As a new runner I was hesitant to enter my first race; I felt I should put a yellow stripe across my bumper ( like NASCAR requires of drivers with fewer than x races ) so that that others could be aware of my rookie status. I poked around on the internet to find helpful hints and pulled together the following “Racing Etiquette” ~ it is not all encompassing but a good guideline for those new to the sport.
When you enter an event – be it a charity walk, a fun run/walk, a half marathon or marathon – your behavior is very important. Know the basic rules of race etiquette before you cross the starting line.
First of all, be sure to come with a positive, uplifting and fun attitude; it is a race experience!
Line Up in the Correct Pace Group
If the event has different pace groups set up at the start, get into the correct one. You may think you gain something by starting closer to the front than your pace would allow, instead you may become an obstacle. Most larger races will have volunteers checking your bib number to see that you’re in the right corral; you can run in a slower corral than your bib number but not a faster corral.
Do Not Walk More Than 2 Abreast
The biggest complaint you will hear from other participants is difficulty in getting around a group of walkers or runners. The simple rule is – no more than two abreast. Even if you start off at the back of the pack, you can be assured there is somebody behind you getting angrier and angrier that they can’t easily pass you. If you are part of a charity group, please educate the others in your group that you need to walk no more than two abreast at all times during the event. * And be sure to run/walk single file as you go through the water stations. It gets too narrow through the water stops.*
Allow Yourself to Get Passed
Be aware of people who want to pass you. You will be correct if you just assume that somebody always wants to pass you, so leave room to allow them to pass on the left. If they ask to pass on the right with a “Passing on the Right,” then keep your arms in and let them pass on the right.
Don’t Pass Somebody and then Slow Down Right in Front of Them
Run/walkers are the biggest culprits in this. Often runners will run up to you, veer in front of you and then slow to a snail’s pace. Remember that the folks behind you do not slow down when you do. Never race ahead of someone unless you continue to check that you are still going faster than them and continuing to gain distance on them.
Pull to the Side if You Must Stop
If you have a shoe problem, get a phone call, want to take a photo, etc. you must move COMPLETELY to the side of the course and ensure you are not blocking anyone. If possible, step off the course and onto the sidewalk or grass. Do not stop near the start of a race or you will risk being trampled and tripping others.
Move Through the Water Stops
The proper way to grab water at an aid station is to do it at a steady pace, on the move, and pull completely through the aid station. If you need to stop, go all of the way off the side of the course to do so. Do not stop within the aid station. Even at smaller events, take your water and move to the side if you plan to chat with the volunteers. Watch where you fling your cup after using it so you don’t toss it on racers approaching you from the side or on their shoes.
Move Predictably and Keep Your Arms to Yourself
Try to move predictably rather than weaving and veering into other people. Don’t fling your arms out suddenly – someone may be trying to pass you and get clothes-lined.
Don’t be a Hog at the Feeding Stations
There are other, slower people behind you. Take only what you need at that moment. Above all, don’t cart off a box of goodies from the finish unless and until you are the absolute last finisher, and everybody else is out of the finish area and the medical tent. That food is for others, not just for you, and for today only.
Be Kind and Gracious
All of these individuals who are lining you up, getting your bags checked, handing you water and food on the course are volunteers. They may get a nice wind breaker or shirt for volunteering, but trust me, it’s not enough for what they do. They are doing this from the bottom of their heart and might even wish they were in your shoes (no pun intended). Be sure to thank them for what they are doing – they will appreciate it greatly and they will continue to stay motivated and positive for all the other runners.
Keep Your Head
Distance racing is a unique adventure. Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – does it for a slightly different reason. No two runners are alike and no two reasons are alike. Just as in Life, everyone is running/walking their own pace and their experiencing their own race.
You wouldn’t stop someone on the street during a given business day and say, “You’re not trying hard enough! Go faster! Go harder!” In the same spirit, you cheer on all your fellow runners for the race they are running/walking – it may be the very best they (or you) can do at that given moment… and that is just fine. As in Life, we help each other to that finish line and enjoy the experience – one smile and mile at a time.