Race Etiquette 101

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We’ve all heard of Dear Abby, Emily Post and Ms. Manners, the advice experts on correct etiquette from the thank you notes (you should always write one) to how to handle a nosey neighbor (put up a fence). But what about when it comes to running etiquette? And what about the pinnacle of running: Race Day.

There are obvious rules and underlying guidelines related running a race. We’ve all rolled our eyes at or been affected by another runner for a faux pas.  And the faux pas list that could occur is quite long.  And sometimes even seasoned runners can be the worst offenders. Regardless of our guilt or innocence, we can all use a little refresher lesson.

Prior to the Race

To start, make sure to register on time and sign up for all social media related to the race, which could save you some grief if there are last minute changes.  Race directors love what they do and normally are quite delightful, but they are not to be emailed with every question under the sun pertaining to the course, water stops, road closures, etc.  Read your material first to find out the answers to questions.  Also ask others who have run the race before, or post on the Facebook page. If you must email the race director, make sure the question is of substance and is important. Once during early registration to the Oak Barrel Half in Lynchburg, TN. I was going back to check my info and during the editing of my zip code, Chrome went into autofill mode and to my dismay changed my name to my husband’s. I emailed the race director and she responded with a fix in less than hour at 9:00 at night.  It was a legit reason to reach out. (And her respsonse makes her a rock star director.)

Also, if you are seeking to pick up your packet at a time not listed, while super important you, is super annoying to race directors. Try to avoid it, but if they respond and actually allow you to pick it up at another time, bring them a nice treat and rave about their race on social media (but keep the favor to yourself).

Packet Pick Up or Expo

Bring your ID and know the rules around picking up packets for others. Putting volunteers and officials in the uncomfortable position of having to reiterate the rules is not fair to them.  Be aware of where you park and be respectful of the hosting facility.  If you need to change your shirt size, most expos will have a spot to do so. Also, there usually is a place at the expo to change your corral if you need to. Keeping it honest with corals is important for a wide variety of reasons. A recorded coral change is easy and appreciated.

Keep in mind no one is invisible. Walking around talking about how ugly the shirt is, even if it is heinous, makes it seems like the goal is to get a cool shirt, doubtful that’s the vibe you want to portray. Same goes for the course. Chattering about how hard, boring, or saying some other negative adjective about the course is gauche. If asked give an honest answer but try and keep it short.

U.S. Air Force photo/Ben Strasser

Race Morning

Re-read your race information. Be aware of traffic flow and other issues. Small towns and big cities all have their own set of challenges that they are aware of and are trying to overcome. Take direction from the volunteers whether it be parking or directing runners into corrals. If you are using the bathroom facilities, get in and get out. Do not completely re-dress inside the stall. Help keep the lines moving and try really hard not to let friends cut line.


I’ll say it – for the love of every other runner out there – start in your assigned corral or position yourself honestly at the start line when corals are not assigned. Who hasn’t tripped over the walker that started with the sub-6’s? Besides, starting way ahead of your pace ensures a ton of people to pass you which is not necessarily a confidence booster. At water stops, run through then move over if you are going to stop. A pile up of runners is not a good thing and can hurt.  If your intent is to splash and dash, at least  toss your cup in the realm of the trash cans and make sure to be aware of other runners. There is nothing worse than someone’s half-full water cup soaking your shoe. Along topic of awareness of others, spitting is a necessity for some and perfectly acceptable but not in a crowd. Someone else’s spit on your calf is gross. If an accident happens apologize and move on. I have two personal hard and fast rules if energy levels allow: always thank police officers and firefighters that are stopping traffic and any children out waving and cheering should be acknowledged.  And also, make sure to thank the volunteers too.

Post Race

Keep on moving when you cross that finish line. Grab whatever items are being handed out and move past the chute. You paid the entry fee and you ran the race which means you, and you alone, get the post-race food. Feeding the whole family is a no-no. I have been known to grab a muffin and banana for myself and a granola bar for my husband, but keep it within reason if you are sharing.

The race survey could quite possibly be the best post-race treat. If you don’t complete it, you can’t complain. Or shouldn’t at least. Be honest and be proactive in choosing to comment on items that can be controlled.  There is no way anyone can control the weather.  Be sure to include positive comments as well.

In a world where we’ve seen runners carry each other over the finish line on the news, being reminded (or possibly enlightened to) the basic etiquette of races to ensure an all-around pleasant race is like a good stretch – we don’t want to take the time but we’re a little better for it in the end.