I love running races!  Over the years, I’ve run a 50K, 5 marathons, 55 half marathons and countless shorter distance races.  It’s just so much fun to get out and test your training and test your body against other runners.  While I would say that I am a competitive runner, the truth is that I am competing against myself.  But one of the things that I’ve learned over my years of racing is that there are certain rules that should be followed to allow all runners to have a good race.

So here are my top tips to help make races friendlier and safer:

1.  Follow the rules established by the race director.  I know we don’t like to read through all of the information about the race.  Lots of details seem somewhat unimportant and some people skim through them or just don’t read them at all.  Because each race is different, it is important to know the specifics of this particular race.  Are headphones allowed?  Are strollers allowed?  Are dogs allowed?  Will traffic be stopped on roads?  Will the course be plainly marked?  Failure to follow these rules or to blindly follow another runner assuming he or she has read the rules can be dangerous or even get you disqualified.  Most race directors are really good about giving instructions for the race because they want everyone to be safe so we can help them out too and do our part by reading and following the directions.

2.  Get there early.  I can’t emphasize this enough so I’ll say it again.  Get there early.  There are quite a few things that need to be done prior to the start of the race and you don’t want to be panicked to get them done.  Depending on the size of the race, there could be lots of traffic so you want to have plenty of time to park and get to the start line.  If you haven’t picked up your race bib, you’ll need to do that.  And perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to make a stop at the port-a-potty to avoid having to stop during the race.  Everyone uses the port-a-potties prior to the race and the lines will likely be long.  Allow yourself plenty of time to take care of business and relax before the race starts.

3.  Line up according to how fast you plan to run.  This isn’t always easy to do because you can’t judge how fast someone else plans to run.  But if you are a slower runner or plan to walk/run the race, line up closer to the back.  The faster people will be lined up at the front and will take off fast.  You’ll likely get trampled or injure another runner if you are blocking traffic.  If you find yourself inadvertently in a faster group, carefully step off to the side until the faster runners pass.  If you are a faster runner and end up at the back, don’t worry, you’ll be able to pass as the crowds thin out a little bit.

4.  Move to the side if you need to stop.  Once the race gets going, if you need to stop for any reason (such as tying your shoe), be sure to get all the way off the course or as far to the side as possible so that you are not in anyone’s way.  Never make a sudden stop if you can avoid it.  The runner directly behind you may be too close to stop as quickly.  If you will be taking water from aid stations, be sure to move over to whichever side (usually the right) the aid station is located.  Runners passing through aid stations should stay to the center or opposite side to avoid the congestion of the aid station.

5.  Pay attention to your surroundings.  Some larger races are run on major thoroughfares that are only partially blocked to traffic.  Even if there are volunteers or police present directing traffic, it is still your responsibility to stay safe and watch for oncoming traffic.  Some courses aren’t closed to traffic at all so you need to remain alert at all times.  Running a race through certain areas can be a unique way to experience that area as well so take the time to pay attention and enjoy the scenery!

6.   Allow people to pass during the race if they are going faster.  Some people will announce they are passing but some will just run past.  Be considerate and attempt to move out of their way and let them by.  Trying to block them by not allowing them to pass is extremely inconsiderate.  If you are running with someone or happen to just be next to someone, be sure to not run more than two abreast to allow room for faster runners to safely pass.

And most importantly, have fun and be sure to thank a volunteer along the way!

What are your biggest road racing peeves?  Anything else to add to the etiquette list?

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