Guide To Running Race Etiquette

Race etiquette is vital to ensure that race day runs as smoothly as possible for all runners. Here are some tips of what to do on race day.

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It's important to remember a few procedures, rules and common courtesies, before, during and after your race, regardless of whether you are a first timer or a seasoned runner.

What to do before the race

  • Pin your race number on as directed. The race number will usually be required to be pinned on to the front of your shirt. Make sure you take some pins or magnetic race number holders with you just in case these are not provided. Make sure you don't fold your race number, as some of them have a tear off strip at the bottom that needs to be collected at the finish by the marshals.
  • Find the baggage truck where you can leave your bag and pick it up afterwards. Make sure you attach the supplied identification tag to your bag or attach something with your race number written onto your bag. Clearly some of the smaller races will not provide the option of safe bag storage.
  • Listen out for race announcements from the organisers. It's possible there may be a change in the scheduled start time or there may be a hazard you have to look out for on the course. Don't just listen to your music through your headphones prior to the race because you may miss some important race news.
  • Plan your toilet visits. The closer you get to race start time, then the worse the queues for the toilets are going to get. Try and plan ahead and beat the rush. If it is busy and you must go, try and resist the temptation to relieve yourself in the bushes.
  • Be aware when warming up. Hundreds of people warming up at the same time is a recipe for an accident. Choose your warm-up spot so that you have plenty of space around you so you are less likely to injure someone with a swinging arm or leg.
  • Line up at the start in accordance with your expected finish time. It will make things easier for you and others if you stick to the start group within your expected finish time. If in doubt go towards the back; at least if you are running well, you can be the one doing the overtaking rather than being overtaken.

What to do during the race

  • Don’t allow people who aren’t participants in the race to run alongside you. No guide to running race day etiquette would be complete without a point about racing alongside other runners who are not actual entrants. This is unfair on those who have paid to enter (remember you are one of those people), but you might fall foul of some races where a pacer is not allowed. The same applies to anyone who might cycle alongside you.
  • If running in a group, be aware of others who might be trying to pass. Don’t have your group lining up across the whole width of the road. If you are aware someone is trying to get past, move out of the way as soon as possible.  
  • Don’t suddenly pull up mid-race. If you feel the need to stop, perhaps to tighten a shoelace, move to the side of the road. Accidents will happen if you suddenly stop without warning.  
  • Be careful and considerate at drinks stations. Avoid veering across other runners to get to the drinks station. Move over well in advance of the station, and remember that often the far end of the station will be empty. Take only what you need as there will likely be plenty of people behind you who need the drink more than you do.  
  • Don’t just drop a water bottle on the floor. Your guide to running race etiquette has to include a point on bottles. When you run away from a drinks station, and throughout a race, use bins wherever you can and be careful where you dispose of rubbish as a carelessly discarded item could trip a runner up.
  • Don't queue for toilets in the way of runners. Big city races will provide plenty of toilets but there can still be a wait. If you’re in a local race in the countryside, then a bit of improvisation may be required, so be prepared.
  • Always listen out for and follow instructions. Although you might not always agree with marshals, they are there to assist, keep you safe, and make sure you follow the correct route! Treat them with respect, after all the majority will be volunteers.
  • When you overtake, don't cut straight in front. Allow a few metres before you try and pull in. Similarly, let runners past who are trying to overtake, and if possible move over to allow them the quickest way past.

What to do after the race

  • Don't jump the queue at the finish. This will only give you and others an inaccurate result. After the race you will generally be funnelled down to an area where your time will be recorded, a detachable part of your number (or perhaps your timing chip) will be removed for the organiser’s records, and you may receive your medal.
  • Don’t be greedy in the finish area. As with the drinks stations along the course, there will likely be others finishing behind you who will be even more in need of the food and drink on offer. If you finish well ahead of the majority of the field, it may look like there is a huge amount left, but organisers will have laid on provisions according to the number who entered the race.
  • Don't leave any litter lying around the finish area. It's always a big task for the organisers to get the venue back to its pre-race state, and their job will be a whole lot easier if runners take their rubbish home with them.