5 Things You Should Never Do During a Race

Running may be a solo sport, but racing is a team sport—different rules apply. Some of the behaviors you might exhibit during your daily training run don’t work on the racecourse. In fact, they can be downright dangerous. If the Queen could issue an edict for proper racecourse conduct, here’s what she’d decree.

5 Race-Day Don’ts

Don’t spray your waste.
Running generates, well…bodily fluids (okay, phlegm). Can the Queen say that? Some runners produce more than others, especially when it’s cold outside. The absolute wrong thing to do is to spit or blow a snot-rocket sideways. Remember, someone is likely running behind you and your discharge could end up in his or her face. Not cool. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how often I witness this disgusting habit on the racecourse.

Whether this substance gets ejected via the mouth or the nose, the right thing to do is to aim straight down and at your feet. Actually, a more appropriate thing to do is step off to the side of the course, though few seem willing to slow down long enough for that. The most appropriate thing to do is to not do it at all.

Don’t make sudden, erratic movements.
Often this happens when someone decides he actually does want that sports drink at the aid station even though he’s on the opposite of the course. Abrupt directional changes wreak havoc on the poor individuals behind you. Don’t make sudden movements side-to-side; you’re bound to trip someone that’s running beside you or knock them down like a bowling pin.

The same goes for stopping suddenly to pick up something you’ve dropped—a sports gel that bounced out of your fanny pack, perhaps? Just as you would never slam on the brakes in rush hour traffic, don’t stop abruptly during a crowded footrace. That gel, unfortunately, is now part of the larger universe.

Think of yourself as a wide-load vehicle that requires plenty of gradual steering to brake or change lanes. Reference the location of aid stations on the course map prior to the start of the race and then monitor the mileage on your Fitbit tracker so you know when they’re approaching. Slowly veer toward the sideline well in advance to avoid abrupt directional changes.

Don’t carelessly dump your sports drink.
Once you’ve successfully navigated the aid station and collected a cup, you may find that it’s too full. If you want to pour out some of the contents before drinking, the best way to do this is, again, straight down at your feet—not off to the side. This will help you avoid dousing other runners.

Don’t—literally—toss your garbage.
Once you’ve consumed the drink there will inevitably be a small amount left in the bottom of the cup. Do not (I repeat, DO NOT!) throw this cup off to the sidelines, even if you’re well intentioned and aiming for a trash receptacle. Many unfortunate souls have been drenched in sugary sports drink by well-intentioned runners lobbing a cup toward a trashcan like Steph Curry trying to hit a 3-pointer. You might think you’re cool, but the guy behind you will likely hold a different opinion. Instead, use the tips above to move closer to the garbage container. When you pass by, simply drop the cup straight down inside.

Don’t tune out.
Skip the personal playlist and move to the beat of the race. Most road races have entertainment along the course—live bands, cheering spectators, and more! If you must listen to music, try running with one earbud out. This will allow you to have at least some awareness of what’s going on around you. For instance, when it comes to trail races, a common courtesy runners extend to one another on narrow pathways is to allow faster runners to pass when they approach from behind. Most often the runner in front politely steps off to the side to allow this transition. But if someone is listening to blaring music they’ll have no idea anyone’s behind them. This is not only rude, it can be dangerous, especially on treacherous sections of trail.

Hopefully these simple race etiquette rules don’t seem overburdening. Ultimately, everyone will have a better race experience if we all follow these common courtesies: No sideways snot-rockets, no errant zigzagging, no sports-drink showers, and no obliviousness. God save the Queen.

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  • I quit 5K & also many 10K races several years ago for multiple reasons–

    1. Dangerous for young children to be allowed to line up in a 5, 6, or 7 minute mile pace group at the start if that’s not where they belong. They could easily be injured by a runner who actually runs that pace.

    2. No trophies anymore. Everyone gets an ultra cheap ribbon or medal regardless of your time. Often times someone breaks a course record and gets the same trashy medal as the casual Joe doing his 1st race ever. Big multiple pole trophies used to be the norm. What happened?

    3. There are frequently more and more courses that really slow down and confuse faster athletes with continuous, boring turns down very short streets just to get a view of some historic markers, etc. Try to create a simple, fast, challenging out and back out that is easy to follow and will create some fast times for the elites and will be easy to follow for everyone. There is absolutely no need to paint arrows every 20 feet if you do this.

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