Race Etiquette: Are There Rules?

The answer is yes.

Do runners always abide by them?


I have seen my fair share of gracious runners in my time and as a long time runner, I like to reciprocate whenever possible. Whether that’s stopping mid-race to help someone who tripped (been there, done that myself so I can sympathize) or to apologize for bumping into someone at a crowded race start when everyone is vying for prime real estate on the course, I like to think that I’m a pretty easy runner to get along with on the roads. No shenanigans here.

However, in my last two races, I’ve seen some pretty, well, rude behavior.

During the Allstate 13.1 Marathon in Flushing Meadow Park on March 23rd is when I first realized that not every runner is aware of their surroundings and who is running alongside them. Let me preface this my saying that this particular race was a bit of a doosy. The massive headwinds and potholes on the course left much to be desired. I felt like I really had to work hard to come in just under two hours – that’s how debilitating the weather was that day. Nevertheless, I stopped to pick up a fellow runner when she fell and I was courteous at the water stops. I usually walk through the stops so it’s easier to drink and I dispose of my cup in either one of the designated bins or, very daintily, on the ground. For the first time, I was splashed, had someone else’s water sloshed onto me, and had to dodge flinging cups like they were oversized pieces of hail.

Then, this past weekend I ran a local four miler (very small) which I have run several times in the past. The race is pretty no frills but very well organized – a race I truly appreciate for what it is. While I wasn’t dodging paper cups this time, I was trying to shield myself from phlegm (not mine!) that was being wildly spit into the wind, only to find its way onto some part of my body. The offender, who I’ve never seen at a local race before, cleared his throat every 1/4 mile and hocked a big one each time. Yes, for a four mile race.

What gives?!

Maybe I’m particularly sensitive, but I find this type of behavior ridiculous. If you choose to grab water at a water stop, there’s no need to fling it across the crowd. Chances are, you’re not an Olympic shotputter. The same goes for coughing up your loogies (or snot rockets) every other step. There’s a time and a place for everything and if you need to do it (we all need to at some point), perhaps leaving the dramatic sound effects at the start line is the best option.

So, my question to you is – am I being too harsh? Too sensitive? Did I miss the etiquette boat somewhere? Have any of you experienced this?


5 thoughts on “Race Etiquette: Are There Rules?

  1. I think your expectations are fair and 99% of runners abide by them. Unfortunately, when you’re around one of the few who doesn’t show any courtesy for other runners, it sucks.

  2. Gross. I think you’re being fair. I think we’ve all had snot rocket issues before. I mean we’re runners, nothing’s going to keep us down, but there are rules about it. You HAVE to look at where you’re aiming your bodily secretions!

  3. I’ve had the same issues at the one marathon I ran. The water stations were terrible. I walked to avoid slipping but people just threw water over their shoulders, straight down, etc. I’m slow enough on my own — I don’t need a twisted ankle.

    Mind you, at a high school XC meet I had a narrow miss when the runner next to me became stupendously ill as we started. So it could always be worse…

  4. (a bit late I know … just found your blog 🙂

    Etiquette is always a 95% rule, don’t you think? Our older son was part of a group of 105 kids from NY, NJ, PA and CT who went all over Europe playing music and singing (American Music Abroad), and the last night before they left they presented a final concert which was recorded as well. So they very specifically and repeatedly talked about cell phones. Naturally during a quiet part of the string group playing someone’s obnoxious ringtone went off and they started talking … at least they were walking out as they did so. But still – RUDE!

    My first experience with a rude runner was with a run-walk person on a narrow 5k course (yes, run-walk on a 5k). They were a quick runner so they would push by everyone to pass, and then when the beep went on their watch they would just immediately slow to a walk no matter where they were without regard. I was glad to finally be done with that person!

    I ran a hilly semi-trail marathon in the ‘Pennsylvania Grand Canyon’ this past weekend, and there were ~500 people in a race that features mud, muck, and torrential downpours over ~20 miles of the course. I was thrilled with how awesome everyone was. We were all a mess, but had a really good time. It was a loop so you were supposed to stay left, but with the water running and turning the sides to pure mudslides most stayed closer to the middle. But of course there was one guy who was snot-rocketing way too frequently … and right in the middle of the road without regard of who was around or where. I didn’t see anyone get hit, but people really wanted out of his path. Again, just 1 rude person out of 500 …

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