My family runs a lot of races, mostly local 5Ks with our kids and the occasional 10K and destination half-marathon thrown in for the hubby and me. I have a bit of a race addiction, but more than that, race running is something we love doing together as a family; #thefamilythatrunstogether. Last year, 2015, I ran 22 races, my husband ran 15, and our boys now ages 9 and 8 years old, ran 18 and 17 races respectively, for a combined total of 72 races or 298 family race miles. One quarter into 2016, we are already on track to surpass 2015’s totals with 38 races run already. My point is not to brag but instead to state some credentials for what I’m about to write next – there are rules of etiquette in running a race that every racer should know, should practice, and should teach the next generation of runners.
#1. Spitting is part of racing – know how to correctly direct your spit. Turning your head over your shoulder indiscriminately and spitting is bad form (and yes, I have had someone do this directly in front of me). Direct spit downward, either in front of yourself so that you step on it or preferably to the side of the race course away from other runners. No one wants to get spit on. Same goes for “snot rockets”, please direct your blow responsibly. Bodily functions happen to us all, fellow racers understand but please be respectful.
#2. Do not run more than two abreast. You block even the widest course if you try to run next to multiple other runners. The time to talk and hang out together is before or after the race, not on the course. I feel bad pushing in-between you to pass but hey, you leave me no choice. Likewise if a runner behind you calls out “excuse me” or “on your right/left” please pay attention, they are alerting you to their passing – let them go by.
#3. If there are pace corrals, and even if there aren’t, please do not line up in the front of the starting line if you run an eleven minute mile. I applaud every runner in a race, regardless of pace, but if you line up in front of a seven minute mile runner, you are potentially hurting their race and not bettering your own race. Be courteous.
#4. Hold your own line as much as possible. When I asked my boys the most important rule of race running they said, “Do not zig-zag.” It is bad form to block runners coming up behind you by swerving needlessly back and forth across the course. This can be hard to do depending on how curvy the course is, but the root of the rule, is to be aware of the runners around you and not cut them off if you can avoid it. If my 8-year-old can follow this rule there is no reason every adult can’t follow it too.
#5. If you need to stop for any reason whatsoever during a race; i.e. tie your shoe, blow your nose, rest, take a phone call, please, please, move to the side of the course or step off the course. Whatever you do, do not stop on the course. I ran directly into another runner once because she stopped suddenly in the middle of the course and running behind her I was totally unprepared – I apologized for the unavoidable crash that happened next.
Road Runners Club of American and other such organizations have more extensive race etiquette rules, but these are my big five. I have witnessed every single one abused, and I teach my own children every single race to respect these rules.