Race Etiquette

Yesterday on Boston Marathon’s Facebook page there was a discussion about race etiquette.  I of course clicked over to the page to see what the Boston Marathon had to offer.  Instead it was a discussion from hundreds of runners that turned from race etiquette to more of a racing pet peeves chat.  Either way I was intrigued and spent quite awhile scrolling through stories.  I couldn’t believe some of the things I read about.  Being trampled over by weaving runners?  Peed on by people relieving themselves in the start corrals?  Yikes!

After years of running and participating in various races I have seen the good, the bad, and some pretty ugly behavior that goes on at these events.  There is of course the general race etiquette that everyone should follow (aka basic manners) but after reading through the comments I realized that these days basic manners tend to get thrown out the door.

Below are a few of my biggest race pet peeves that also fall under basic etiquette guidelines.  Please feel free to add yours in the comments as I would love to hear your stories and gripes!

Pick your true corral:  A couple of summers ago I ran a local 15k with my husband and as we lined up in our corral I saw a high school friend line up in a much faster corral than us.  I had heard that he started running in the last year and I remarked to my husband that I was really impressed.  Good for him!  And then the gun went off and within the first mile we both flew by that friend.  It wasn’t a huge race so there wasn’t any worry of trying to get around a ton of people at the start.

Then we ran the Hot Chocolate this past fall.  Racers submit their projected finish times and are given a corral.  When the gun went off I was shocked to find myself behind a ton of walkers.  I had to do a lot of weaving and had I been worried about my finish time I would have been one pissed off runner.  The amount of weaving I did in the first mile and a half actually added on several tenths of a mile to my final distance.

Moral of the story:  Be honest with yourself.  Go in the corral that suits your pace and be fair to the rest of the runners.  Starting out near the front if you plan to walk can cause some serious congestion and might even end in injury for someone.

Look before you hack:  Runners are gross.  I am a runner and therefore I am gross.  My nose runs, I sweat a lot, and I have choked on more bugs than I would like to think about.  I recognize my grossness and try my best to keep it to myself.  Snot rockets and loogies happen.  But seriously people, look before you let one fly.

At another 15k I really, really wanted to pass a gentleman but he did this constant 30 second spit to his left side and we were on a narrow path.  I really didn’t want to get nailed by him but I also really wanted to pass.  It was disgusting.  It might have been a brilliant race tactic on his part now that I think about it.  And nothing is more gross than running with a group and having that person in front of you who just spits as they feel.  No one wants to get hit by that.  And goodness gracious be aware of wind when you spit!

Be courteous:  Running and races can’t happen without the hard work and generous kindness of many volunteers.  They keep us safe and keep the race flowing.  They hand you water and fuel and make sure you cross the finish line safely and with medal and beer in hand.  It’s a thankless job (see runners are gross).

So when you grab a cup of water try to at least aim for a garbage can or the side of the road.  You don’t have to stop running to hit he garbage but at least make an effort to get it near the trash or the side of the road.  It can be pretty rude when other runners dump their cups right on the path for the rest of us to trample over.


Don’t forget those volunteers.  If I am not exhausted I try to make an effort to give a thank you as I pass by.  At my recent 10k I was in the top 5 runners and came to an intersection where a cop was directing traffic.  As I approached he was letting cars go through and I started to get irate.  How dare he make me stop when I was doing so well!  But as I got closer he promptly stopped traffic to let me through.  I made sure to shout a big thank you to him as I passed by.

Of course you don’t have to make conversation with every volunteer.   A smile can be worth a thousand words.  As you pass someone give them a nod or a smile.  It will show them that you recognize and appreciate their hard work.  Someone in the discussion mentioned volunteering at a race where a guy had premade thank you cards that he ran with.  He handed them out as he hit water stations.  That guy seriously rocks!

Ok let’s hear it.  What are your biggest etiquette do’s/don’ts or gripes?  I’d love to hear your race stories both good and bad.