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Racing the right way: Race etiquette to consider

2012 Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon start. Photo: CRS
2012 Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon start. Photo: CRS

How often have you lined up at the start of a race to find someone in front of you that clearly shouldn’t be there? Or been waiting your turn in the porta-potty line only to see someone cut the queue?

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Although unwritten and rarely regulated, there are several rules when it comes to running a race. Knowing and following proper race etiquette is an important part of running and racing. Here are but a few to consider:

  • Don’t be a bandit. Only registered participants have paid for their space and with it are permitted to use the aid stations, restrooms, emergency and medical aid services, post-race refreshments and of course, get a medal at the finish. Running under another person’s name or using their bib could also affect the results and create problems in case of emergency.
  • Wear your bib. It shows you registered and deserve to be there. Display it clearly on the front of your shirt or singlet where it is clearly visible.
  • Wear a shirt. Unless it’s 40 degrees with 100 per cent humidity (and even so), keep a shirt on for the race. Nobody cares about your six pack.
  • Line up properly. We all run at different paces and most events now have chip timing to ensure your result reflects the time it takes to run from the start to the finish line, and not more. Unless you’re planning to win the race or compete for prize money or age category awards, please line up based on your expected finish time, not your dream finish time. Larger events have corrals to properly position runners based on pace. Do not move up a corral when you know you don’t belong there. For those running with strollers, dogs or any other object likely to impede the progress of your fellow racers, please move to the back of the start.
  • Line up and wait for the porta-potty. The race starts at the same time for us all, so just because you have to go, doesn’t mean you can butt in line or cut the queue. Line up and wait your turn. And guys, we all know you can “go” a bit more easily but that doesn’t give you free reign to pee wherever you please.
  • Keep a steady line. If you start weaving and cutting in front of others, that’s a recipe for disaster. Assess your space and only make a move when it is safe to do so. Remember to run the tangents to avoid running more than you need to.
  • Spit to the side. If you really must spit or clear your nose (i.e. shoot snot rockets) mid-race, make sure there are no fellow participants near you. Move to the side, ensure the coast is clear and please excuse yourself afterward.
  • Keep chatter in check. Sure, you may be able to recite Shakespeare or share your life story, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is interested to hear it. Exercise judgement and avoid talking excessively when a fellow competitor is struggling or working hard. If they give you the cold shoulder or, in some cases, ask you to zip it, kindly respect their request. Related to this, keep the bragging to a minimum (preferably none at all). Unless asked, keep your PBs and previous race experience to yourself.
  • Share drafting duties. In races where the wind is a factor, runners often congregate in small groups and one or more of the runners take turns up front blocking the wind. Those behind gain a considerable benefit by saving energy drafting. Consider taking a turn at the front and allowing others to draft. The same goes for setting the pace. And guys, just because you get passed by a girl, doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself to keep up.
  • Be aware at aid stations. Don’t suddenly stop to take a drink as others behind you will not know this is coming. Signal to the volunteer — either vocally, by pointing or by making eye contact — that you plan to take their cup. Try not to spill it all over them. Try to discard the used cups near a garbage.
  • Don’t litter. Whether it’s your empty gel packet, a package of chews, or discarded clothing, don’t use the race course as a garbage.
  • Be courteous when passing. We’ve all had bad races when the finish couldn’t come quick enough. If someone is having one of those days and you’re about to blow by them, please be kind and courteous. In most cases, say nothing at all. A few encouraging words may be useful to some but smack-talk has no place in running.
  • Leave the headphones at home. While for some, running without music is unthinkable, part of the race experience is taking in the sights, sounds and the atmosphere of the event. It’s also a safety issue as you won’t be able to hear important race announcements or updates.
  • Don’t clog the finish. After you cross the line, please keep moving forward to avoid impeding the finish of others. Collect your medal and if you’re not feeling well, seek out medical aid.
  • Don’t complain. So your race didn’t go the way you had hoped or maybe you just missed a PB. Don’t be that person that moans and groans about their “bad” day. Be grateful for the opportunity to do something you enjoy. Reflect and learn from the experience.