TotR: Race Etiquette – Top Ten Tips from Mulan

Welcome to Tuesdays on the Run!  Patty from My No-Guilt Life, Erika from MCM Mama Runs and I put out the call to give us some topics and Allyson from Amp Runs suggested the winning topic: Race Etiquette!  

Any time humans gather in groups, there are rules both written and unwritten to help guide behavior so that everyone can get along.  Some of those rules are basic (don’t hit people) and make logical sense while some (which fork to use or how to tie a cravat – yes I read too much historical fiction) only apply to specific situations and groups.


Mulan has agreed to share with us her top ten race etiquette tips (or how to avoid bringing dishonor on your family).  She did save all of China, so pay attention people.


If jogging strollers or dogs aren’t allowed, don’t sneak one on the course.  Seriously, these rules exist for a reason, and usually the reason is runner safety.  I was running the Gate River Run and saw someone handoff a double stroller to a runner a few miles from the finish.  That woman completely messed up the flow of runners/walkers in the tight spots because of that huge double stroller.  Not cool.


If a race has formal corrals, make sure you are in the right one for your racing pace.  If a race does not have corrals, line up in the big pack based on where you expect to finish.  If you think you’ll be in the top 5% of finishers, feel free to toe the start line.  If you think you’ll finish in the middle of the pack, line up in the middle of the pack.  If you expect to finish in the last group, line up towards the back.  This keeps you from getting run over and discouraged from being passed by a bunch of runners and lets those that are faster run the pace they want without having to swerve around a bunch of slower runners.  I tend to err on the side of caution and line up a bit further back than I probably qualify for just because I’d rather pass other runners than be passed.   If you start out in a faster group, you’ll also be at risk of starting out too fast because you get caught up in the group pace and then you can end up miserable later in the race, having run out of steam.


If you’re running/walking in a group, do not run or walk more than two across (unless the course is very wide and uncrowded).  If the course is very narrow, try to go in a single file line.  When faster runners need to get past and there is a group blocking the way, they often have to go on the curb or grass to pass and it can result in injury.  It also results in a lot of frustration for the faster runners.


If you’re running intervals with walk intervals, try to be extra aware of your surrounding runners.  Some people hold a hand up and announce walking before they slow down for a walk interval.  My method during the Princess Half was to try to stay to the right hand side of the course and be super aware of the runners around me, looking over my shoulder before scooting over to the side and slowing down.  I also tried to avoid passing someone right before I slowed down for a walk, but that’s just how I handled it.  What you do NOT want to do is to be running right in the middle of a crowded course and abruptly stop or slow down without any warning and without checking to see if a faster runner is right behind you.  There are stories every year of someone taking a nasty fall because someone abruptly stops or slows down without looking.  This includes the random stops for photos, shoe lace fixes, wardrobe issues or tiaras falling off.  There was a character I really wanted a photo with on the opposite side of the road and it was very crowded and I didn’t see it until I was right there and I just ended up skipping it because risking hurting myself or others just for a photo op was not worth it.


If you’re a faster runner doing the passing, unless you’ve got a strong chance of actually winning the whole race (in which case you should have been toeing the line anyways at the start) please be considerate and don’t elbow past, push past, or shoulder past runners who are clearly trying to get out of your way.  Everyone wants to do their best and slower runners have the same rights to be on the course as faster runners.


If headphones are allowed in a race, either keep your music very low or just wear one headphone (which I do) so you can hear announcements and so you can be aware of other runners.


Water stops can be a little crazy.  Don’t just come to an abrupt stop to get your cup.  In a big race, it is often a good idea to keep going past the first few groups of volunteers and pick up your water/sports drink from the later tables.  I cannot drink and run, so I slow down to a walk through the water stations but I always check over my shoulder to make sure no one is right behind me.  I also try to throw my cup in a garbage can if one is available.  If there’s not a garbage can, throw the cup off the course so no one behind you slips on it.  And make sure there’s no one in your way when you toss the cup, no one wants to be splattered with the dregs of your drink or hit with your cup.


If you have to spit during a race (or do one of those snot rocket things I’ve read about but am clearly not coordinated enough to even attempt), please please please be sure you’re not spitting on or even near another runner.  In the first 5 minutes of a local 15k, another runner spit about one inch from my foot.  It really annoyed me and I successfully determined to beat her then and there.


Thank the volunteers!  Remember they are volunteering and smile, say thank you and don’t be mean!


At the finish, keep going through at a decent pace (walking is ok, just don’t stop) so it doesn’t get all backed up.  Make sure to only take your share of drinks and snacks so later finishers can have some too.  Check out this post for more on this subject from Amy at Mom’s Magical Miles.

Basically, be kind and thoughtful and consider how your actions impact others.  Don’t push or shove or take more than your share.  Always remember that you’re sharing that space with lots of other people who are also tired, sore, excited, afraid, and looking towards the finish line.

Racing is a lot of fun and the more people follow these guidelines, the more fun (and safe) it will be for everyone.

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TotR: Race Etiquette – Top Ten Tips from Mulan — 29 Comments

  1. What a great list!! I forgot to add the spitting and snot rocket etiquette! That is the worst thing to have happened to anyone when that happens. Grosses me out!

    PS, my link posted twice by accident. Sorry about that!!
    Melanie recently posted…Cannonball Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

    • Oh yeah, the spitting and snot rockets are so gross! Thanks for linking up with us!

  2. I love that you used Mulan as a spokesperson! I think we covered most of the same bases. I think I accidentally bumped someone passing at the ATM this weekend, but I can’t say they were trying to get out of my way. After that I tried to say “coming up on your left” or something like that — not that I was passing everyone, it was just a crowded course.
    Coco recently posted…Race Etiquette Pet PeevesMy Profile

    • Crowded courses are so frustrating. Even with good race etiquette, people can get jostled and frustrated!

  3. I love Mulan and that you used her as your race etiquette mascot 🙂 I think you were spot-on with all of these rules/common race courtesies, as always thanks for hosting the linkup!
    Stacey recently posted…TotR: Race EtiquetteMy Profile

    • I could not believe it when that lady spit right at my feet! Luckily it hasn’t happened to me since then!

    • Thanks for the suggestion. This is one that needs to be repeated around race season!

    • Well, she did save China, so I figured she was a girl worth listening to. Thanks so much, it was a lot of fun to put together!

  4. Great delivery from Mulan 🙂 It sounds so much more gracious coming from her! I agree with all of these and do my best to abide by them. I think races are just growing so fast that there are a lot of new people out there who haven’t picked up on the rules yet 🙁
    Chaitali recently posted…Tower of Terror 10 miler – Part 1My Profile

    • And I do think that if people are struggling in a long race, they can forget that others are around them too. Thanks!!

  5. 2 of the items on your list are some of my biggest pet peeves! #1 i cannot stand when i’m running a race and I have to try and get around a hoard of walkers. I get you are there for the fun of it and to socialize, but taking up the entire path is rude!

    #2. When someone passes me, then stops to walk right in front of me. It happens all the time and I HATE IT!!! I don’t care that they need to walk but when you sprint for 10 seconds just to pass me, then start walking right in front of me, so that i then have to go around you, and repeat this pattern every 5 minutes for 3 miles, I get awfully cranky. I’m not a fast runner and so i think i hit alot of this in the rear of the pack.

    • I run some races with a straight run and some with run/walk intervals and when I do my intervals, I try really hard to avoid switching to a walk right after I’ve passed someone in a tight area. Sometimes I’ll just delay or skip that walk interval and sometimes I’ll just wait and not pass if I think my walk interval is imminent.

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