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Running Rules: How To Behave Like A Professional Runner

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There are running rules that every new runner should know. 

Some of the rules of running are for your own safety, and we will discuss those at length.

Other items are more running etiquette, so you are polite to the other runners. 

Are There Any Rules in Running?

There are many rules to running. Some of the main rules are safety-related, so you can ensure you can participate in this wonderful sport without getting hurt. In addition, there are unspoken rules of etiquette so that you don’t bother people around you.

There are also important things to know when standing on the start line on race day to avoid making any mistakes.

8 Safety Rules: Act Like a Pro

It does not matter how great your training is if you are unsafe and get hurt.

Some basic safety rules are important for everyone to know and abide by. 

  1. Run-on the left-hand side of the road so you can see oncoming traffic. 
  2. Wear bright clothing, so you are visible to others. 
  3. If it is dark, foggy, raining, or snowing, consider if you might need light-up gear.
  4. At dawn, dusk, or after dark, always wear a headlamp and light-up vest so others can see you and you can see your footing. 
  5. Watch for cars, even if you have the right of way (run against traffic). My dad always said, “right of way doesn’t matter if you’re dead.” He is so right. 
  6. If you are crossing a road, make eye contact with the driver at the stop sign or light. That assures you have been seen.
  7. Headphones can distract you and are not the safest choice. Consider either leaving them at home or wearing only one. 
  8. Run with a buddy when you can.

6 Track Etiquette Rules

If you are running on the track, there is etiquette there too. First off, open any rules that are posted. Those trump anything you will see written in an article. 

  1. Run counter-clockwise unless they have an alternating posting direction on certain days.
  2. Do not stand on the track, blocking the way. If you are doing intervals and need a quick breather, consider taking it on the infield. If the track is not busy, you can stand in an outer lane. 
  3. Don’t run on the inside lane. The first few inner lanes should be reserved for faster runners. Long distance runners should use the outer lanes.
  4. The high jump and vault pits are not a place for lounging or resting. If the track you are at has one of these out, leave it alone unless you practice that field event. 
  5. Even if you are tempted, you should not bring your children and pets to the track. The exception to this is if your child runs with you. But the infield is not a playground for kids to tear around while you do laps. 
  6. Slower runners should use the outside lanes. 

Trail Running: 6 Rules of the Trail

When I was a newbie trail runner, I had a lot to learn. For example, I ran right down the center of the trail, and people were constantly telling me they wanted to pass. It took me a couple of races to figure out that I should run somewhat to the side to make it easier for people to pass me.

Believe it or not, there are some golden rules of running specific to trails.

  1. Run to the side
  2. No quick turns
  3. Pack out whatever you bring in on the trail
  4. Be aware of your surroundings. Leave the headphones at home. 
  5. An addition to that is to keep music to yourself. External speakers have gotten popular and are a nice option if you are on a quiet trail by yourself or with friends. Others don’t want to hear your music if you are running a busy park trail. Keep in mind that some people trail run to escape the noise, not listen to yours. 
  6. Obey posted rules. If it says foot traffic to the right, that is what you should do. If the trail is one way, go that way.

10 Running Etiquette Rules for Race Day

Every runner should know that the race day etiquette starts when you register for running events. Don’t lie about your pace to get preferential treatment in your corral.

Just be honest. 

  1. Stay in your corral.
  2. Wear the race bib visibly, typically on the front of your shirt or shorts. 
  3. Keep your fluids to yourself. This means spitting, snot rockets, or water you decide to toss to the side. No one wants to share it. 
  4. Even if you are tempted to strip, don’t just leave your stuff along the route unless the race director encourages that (some races pick up discarded items and donate them to a local shelter).
  5. Throw your trash in a receptacle. Like a wrapper from your favorite gel, Trash on the ground can be dangerous for later runners.
  6. If you are about to slow down or stop, signal that to those behind you. A hand up in the air is a fairly widely known signal in the running world.
  7. Furthermore, try to move to the side if you slow down or stop.
  8. When passing, talk to the people around now. “On your left” or “on your right” helps others know where you are located. 
  9. Those who know they plan to walk or travel in a big group should not line up at the front of the race. If you are a walker out for a leisurely stroll, good for you! But don’t make runners work their way around you.
  10. Go through the finish line, don’t stop as soon as you cross. There are people behind you.

What Should You NOT Do?

Okay, we have been over quite a few things in the above categories, but let’s recap some of the big no-nos.

Top things you should never do:

  • Neglect safety
  • Blatantly ignore rules 
  • Leave trash behind
  • Blast music
  • Disregard other people’s needs, feelings, or workout

Sometimes people ask me, “Is it okay to pause during a run?”

Well, that depends. 

If you are doing a training run and want to take a break, either use the bathroom or grab some water; of course, you can do that. Either pause your Garmin or leave it running. It is up to you. 

However, if you are in a race and you want to stop, don’t just pause right there in the middle of the road. Step off to the side, signal you are slowing down or stopping, and do it safely. 

5 Things Professional Runners Do That All Runners Should Consider

If you are really hoping to be like a pro, there are things to consider besides rules and etiquette. What are the things pros do that we Average Joe runners should also do?

  1. Always warm-up and cool down
  2. Stretch
  3. Strength train
  4. Rest and recover – including naps and getting plenty of sleep at night
  5. Train consistently

Practical Advice From Running Coaches

We reached out to some RunnerClick Pro coaches for running rules and etiquette, and they had some great thoughts on the topic. 

Whitney Heins of The Mother Runners had this advice, ” I’d recommend having a meeting spot post-race (especially for longer distances) with a friend or loved one. It can get chaotic after a race with crowds and difficult to find your support—which you may need even just to walk after a marathon! 

This past fall, I went to support my friend at the Indianapolis Marathon. I couldn’t find her afterward at our spot and thus knew to look in the medical tent, which is where I found her (with hypothermia…she was ok!).”

Lauren Sheu, a coach for Running for Wellness, added, ” Race day can be really nerve-wracking because you have built up so much anticipation. My biggest piece of advice is to plan everything out in advance. This will help to reduce the amount of uncertainty you are feeling to help mitigate the race-day jitters.  

Have your outfit picked out in advance, have your fueling and hydration strategies mapped out in advance, know exactly what time you need to be where, have a plan to relax, and do something to calm your nerves like a guided meditation.  

Having all of this planned out before race day will give you less to worry about so that you can focus on enjoying your race!”

Tavo Running Coach Gustavo Roman Jr. said, “When it comes to training like a pro, I know the majority of coaches will tell you consistency is everything, whether that be in actually getting out for your scheduled run the majority of the time, keeping your workouts constantly varied and paced, or keeping your sleep and recovery consistent day-to-day. 

In keeping consistency, many of my runners ask how to motivate themselves to get going every morning they have a workout scheduled. I phrase motivation as fickle and, to the surprise of my athletes, unnecessary. Training like a pro means keeping up the momentum. That feeling when you don’t want to break your running streak when you get out there even though it’s cold and dark, when you know your run will be terrible, but you go anyway, that’s momentum. 

Once you’ve built inertia in your training, you’ll realize you don’t need motivation anymore. Even a bad run is worth something. Build that habit, and you’ll be training more like a pro.”

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