. Your barricade obstructs the normal ebb and flow of the race field. Runners simply cannot get by you.

"Looking good" is acceptable encouragement "Get the Lead out!" is not.

Don't clog the system by change running gear in the baggage pick-up area. ("Looking good!" is not an appropriate comment here---) Other folks want to get their bags and dry clothes too!

Don't hassle the registration folks. Take up any complaints with the race director --- later. Holding up the registration line on race morning can get ugly.

Don't sprint like a hero at the finish if you dogged it during the race. The thumping of your heart and feet have a more glorious beat than two hands smacking of flattery.

Don't cut the course, stay within the cones and designated lanes. Corners are for going around. Lanes are for staying in. Cones are for running between. Cheating is an act of desperation. Trust your training. If you didn't train, don't fake your race time by cutting off yards instead of seconds.

Don't drop your water cups, extra clothing, sponges etc on the course. You can ruin some else's race with an unexpected trip to the pavement.

Don't suddenly change directions or cut off another runner. Like being in a car, to stay safe you've got to stay with the flow of traffic. Take a glance around and signal with your hand or ease up to the side before you pull off the course.

Don't stop suddenly to walk, especially at water stations. Slow down, signal or otherwise get out of the way.

Start your races with a little Speed Stick or other deodorant. Nothing is worse than having to hold your breath to cruise past a runner who didn't shower that morning or who wears more Ben Gay than clothes.

If you run with a personal stereo, keep in touch with what's going on around you. A race or group run is, after all, a social experience.

Register ahead or arrive very early, do not hold up a race start with your late registration.

Line up when the race director says to line up. Get behind the designated line. Honestly, the longer you futz around, the later the race starts and the cooler your muscles.

Some runners race for fun, some for speed and some for the social atmosphere. With that in mind, don't expect all runners to be social before or during a race.

Don't race if you are sick. Spreading your germs through an entire pack of runners is selfish and inconsiderate.

Try to be gracious about a bad race. Pouting causes wrinkles and hobbles the event's spirit. Have a moment of silence for your bad race ­ then get on with life.

If you've got enough energy, give spectators a thumbs-up. Spectating is hard work!

Don't run races without a number. Even if you aren't taking the event seriously, be a good sport, register and pay your fee. Otherwise, it's theft of services.

Congratulate your competitors at the end of the race. Without them, your only race would be against the clock.

When passing, get a stride or two ahead before you step in front. Cutting off another runner can be hazardous to both of you.

Don't draft too closely. Getting out of the wind is permissible. Tripping another runner is not. Remember that clipping is an infraction in football and running.

Well, that's it for starters. Hope you feeling savvy cause you are "Looking Good!"

A Little More

Running Coach Shelly Glover has a master's degree in exercise physiology from Columbia University. She co-authored The Runner's Handbook and The Competitive Runner’s Handbook. Coach Glover is a veteran road runner and marathoner. She coaches The Greater New York Racing Team is available for private coaching. Coaching Services