The other day was an unseasonably cool day, hence the increased number of runners out and about on my usual neighborhood trail, which I love to see. The sense of community among runners can be phenomenal; we just get each other. With a little nod or wave, we fellows acknowledge one another like we’re members of a secret club.
Most of the time my waves are reciprocated with a reaffirming nod or a smile. Other times, I’ll pass one who doesn’t dare break a determined pace and stares blankly ahead, seemingly ignoring my gesture. Should I feel dumb or silly for trying? Are these people just plain rude? This got me thinking about unspoken runner etiquette. Do some runners have it and some just…don’t?
Similar to etiquette in the workplace, at dinner parties, and in team sports, runners should hold themselves accountable to a standard of politeness. I know I certainly do, and if you follow my Ten Commandments of Runner Etiquette, you’ll be making friends on the trail in no time.
#1 Thou Shalt Nod Thy Head
When another passerby takes a second to nod her head and acknowledge your presence, please give a nod back. It takes but one calorie of effort to reciprocate the action, while preventing you from looking like a narcissistic ass. Come on, share a little runner love!
#2 Thou Shalt Aim Thy Spit and Snot Rockets Accordingly
Seriously, don’t spit into the wind. Don’t blow your nose onto the shoes of the runner beside you. Just be smart about it. I’ve been the recipient of a stranger’s spit on the meat of my calf in a race before, and, let’s just say, I was not very appreciative.
#3 Thou Shalt Know Thy Place and Keep Pace
We all have witnessed it. Heck, I’ve even been a culprit. The rookie runner who squeezes her way to the front of the start line, next to the elites, and sprints for the first mile before dying and causing traffic problems by mile two. When I see the girls with team uniforms at local road races, I spare myself the embarrassment of being passed and line up strides behind them! It’s polite and also saves you some face. For a 10k or longer, pacing coaches often line up at the start. Find your pace and stick to it!
#4 Thou Shalt Put That Gel Wrapper Back in Thy Pocket
There is no problem more upsetting on a beautiful wooded trail than it being littered with banana strawberry, chocolate and vanilla Gu wrappers. If you’re into those things at least spare nature and put the wrapper back in your fanny pack until you find a garbage can.
#5 Thou Shalt Not Flat Tire Thy Competitor
When you keep stepping on the heel of the runner in front of you, it probably means you are too close for comfort. When you are breathing down her back and using her as your windbreaker, it probably means you are annoying the crap out of her too! Don’t get me wrong, drafting off of a pack of runners is a common and pretty smart technique, but when it’s just you and one other poor runner taking the brunt of the wind for more than a minute or two, that’s just wrong!
#6 Thou Shalt Not Take Thyself Too Seriously
We participate in a sport that entails placing one foot in front of the other to end up exactly where you began. Really. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Most of us don’t get paid for this hobby, and we might as well enjoy it.
#7 Thou Shalt Share the Road
When another runner is coming from the opposite direction and seems to be on the same side of the trail as you, just move over. No big deal. When you are going at a faster pace than the runner in front of you, be polite and give plenty of room. Also, say “passing on your left” or a gentle hello. Zooming by in silence can startle the other runner if she didn’t hear you coming, and like we covered in #1, it’s nice to acknowledge one another.
#8 Thou Shalt Run Through the Finish Line
If you cross the line and come to a complete halt you could cause an accident! Wait a moment or two to check your splits and stretch your hammy until you make it out of the chute. Also on that note, don’t take 4 bananas, 5 bagels and 10 power bars from the finish line food area to share with your friends and family who came to cheer. Keep in mind that there are plenty of other runners near the back of the pack who are dreaming about that cinnamon crunch bagel and would be crushed to find everything picked over.
#9 Thou Shalt Not Blare Beyonce Inconsiderately
I’ll admit it: I am one of those runners who sometimes wears headphones during a race. You might think it means I’m not “serious” or just annoying, but if you do it tactfully, I think it’s fine. Just don’t blare your mix at maximum so that nearby runners can sing along to every word. We don’t all have the same taste in music (even though I think everyone should jam out to some B. Spears to get to the finish line), and it actually isn’t very safe. When you can’t hear anything but JLo, you might miss out on a siren or a pack of speedsters saying they are “Passing on your left!”
#10 Thou Shalt Not Fart Unnecessarily
Sometimes we can’t help it much, but that’s what a sphincter muscle is for….enough said. To say you beat your competitor because he passed out from you passing gas…well, that’s not much to be proud of, now is it?
How about you, Salties? Do you agree with these rules? What are your Running Etiquette Commandments?