Last Updated on January 30, 2020 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
…but you should probably consider doing anyway.
I know, I know, don’t we have enough rules already? Enough whistle blowers and holier-than-thou martyrs in the endurance world, preaching from atop their blog soapboxes? I’m certainly guilty of complaining loudly in the past about the actions of others in the running world myself, but just bear with me through this one. I promise it’s not negative.
I spent this past weekend in Bethlehem PA, absolutely engulfed in the world of road racing. As much as I sit here behind my screen declaring how much I love trail running, and near daily cringe at the thought of training on the road (it’s true), there is no doubt that I will always feel a sense of thrill at a big road race. Thrill, and a tiny flutter in my heart. After all, it was road racing that sucked me into this sport in the first place.
There will be plenty of posts in the coming days recapping my experience hanging out with the Runner’s World crew and racing all 4 events of the 2015 Runner’s World Half Festival. But in the meantime, I wanted to share this post, one that came to me about 8 miles into the half marathon this weekend.
6 things you don’t have to do during a race…but should consider doing anyway.
Gestures that certainly aren’t specific race day etiquette, but might help contribute to an overall more positive race day experience for you and everyone else involved. And of course, leave you with some good running karma.
1) Thank the volunteers.
Because let’s face it, without the countless volunteers, your race probably wouldn’t happen.
You may only see a volunteer for a split second as you run by them, but while you are busting your butt trying to set a PR, that volunteer is busting theirs to help facilitate that PR. They wake up early to get to their location before roads are closed (in fact, they are probably at their station before you even hit the start line). They shiver (or sweat) as they stand in one place for hours on end making sure you take the right turns and stay on course. They get absolutely soaked while filling and handing cups full of water to runners that, try as they might, aren’t always very graceful when it comes to grabbing said cup. And the volunteers do it all with a smile on their face, for typically zero compensation.
PLEASE let them know how much you appreciate their time.
And while we are thanking people…
1a) Thank the emergency personnel
…such as police officers and EMT’s, that are out their ensuring your safety. From blocking roads, to directing traffic, to riding their bikes up and down the course making sure everyone is healthy, they are typically there for the long haul.
Sure, they are most likely getting paid, but I have no doubt that many of these men and women would rather be at home in bed at 6:00 am on a cold Sunday morning, or sharing breakfast with their own families, rather than getting yelled at by angry drivers who didn’t pay attention to the road closure signs.
Please let them know how much you appreciate their time as well. I’ve seen a quick “thank you for your time” shout out put a smile on a previously sullen looking officer’s face.
2) Use garbage cans …if you can.
Listen, we all know that tossing your empty water cup on the ground (within reasonable distance of the aide station) is common, acceptable practice. And I’m not going to argue that.
But if you CAN time your toss to coincide with a garbage can, almost ALWAYS provided a few paces beyond the table, do it. Not only will it make the cleanup a little easier on the volunteers, but it will help lessen the soaking wet pavement and slippery cup chaos, which I’ve seen cause more than one fall. Hell, I’ve almost fallen a number of times myself in that mess.
3) Pace Group? Don’t block the road.
I TOTALLY understand why you want to stay bunched up behind the pace leader like a flock of baby ducklings following their mama. Mama duck is bringing you to the safety of the finish line, after all…and hopefully with a PR. And believe me, I know potential PR’s are nothing to mess around with.
But if you are in a pace group, be sure to be aware of where you are in the road in the bigger picture. Pace groups can clog a road faster than that one time your toddler flushed his favorite toy and clogged the toilet. Keep in mind that people still need to get past you, and make your best effort to stay towards the right half of the road. This applies for any large group, really.
4) Be respectful with your music.
I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of “should you or should you not wear headphones to a race“. I’ll let the race director make the rules and let you decide whether or not you are going to follow them. BUT I will say keeping your music at a low to moderate level truly is the safest thing for everyone.
Just this weekend in fact, I saw a woman wearing headphones who was completely OBLIVIOUS to the police car coming right up behind her. Yeah, the roads were closed, but obviously there was a reason the officer needed to get where he was going. She didn’t hear his siren and she definitely didn’t hear the countless runners yelling at her trying to let her know there was a car literally just a few feet behind her.
Also…please don’t play your music out loud on your phone. Believe it or not, some of us don’t like to listen to music while we run. If you do, that’s cool, but don’t force us to do the same just because we are running the exact same pace as you and can’t seem to break away.
5) Offer help…if you can.
Again, this is TOTALLY not expected of you. You paid for this race, you trained for this race, no one would think any less of you for going out there and focusing on YOUR race and nothing else.
That said, there are times when you will come across a fellow runner who is struggling. It’s so easy to pass someone struggling and think “they didn’t train hard enough” or “they should have been better prepared”. But the truth is, you never know what happened…maybe they accidentally dropped their last packed of nutrition and didn’t realize it. Or maybe they are just having a bad day. Who knows what happened, but if you have the means (and time) to help, consider helping.
If you have extra nutrition or water that you aren’t going to use, and the time to slow down for a few seconds, consider offering it up to the struggling runner. Or maybe they just need a few words of encouragement. Those take almost zero effort, so give the encouragement generously. You may totally turn the race around for them. And if nothing else, I believe it’s good running karma that will come back to you some day…maybe in the form
6) Stick around at the finish line.
Cheer those behind you in! You know how amazing it feels to cross a finish line with hundreds of people cheering you in? Well guess what, unfortunately not everyone does. I can tell you from experience that coming into the finishing chute to a non existent crowd can be incredibly disheartening. It can diminish the feeling of accomplishment on a good day, and can make a bad race feel even worse.
Help celebrate your fellow runner’s victories and struggles. Put on some warm dry clothes, grab a snack (or even a beer!) and stick around for a little while.
So, there you have it, my list (for now). Small gestures that don’t take too much effort out of your race, but may contribute to an overall better experience for you…and everyone else. Spread the good running vibes and try to remember these tips during your next race!
Is there anything you would add to this list? Comment below!