Running Etiquette: A Few Brief Thoughts
The more miles I log at different times throughout the day and week, the more fellow runners I have encountered. Whether I’m driving, walking, or running, I find myself compelled to look as a runner passes, in the off-chance that I know them. Although I logically realize that far more people are out running on a daily basis than my relatively small group of friends, I still feel a general connection with other runners as they pass. I find myself asking about their goals, how long they’ve been running, their favorite races, and wondering whether I’ll see them again. That connection, for me, means a smile and a nod are compulsory. If you pass me on the road or trail, I’m going to smile and/or nod at you, whether I know you or not. To me, it is common courtesy. However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more people completely ignoring me, as if I wasn’t there. I certainly understand that sometimes, in the middle of a run, you enter “the zone” and you tune out everything around you. I get it, really, I do. That being said, I find it hard to believe that such a high percentage of the people I pass are so engrossed in what they are doing that they don’t notice me pass 12 inches from them. Heck, sometimes they don’t even move and I’m forced to run to the side to avoid a collision. These encounters have had me thinking more about common running etiquette, of which I am by no means an expert. There are MANY people who have been lacing up their shoes far longer than me, but there are some basic tenets that just seem simple and logical. Perhaps you have other points of etiquette or interesting stories of breaches in etiquette? I’ve love to hear them!
1. Smile/Nod/Wave: You don’t have to do all three (but you definitely can if you aren’t otherwise in pain), but one of the three seems simple enough. You are acknowledging a shared respect for the sport, the effort the other person is putting forth on that given run, and a shared interest. This means you need to make eye contact. It’s ok, you can look at me. I promise I’m not going to steal your soul or turn you to stone!
2. “On Your Left”: Traffic laws (left/right) apply to running in most instances. Most cyclists understand this (or learn very quickly), and you’ll hear them holler “on your left” with enough warning for you to move to the right and allow them to pass. Those that don’t usually hear me saying “on your left” as they fly by on either side of me. This same standard applies to running. If you are going to pass me, and there is nothing otherwise blocking the path, try to pass me on the left and let me know you are doing so. When I’m out running by myself, especially when nobody is around, I can weave worse than folks leaving the bar at 2AM. I want to make room for you, I promise. You just need to let me know.
3. Single File: Whether I’m walking, running, or racing, nothing drives me nuts more than a group of three or more people lined up across the path. If there are three of you, and one of me, it’s not asking too much for you to fall back into a single file line so I can pass without running out into oncoming traffic or diving off a bridge into the river. If you are in any sort of organized race, don’t do it at all. I fully support running/walking with friends, but it’s important to be respectful of everyone else who signed up for the event and paid the same registration fee that you did.
4. Run Against Traffic: You are much smaller than a car is, and you want to do everything you can to make sure those cars see you. Reflective gear is great, but please run against traffic so you can continue to be alert, even if the cars aren’t. Runners have a right to the road just like cyclists (who ride WITH traffic), but that’s not an excuse to be stupid and put yourself or others in danger!
There are plenty of other commentaries on additional points of etiquette for the road, races, and trail running as well. These four simple points just seem to be the most common areas I’ve noticed as of late. Running is an amazing sport, and fosters an incredible community feeling if you let it. Whether you are running to be fit, train for a race, or simply to prove you can, you can follow these simple points of etiquette and collect your running card as you walk out the door!
Bonus Etiquette- This one’s for spectators at races. As a runner, I love a race with lots of crowd support. The creative signs and cheering can be just the motivation I need to keep moving forward after I’ve hit a wall. In what I can only assume is a good-intentioned effort to encourage, many folks love to yell out “you’re almost there”. For future reference, if you and I can’t both see the finish line, then I am NOT ALMOST THERE! I realize you are trying to be nice, but if I’ve been running for 10 or 20 miles, and still have several miles to go, I’m probably well aware of every footfall, and know exactly how many MILES I have left to run. So, pick something else to shout. Pick ANYTHING else. Just don’t tell me I’m almost there when I’m not! 🙂