Good Etiquette for Running and Racing

Good Etiquette for Running and Racing

Hi, everyone! Today I want to offer some practical advice on a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: running etiquette. Sometimes, when we’re out on a run or focused on our race, it can be easy to put on the blinders and forget about everything except ourselves and our pace. However, running is a community and therefore involves social interaction, and how we act towards others matters. So today, I want to offer some tips on how to practice good etiquette for running and racing.

Good Etiquette for Running and Racing

Don’t Litter

There’s an adage in hiking and camping that should hold true for running, cycling, and any other outdoor sport as well: leave no trace. Yet so many runners will mindlessly drop their Honey Stinger wrappers, empty water bottles, and even Kleenex to the side of their running route.

God didn’t give us beautiful trees, green grass, and rolling hills so we could use them as our own immediately-available trashcan. Littering your gel or chomp wrappers is just plain disrespectful to the environment, any maintenance people, and other athletes out on your running paths. It genuinely angers me when I see litter along the urban trails I run in Seattle. Most running shorts contain pockets, so just stash your wrapper in there when you’re done. If your shorts don’t have pockets and you’re not wearing a fuel belt, then just hold onto it until you find a trashcan. Yes, it is a small inconvenience, but it shows a lot of respect for the earth and for others.

This also applies to races. Most races will have clean up crews, but that does not mean you should make their job harder. Again, this is about courtesy and respect. You won’t miss your goal if you use a tiny bit of energy to put your gel wrapper back into your pocket. While it is more acceptable to toss your paper cup from an aid station, do so near the aid station and out of the path, so no one trips on it and the volunteers can easily retrieve it.

And if you’re trail running: please for the love of running do not litter while trail running. You’re not just sharing those trails with people; you’re sharing them with animals. Stash it and trash it later. 

If you think I’m exaggerating and getting upset over nothing, I picked up the litter in the below photos over just the last 2 miles of a 10 mile run. After I took the photo, I also found a beer can and another candy bar wrapper. And this is in Seattle, one of the least littered places I’ve lived. 

Good Etiquette for Running and Racing

Smile and Greet Other Runners

St. Therese of Lisieux wisely stated, “A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.” It takes about one second and approximately 0.0005 calories of effort (arbitrary and made-up statistic, but you get the point) to smile at another runner, walker, or cyclist, even when you’re giving your all in a hard workout. You’re sharing the trail with them, so it’s common courtesy to greet them. The other person may ignore you, but your act of kindness still may have made a difference in their day. Other people will smile and greet you back. You never know the how much impact kindness can have on a person, but it’s never a negative impact. So smile, say hi, and be kind to those whom you see out on your run.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Chances are, whether you’re out for your daily run or running a race, you’re not the only person getting in their miles. Move over to the right if someone wants to pass you, or, if you are the one doing the pass, speak clearly to give the other runner a heads-up that you are passing on their left.

If you’re running with your dog, please keep him or her on a leash. You all know I love dogs, but most dogs can get very friendly and do not comprehend personal boundaries. Not everyone will appreciate your four-legged running buddy jumping on them. Charlie always runs and hikes on a leash so we can control him, because he wants to be everyone’s friend. (He also wants to race every cyclist that passes us on the urban trails, but that’s another story.)

When you line up for a race, be mindful of where you place yourself in the corral. Faster runners should line up in front and slower runners near the back. I’m not saying this to give preference to faster runners; it’s simply creates a better race experience for both groups. Faster runners won’t get slowed down and have to dodge slower runners, while slower runs won’t experience faster runs crowding in on them. If you’re running with a group of friends, don’t form a solid line that prevents other runners from passing.

And (this shouldn’t be need to be said, but it bears stating), be mindful of when you blow snot rockets. There’s no shame it doing it, and we all know we do it. Just don’t blow your snot rocket right when you’re passing another runner or in a crowded pack. The same goes for if you need to spit. That’s disgusting even for those of us whose favorite pastimes includes getting remarkably drenched in sweat.

Want to know more about race day etiquette? Read this post from Run to the Finish!

Thank Volunteers

Think about how tiring a race can be: you get up early, stand outside in the dark and cold, and then run for anywhere from 3.1 to 26.2 miles. While volunteers are not doing the running part, they are still up early, standing outside for hours in sometimes inclement weather, and working their hardest to make the race easier for you. While you can go home once you cross the finish line, the volunteers stay there until every single runner has finished or the course has officially closed. Race volunteers work hard and deserve our gratitude!

So next time you’re at a race, be kind and gracious to the volunteers. Thank them, smile at them, and try to avoid giving them an exasperated or angry glare when you ask for water and they hand you Gatorade (yes, I admit that I did that once, and later I felt awful about it). If you see a volunteer after the race, personally go up and thank them for their time and service.

Treat spectators with kindness as well! I always tell Ryan that his job of spectating, take photos, and carrying my stuff around is much more work than my running, especially at a race such as the Valparaiso Half Marathon where it was 30 degrees and windy. Seriously, I can’t express my gratitude enough for what he does to support me during a race. Smile and wave at spectators and thank them – they came out of the kindness of their hearts, so return that kindness to them!

Good Etiquette for Running and Racing

For the sake of brevity, I didn’t mention other issues of etiquette that should be common sense, such as not hogging the road or trail when running in a group, yielding to drivers, and not going to the bathroom in someone’s bushes. For a thorough overview of running etiquette, check out this guide from the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). 

At the end of the day, it’s not hard to practice courtesy and good etiquette for running and racing. It barely takes any effort and, even if it were to slow you down it would be worth it to show respect and kindness to others. Not everyone is perfect all of the time, but every little effort matters!

[Tweet “Practice courtesy and kindness with these tips for good etiquette for #running and #racing from @thisrunrecipes #fitfluential #runchat”]

Questions of the Day:
What would you add to this list?
Have you ever had an awful experience of poor racing or running etiquette?



Sign Up for My Newsletter for More Running Tips

* indicates required

Share this post

24 Responses

  1. I always try to thank volunteers… because if you think of it, they’re out there for even longer than us! I think volunteering for a road race is such an incredible experience and something I would love to do some day. I absolutely hate when I’m running by another runner and I wave/say good morning/acknowledge their presence and they stare at me… in the words of DJ Tanner, HOW RUDE!

    1. They are – and when it’s cold, we are moving and warmning up, but they are just standing there in the cold. I think it would be fun to volunteer for a race also someday. I did it a couple time at races in college on campus, but those were just poorly organized – one year I used my cell phone as the official timer!

  2. I think you have covered it here! Its so importance to be mindful of others because you are exactly right, we are a community and as much as running can be an individual sport, it is the community that it so supportive and uplifting. This isn’t void on race day. I make a point to thank volunteers as well. They are being generous to devote their time to making our race experience the best as possible so a simple thank you is the least we can do!

  3. Great post! Littering is the worst.. always makes me so mad when I see people throwing trash around. Normally there are TONS of garbage bags around.. just throw it out!

  4. Ooooh good post! I think most of us try our best but we can all use the reminders sometimes. I know I need to be better about thanking race volunteers!

    I NEVER litter on my runs or throw fuel wrappers on the ground in races….but I have to admit I’ve been guilty of littering a water cup or two during a race. I always try as hard as I can to get it into one of the trash cans, but sometimes I just can’t finish in time, so I will add to a pile on the side of the road where other cups have been discarded and volunteers can easily get to them. More races I’ve been in have been putting trash cans further away from aid stations, giving us more time to drink and then be able to throw away, which is great!

    It seems most people at races I’ve been to are getting the memo about starting in the appropriate place, I’ve rarely seen it become a problem…but I mostly do smaller local races where most people know the drill. I think a lot of people just don’t know. Getting the word out does seem to be helping though!

    1. Thank you! I like that the races you run have had trashcans for paper cups! I think the ones I’ve done didn’t, so I just tried to get my cup off the course and where a volunteer would see it. It’s weird, smaller local races are where I’ve had the trouble with walkers and slower people lining up in front – bigger races usually fix that by assigning corrals, although it’s frustrating and rude when people move into different corrals.

  5. Yeah, the worst is when people spit or snot rocket and it nearly misses my toes. It’s funny because for the first half of the race I am thanking all of the volunteers but by the end, I can barely lift my head up to see straight. The volunteers could be giant purple people eaters and I wouldn’t even notice.

    1. Hahaha yes so true – at my first half I tried to thank the volunteers until I crossed the finish line, and I just stared at the lady who handled me my medal with such confusion.

  6. I love this post! I think you could apply a lot of this to every day life. Kindness spreads kindess! Thank you for picking up other people’s litter. We need more people like you in this world!

  7. YES!! Love this. So many people are such inconsiderate runners. Running three abreast at races, playing their music so loudly they can’t hear you calling out as you try to get around them. And just be friendly and at least smile or wave if you’re too out of breath to say hi! Same thing goes for cyclists on common running/cycling paths–I feel like they can really be jerks, too.

    1. Oh, don’t get me started on cyclists! I get nearly run over several times a week when they don’t ring their bells, pass on the right out of nowhere, and run me off the trail. Not all cyclists, but it certainly happens too frequently!

  8. Great post! I was hit by a flying GU pack in a race this year, it made me kind of mad that the runner ahead of me just felt like they could toss it whereever… People in general are becoming more rude, I think. A gentle reminder that we are all running the same race…

    1. Someone hit you with GU? That’s so rude and inconsiderate! I think you’re right, people are becoming ruder overall, and I feel like some runners have the mentality that they can do whatever they want in a race because they have a goal time they want to hit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *