Whether you're new to 5k or are a seasoned racer, there are some unwritten rules of 5k racing that every runner should know. From firing snot rockets to diving for a drinks table, here's your guide to 5k race etiquette so that you don’t incur the wrath of your fellow competitors:
Before the start
If possible, pre-register for the race, even if they take entries on the day. This will help to prevent long queues of agitated runners and will relieve the pressure on the race organisers, the vast majority of whom are volunteers. Ensure that you arrive at the race venue in plenty of time so that you're not rushing to the start. You should aim to be at the start around 10 minutes before the scheduled start time, although you will need to allow longer for larger races.
You should pin your race number onto your front so that it can be clearly seen by the race officials. Ladies, even if you're wearing a crop top, don't fold your number in any way as this could lead to disqualification. As tempting as it may be, (especially if they are faster than you!) don't use another runner’s number without the permission of the race director. You really won't make yourself too popular if you run under the wrong name because it means race organisers won’t have your correct details in case of an emergency. Plus you could also cause confusion with both the timing and results systems.
Start line etiquette
Most race starts are seeded, with the faster runners positioned at the front of the field to ensure a safer and smoother start for all. Be realistic and honest with where you stand on the start line so that you don't impede the runners behind you. Don't try and push to the front if you're not going to be towards the front at the finish!
Don't be a 'hero'!
There are certainly no prizes for the fastest runner away from the start line and nobody likes a 'hero' in the first 200m of the race! An over-zealous start can often result in you slowing down in dramatic and painful style later in the race, where you could potentially hold up other runners. Remember that your pacing misjudgement could ultimately affect other runners too, as well as ruining your own race.
Obey the officials
Even if you're enduring a suffer fest, you should obey the race officials' instructions at all times. They are there for your safety. When you are working really hard, it's easy to become impatient and snappy but remember that nearly all race marshals give up their time on a voluntary basis and without them, the race wouldn't take place.
Be mindful of other runners
This is particularly important if you are running on a lapped course or in a race with a mass field. If you are running with friends or club mates then don't run anymore than two abreast unless the road is very wide. If you do, you will impede runners who are trying to overtake you.
Drinks station decorum
If your 5k race has drinks stations en route then avoid the urge to dive for the table to snatch a drink because you could easily cut other runners up, causing an accident. The race organisers will have done their calculations and there will be more than enough to drink for everyone. If possible, try to position yourself on the right side of the road to pick up a drink before you arrive at the table. Before you discard your cup or bottle be sure to check around you and throw it to the side of the course. Nobody wants a face full of sports drink or to roll their ankle on a bottle!
Unplug your music
You may train with tunes but it's best to unplug your iPod or MP3 player when racing. Many races don't allow runners to wear headphones due to safety reasons. You need to be aware of what's going on around you and with your headphones on you may not be able to hear traffic, race marshals or fellow runners.
As runners there are times when we have to do things that would be considered socially unacceptable in any other context, such as spitting and firing snot from your nose! Sometimes you just have to do these things in a race and whilst nobody can begrudge you, just be sure to ensure that you are courteous to other runners when you do. If possible move to the side of the road to expel your spit ball or snot rocket or try to wait until there are no other runners in close proximity.
Finish line formalities
Despite the euphoria that you may feel as you cross the finish line, try to avoid stopping suddenly. Keep moving forward along the finishing funnel so that you don't cause a jam. The space you leave behind you needs to be there so that other runners who are finishing have somewhere to go.
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