New Runner: Proper Running Etiquette

Running, as with anything else in life, can be managed fairly well with three words: Use common sense. Photo:

This story is part of an ongoing series aimed at new runners. 

Let’s get one thing straight here: I’m no Miss Manners. As the humor columnist for Competitor, I write fart jokes for a living and have, on more than one occasion, threatened to leg-wrestle my editors.

Still, I’m a bit of a pro at running etiquette, mostly because I’ve committed every blunder in the book. If you’re a new runner, you’ve probably made a mistake or two without even realizing it. Heck, even seasoned runners add to their blooper reel from time to time. From running in the road to fertilizing your neighbor’s flowers, here’s what you need to know about the decorum of our sport.

RELATED: Common Mistakes Newbies Make

Be a road salmon…

Run against traffic if running on or alongside the road, staying as far to the left as possible. Though bikes should ride with traffic (because, legally, they are traffic), runners should do the opposite.

Why? For your safety. If you are running with traffic and a driver comes up behind or alongside you to make a right-hand turn, chances are that driver is checking left for oncoming traffic before making the turn—not ahead or to the right to see if the crosswalk is clear. Running against traffic also allows you to see if you need to take evasive action in the case of an errant driver. 

…But go with the flow on trails.

If running on multi-use paths or trails, run in the direction of traffic, staying to the right of the trail. To pass another person, first check over your shoulder to make sure no one is coming up behind you. If the coast is clear, give the person you’re passing a heads-up by saying “On your left!”

On narrow trails, people running uphill should yield to the people running down. You do not want to be in the way of someone with gravity on her side.

No dumping.

That goes for every sense of the word. If you can’t find a trash receptacle on the route for your empty gel packets or bar wrappers, carry your trash home. Also, if you need to, ahem, relieve yourself, don’t do it in your neighbor’s bushes. Nothing spoils a person’s morning more than looking out the window and seeing a runner fertilizing their flowers. For crying out loud, even my dogs know how to hold it until they get to an appropriate spot.

Head on a swivel!

Assume every driver is texting, taking selfies, eating, tweeting and/or yelling at the kids in the backseat while behind the wheel. Don’t assume they see you, even if you are clad head-to-toe in neon colors. Stay alert when crossing streets and parking lot entrances. Stop at stop signs, and make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you before you cross the road. If they wave you across, give them a friendly smile—let them know you appreciate it!

Leave no runner behind.

We all have our bad workouts, but if you see a fellow runner truly struggling, take a moment to check in with that person. Even if you don’t know them, ask, “How you doing?” More often than not, they’ll say they’re fine and wave you on, but if they’re injured, dehydrated or deep in the abyss of a bonk, they may need a little help. Sure, your training plan for the day didn’t call for walking 3 miles in the heat with a delirious, limping stranger but doing the right thing should always take precedence over mile splits.

Say hello.

You know who always acknowledges their kind in passing? Motorcyclists. Are we really going to let the Hell’s Angels gain a reputation for being friendlier than us? Wave when you cross paths with another runner. Or nod. Or smile. Or give a thumbs-up. Just share a little love with your fellow gangstas. Okay, maybe “gangstas” is a little too far for a bunch of sweaty people in split shorts, but still…you get the point.

Use common sense.

Running, as with anything else in life, can be managed fairly well with three words: Use common sense. Do you really think it’s smart to run with your earbuds so loud you can feel it in your toenails? Is it truly wise to sprint into an intersection because you really don’t want to stop mid-interval? Use common sense, and we’ll all be just fine.

Happy running!

RELATED: Tips For Buying Your First Pair Of Running Shoes

For more from Susan Lacke, visit her “Out There” page.


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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