Gotta Run: Fall racing etiquette

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2022

Competing in one of our fall races is a lot of fun! Rather running or walking the event, you have much to do with the fun meter and so do those around you. By being considerate of others and them doing the same for you, all involved can have a magical and memorable experience.

Here are a few things that we all should do right. As a veteran of over 1,000 races, I’ve seen all of these happen. And I continue to see them as a race volunteer.

Arrive on time to get checked in, make your bathroom visit and get to the starting line well before the horn or gun goes off. Best rule of thumb is to arrive at the race site an hour before start time.

Make sure you’ve paid the entry fee, are wearing the proper race bib and have it securely pinned on. Banditing the race (not paying but still running) has never been cool nor will it become so. When picking up your race bib, make sure before you leave the area that all information listed is correct. And use the pins provided to make sure it stays on.

Line up at the start line relative to your ability. Nearly everyone knows their ability to run or walk the race distance, but if you don’t, then line up toward the back. Most of those runners on the front line have earned their way there with consistently fast finishes. If you don’t belong there, move to the middle or back of the pack.

If you are running in a group, run at the very side of the road or toward the back. Trying to get around a slower group is very challenging in a race. Especially if the group started in the front and are gradually being passed by most of the competitors, thus ending up in the back anyway.

Say thanks to every volunteer you see, or if you’re out of breath, then wave and smile. The reason you can compete is because enough volunteers signed on to make the race happen. Your thanks may be all they get besides a shirt and refreshments. Same goes for police officers or firefighters working the event. Tell them you appreciate their presence.

Run the correct course. Shorting the course by running around cones or on the sidewalk is a prime example of poor sportsmanship.   

Don’t wear headphones in a race. You can’t hear what is happening around you and that is never good. Don’t bring your dog unless specifically told by organizers or the race brochure that you can. The worst racing accident I ever saw was caused by an excited dog. Road Runners Club of America does not allow either headphones or dogs in championship races and discourages them in all events except those that allow them.

When crossing the finish line, don’t immediately stop just a few steps across. Keep walking on through the finish chute so that you don’t block others. Don’t immediately stop and bend over or collapse on the ground. I heard these actions called “theatrics and attention getters” when I was a young runner and I’ll never forget it.

Don’t pass others in the finish chute. If you couldn’t beat them on the race course, its too late once the race is over.

Once the race is over, don’t take more than your share of the refreshments. I once knew a runner who usually tried to take boxes of donuts and bunches of bananas. Race organizers have a formula for refreshments based on the number of participants. Don’t leave someone else wanting.

And finally, if you liked the event, thank the organizers. Do it in person or by email later. I was once told, “It’s a lot harder to run a race than work it.” I’ve done plenty of both and I can assure you that organizing one is much harder.

Look for next Saturday’s Run to the River 5K and other events at