Proper running etiquette: the unspoken rules of running

Heather Koski, Guest Contributor (Seattle, WA) – Just like you learn proper table and social manners through childhood, there are a few basic rules of the road (and trail) to keep in mind when running. It’s important to practice these rules with frequency as a common courtesy to other runners and recreational users to help maintain a comfortable ambience and environment, no matter where you’re running.

When road running

  • Run against traffic when you’re on the road or shoulder.
  • Wear reflective gear and/or a headlamp when it’s dark.
  • Run on the sidewalk when possible and use caution when passing.
  • Run on the right, pass on the left.
  • No more than two people should run side by side, so as to not block the road.
  • Yield to all traffic signs and alerts; you’re moving traffic, too.
  • Be courteous of private property and those moving slower than you.

When trail running

  • Let people know when you need to pass on a single-track with a friendly comment like, “passing on your left” or “right behind you”.
  • Avoid wearing headphones on the trails; it can be extremely distracting in the serenity of a beautiful nature preserve.
  • Don’t litter; leave no trace of your run.
  • Avoid loud conversations and noises on the trail.
  • Keep your dog leashed so as to not alarm other trail users.
  • If you need to use the bathroom mid-route, find a private area of the trail; be quick and quiet!

When running a race

  • If you are running with a dog or stroller, allow other runners to congregate ahead of you at the start line.
  • Know your place and pace when lining up at the start line.
  • Be mindful of the volume of your music if you choose to run with headphones.
  • If you need to stop for any reason, gradually move to the side of the course so that other runners aren’t disturbed by your movement.
  • Similarly, if you need to slow down, it’s generally proper to move to the right side of the race course so that others can pass you on the left.
  • Securely pin your race bib in front so that photographers and race officials can easily identify you throughout the race.
  • Move to the side of the course when enjoying beverages and refreshments at the aid stations to allow others to pass.
  • Move through the finish line as instructed and give race timing chips or tear-off bib sections when asked for them.
  • Congratulate fellow runners and enjoy the post-race party!

Follow these basic rules to maximize yours and others’ runs at all times. Once you begin practicing these rules, they will become a natural habit and ultimately result in a more pleasant running experience.

What other rules would you add to this list?


heather_koski_300x300Heather Koski | Guest Contributor | Originally from Colorado and now living in Seattle, Heather is a member of the Richmond Beach Running Club and Born to Run Running Club. She has run over 100 races, ranging in distance from 5K to half marathon. Heather is currently a grad student in the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media Program. Read more about Heather’s running accomplishments and aspirations in our “Faces of Gametiime” post.

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12 thoughts on “Proper running etiquette: the unspoken rules of running

  1. One of our readers via Facebook mentioned the following: ‘I wonder about “run against traffic” I was always taught to run with traffic (same as cycling).’

    We found a forum discussion on the subject from dailymile. It’s four years old but still applicable. From the post, it sounds like most people are of the belief that one should run/walk against traffic and ride a bike with it; namely, so you can see any danger heading your way.

    http://www.dailymile.com/forums/general-running/questions/1956-running-with-or-against-traffic

    Any others have thoughts?

  2. Do not run with a number you bought from another runner when bib transfers are disallowed. Your result could cheat someone out of a Gender/Age Group award and can affect everyone’s place in their Gender/Age Group results. Almost worse than banditing and can get you banned or disqualified if caught.

    • That’s a good tip, Steve. We would bet that a good number of newer runners aren’t aware of the potential consequences associated with being caught transferring a bib. While it would be great to have that option, it likely comes down to liability on part of the race organization.

    • We like it! It seems like people sometimes don’t know whether to wave or let people be to themselves, but we lean towards a quick wave (especially when there’s eye contact made).

      We heard something awhile back that we love, “Runners are friends before they even meet.”

      To this, we couldn’t agree more. As fellow runners, we have a camaraderie through the pavement and trails we venture. It’s a big part of Gametiime’s mission to empower that camaraderie; you’ll see more and more of that as we progress.

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