Running Etiquette: A Guide For New And Experienced Runners

Running Etiquette: A Guide For New And Experienced Runners


Emily Post's guide to etiquette set the tone for polite interactions in 1920's society. While some of those rules and guidelines now seem outdated, her writing helped set the tone for "proper" manners, such as making sure you do RSVP for a party, and making sure you don't rest your elbows on the dinner table.

Unfortunately, however, Ms. Post did not provide anything about around how to avoid being a super annoying runner or the appropriate way to behave during a half-marathon.

So, we figure we'd put some thoughts down for those of us who aren't sure exactly what is acceptable when it comes to proper running etiquette.  

The results are below, grouped into some basic Do's and Don'ts across three categories:
Regular Runs, which include things to consider on your regular city or trail runs;
Race Day, which examines some common foibles at the local 5k or big city marathon;
• and Rest Day, where we discuss a few things like when to and when NOT to pick at your gnarly toenails. 

We also asked some of the terrific All-Season community to add some of their thoughts, and we marked those accordingly throughout.  And if you have anything to add to the list, please leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

A final note before we start: this list is all meant (mostly) as a bit of fun and as a kind nudge to remember to think of others, and be aware of yourself even when you're huffing and puffing through mile 19 of a marathon. This list is not meant to offend anyone, or to point fingers if you do, or have done, any of these things. 




•...treat other runners (and well, people) as you'd like to be treated. It's the Golden Rule, and the most basic of etiquette. An important place to start. 
• ...obey all local traffic laws.
This includes crossing at lights (rather than darting through intersections), ensuring driver's see you at stop signs, etc. You might feel invincible during your runner's high, but startling a driver can cause all kinds of problems. 
• single file. It's great to have a running group. It's not great to run like a pack of middle schoolers leaving class for recess. Be aware that you are sharing space with, gasp, non-runners. 
•...stay with your group. If you are with a running group, and find yourself consistently ahead of the group by a great distance, then it's time to move to a new, faster group.
•...respect private property. Stay aware of where you're running. Your neighbour's freshly seeded lawns will be grateful.
•...pass on the left. On a trail or sidewalk, follow the rule of thumb that one should run on the right, pass on the left. A cheery "ahoy,' "passing," "behind you," or "on your left" is welcomed here, while being aware of your tone and accounting for who you are passing. For example, passing someone using a mobility device might require a respectful slowdown to ensure they aren't startled.
• track aware. Running at the track has its own set of rules, often outlined with a clearly written and posted set of rules. Follow these if posted, and if not, use common manners around track care, and being aware of sharing the space with other runners of various speeds. 


• ...dominate the sidewalk or trail. It's easy to lose spatial focus when you are really in the groove, but it is really quite important to avoid knocking over a hiker or walker that also has full rights to use the sidewalk or trail. 
• ...skip the post-run shower on your lunch. If you take a break during the work day to get some miles in, make sure you are aware of the aromas you bring back in with you. And we aren't talking about the burrito you picked up. Same goes if you run into work in the morning.
•...make quick U-turns. Even if you don't think anyone is behind you, a quick U-turn or sharp darting turn can really disrupt someone else's day.
•...litter. Gel packets are small, banana peels compost, but these are still litter. Leave no trace on the trails.
• ...wear headphones to your group run. The main point of joining a running group is to engage with your fellow runners. 
•...unleash your dog. Running with a dog has a ton of positives - from safety to companionship to motivation. That said, it's really important for the safety of your dog and other runners/walkers/cyclists/cars that your dog remains on your leash. Even if your pup is well-trained and consistent it just takes a mild distraction to have him or her running into someone or something that causes a big issue. 




•...get to know the race. Read about the race course, starting time, the expectations and rules of the race. Read the emails that the race sends you and be aware of what you are agreeing to as a participant.
•...communicate clearly on the course. Whether telling other runners you are coming up behind them, or calling request to the refreshment stations volunteers what you need, the more clear you can be with your words, the less chance for confusion. Over-communicating on the course is often best. 
• ...go to the washroom in race-provided facilities. Not behind a tree, bush or car. 
•...follow the race's finish line instructions. Listen for volunteers instructions ("runners to the left", etc) and follow them. If you need assistance at the finish line, signal immediately. 
• kind to race day volunteers. No matter how tired you are, how disappointed you feel with your results or how frustrated you are with the planning, be kind to anyone volunteering with the race. They have gone to training or info session and have woken up early for no pay to support you and to keep things running as smoothly as possible. And again, they most likely are doing it for free. Kindness if possible – and if that's not possible, just be silent.
•...cheer on fellow runners. Participating in the events after the race make for a fulsome race day experience. Even if you aren't an award winner, participating in the ceremonies is part of engaging with thee running community. That follows with post-race social media - consider the tone of your comments on other runner's posts. Lifting others up is always good etiquette. And if you can't be supportive, you don't have to comment at all. 

•...cut off another runner when arriving at a refreshment station. Veering off across lanes of runners can cause collisions, trips and their subsequent injuries. Plan ahead, and remember that the far ends of the stations are usually well stocked and less busy.
•...cut off another runner when leaving a refreshment station. Same as above, but when you leave.
•...cheat. Run the distance, even if you aren't having your best day. No one wants to see a course cutter or bib swapper. Don't make it awkward.
• ...drop your cups into the course. After you grab a drink or gel, don't drop your garbage in the path of other runners. Toss it off to the side of the course – or better, into a bin.
•...keep keys or change in your pocket. Hey, what's that noise? It's you. And your expectation that everyone around you should listen to it for 26.2.
• a post-race glutton. Any post-race refreshments are meant to steady you, and not serve as an all-you-can-eat meal. Take what you need, to ensure everyone gets what they need to.




•...make a rest day an actual rest day. This is more of a self-etiquette guideline. If you are taking a rest day, be kind to yourself. That doesn't need to mean eat an entire pizza or just sit on the couch, but be intentional and don't stress about missing a day. 
•...practice proper self-talk. It can be easy to reflect on a challenging run, or to compare oneself to other runners and say: "I'm not a real runner." No. This is improper etiquette. You run, you are a runner.


•…pick at your toenails in public. Your toenails take a lot during your runs. Take care of them… in private. Same with any chafing. Private time, please.
•…assume everyone cares about your latest run. Hitting your goals is so great. And telling people can really inspire others. However, read the room. If your co-workers start to suddenly shuffle a stack of papers when you walk by, or your dentist asks you to say ahhhhh for as long as you can — you might be talking about your running pursuits a bit too much.


As mentioned in the intro, we invited our All-Season community to share their top etiquette tips for this piece.

Here are some of the answers we received back:

"Don't litter!" - @meg.runs

"Do: Run at the agreed upon pace with your running buddy (no one likes a one-stepper/half stepper); smile and say hello to other runners, walkers, dogs and other shared space users; enjoy every moment; and stop to smell the roses - trust me, it’s worth it every time. Do not: Fart at the front of pace train, maybe consider those black beans in your burrito if you’ve got an evening workout with the team later; run aggressively (you can run fast) or in a large pack in a cemetery or other place of worship;  snot rocket on to your running partners or other road users;  run in the bike lane when it is crowded; or pick a fight with a car, the car will always win."  – @sgollishruns

"Always, always leave the trails better than you found it." - @castillo.running

"Use proper trail etiquette and keep to the right (USA). Move over if you are running with one or more other persons and you are approaching an oncoming runner. Do not: pass so close from behind that you are practically breathing on someone's neck!' - @drmarilyn_sel_coach

"[Do not] run 3-4 wide and chat." - @runningshoeprincess

"Look before you spit!" - @bradrlyons

"[Do not] stop abruptly to tie your shoe without moving over to the side." - @scorpionwoman

"Shoulder check before making a turn!" - @kaitlinwainwright


Have another piece of running etiquette that people should be aware of? Please add yours to the comments below, or message us on social!


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