Running Etiquette: 12 Rules to Remember
One of the best things about running is how accessible it is. You don’t need to spend much money. There’s no need for specialty equipment. And you don’t have to memorize hundreds of rules, each of which has dozens of exceptions.
That doesn’t mean it’s a lawless sport. In fact, there are some running rules you should follow to make sure you’re staying safe and being courteous. We’ll start with the basics of running etiquette, then move on to some specific circumstances.
General Running Etiquette
1. Run on the right, pass on the left
That’s right, this rule is the same on the sidewalk as it is on the road. If you’re accustomed to running right in the middle of the sidewalk, it’s time to adjust. You want to make sure you allow room for others to pass you and for pedestrians traveling in the other direction.
2. Make your presence known
Have you ever startled an unsuspecting walker when passing them? It’s happened to me before, which is why I know how important it is to let others know you’ll be passing (it’s especially crucial if you’re trail running). I simply say, “Passing on your left.” I still get a yelp or two, but many times other pedestrians are used to it.
3. Keep it single file when passing in a group
Lots of folks prefer to run with buddies. It can be a great motivator and make the time go fast, but it’s important to make sure you don’t hog the sidewalk. No matter how big your group is, go single file when passing others.
4. Let faster folks pass
Many runners are naturally competitive. There’s no problem with that, as long as it doesn’t lead you to antagonize someone who’s simply trying to pass. Save the surges for race day.
5. Never litter
It’s pretty common to find yourself holding a gel wrapper or empty water bottle mid-run. If you aren’t in a race where there will be volunteers cleaning up, tossing your trash on the ground isn’t acceptable. Either come prepared by wearing something with pockets or hold onto your waste until you find a proper place to dispose of it.
Rules to remember for special circumstances
6. Face traffic on the road
Every so often, running on a path or sidewalk isn’t feasible. Maybe the walkways are too icy or perhaps there simply is no path. When you’re forced to run in the street, make sure you’re facing traffic to keep yourself safe. This is a general rule for all pedestrians, too.
7. Prioritize visibility
Making yourself visible is a good idea at all times, but it’s particularly important if you’re going to be running in the street or when conditions make it hard to see. Bright colors are a start, and lighting becomes important if it’s dark, rainy, or otherwise hard to see. You need to make sure that you’re assisting your own vision, but also ensuring others see you.
8. Follow track rules
It’s standard to run counterclockwise on tracks, but indoor tracks often alternate directions from one day to the next. Go with the flow of traffic. It might feel a little strange to run the opposite direction, but you don’t want to risk colliding with someone.
9. No banditing, please
Though it might seem harmless to hop into a road race you didn’t enter, it’s a definite don’t. Not only is it generally unfair to your fellow racers, but it’s also a hazard. Runner’s World points out bandits put additional strains on resources. And should you get hurt during a race, the medical team won’t be able to identify you or reach out to your emergency contact.
10. Obey your corral assignment
Races that assign corrals do so to group runners by pace. It really helps cut down on congestion. Even if you think you could run fast enough to fit into the next corral, stick with your assignment. There’s no rule against passing tons of people during the race, after all.
11. Step off the course if you need to stop
If you find yourself experiencing a cramp or you need to slow to a walk while downing that aid-station sports drink, do everyone a favor by stepping to the side. Abruptly stopping in the middle of the course could lead to a collision with another runner. That’s not good for either of you.
12. Be a good sport
This is basically the golden rule for all athletics. Whether you’re first, last, or somewhere in between, be courteous to your fellow racers. That means no post-race tantrums, gloating, or other unsavory behavior. They’re all working as hard as you are and deserve the same respect.