Running Etiquette

Running Etiquette

During recent years it has become painfully apparent that many of our newer runners and walkers have forgotten the etiquette of our sport. Sad though it may seem, some of our older participants never found it in the first place! The rules of our sport are not many but it is amazing how easily we tend to either forget or ignore them, simple and uncomplicated as they may be. I believe that running etiquette should be learned before runners are allowed on the road. Clubs should educate their runners by including these rules in their running start up packs. These rules must be reinforced on a regular basis and where runners flout these rules they should officially be brought to their attention. Running can be a dangerous sport and disregard for the rules of the road or disrespect for other road users could lead to fatalities. It is in everyone’s best interest to spend some time familiarizing themselves with these basic rules whether they be an experienced or novice runner.

Let’s look at the basics:

  • Number one, ALWAYS run or walk facing the oncoming traffic (generally on the right-hand side of the road) UNLESS instructed to do otherwise by a marshal or traffic official (during a race). Try where possible to run as close to the pavement as possible.
  • Please don’t run/walk three or four abreast as though you own the road. If you do want to run next to fellow athletes then at least drop back to form a single file until the hazard has passed.
  • Be courteous to fellow road users as you are a representative of the Club. If you are running on the pavement respect the rights of casual walkers making use of the same space.
  • Only cross a road when you have a view of both sides of the road and can see that it is safe to do so. Do not cross on a blind rise or on a corner. Remember that in most cases motor vehicles will have right of way. When crossing at a robot only do so when the traffic lights signal you to do so.
  • It is very important to wear light coloured clothing and preferably some kind of reflective clothing. In Winter wear a flashing light to make sure that you are visible to motorists in the early morning and evening. We have seen far too many fellow athletes being knocked over or having near misses because they aren’t visible to other road users. Remember that we aren’t the only ones on the road


The following are a few rules that apply to race situations. Remember that you are representing your club and any poor behavior will be a reflection on your club.

  • If racing for your club, remember to wear your correct club clothing. If you are not sure what it is then ASK! Most clubs have a club captain or new members coordinator who would be more than willing to assist you in acquiring the correct kit.
  • Arrive at the race venue well before the start time so that you have enough time to find safe parking, register and take your place at the start. Many a race starts late because of the late arrival of the participants.
  • Remember to fill in ALL details on race entry/bank bag tag – without this, it is impossible to get the results done accurately and on time. Please do not only put your first name on the entry as it is impossible to then collate the results correctly. Your club will also then not get accurate results sent through to them. It’s not the officials that delay the prize giving its runners who won’t complete their forms with the required information to let the results be worked out. Not all prizes go to the front runners – junior women, 50, 60 women and team prizes often go way down the field.
  • Line up at the start at a position that reflects your expected finish time/starting speed. Walkers are also competitive and perhaps race organizers should announce or we should have a standard protocol that says that walkers should tend to line up on the right third width of the start line and runners on the left two third width. This will be safer and less frustrating for everyone involved.
  • Start in an orderly fashion. Do not push or jostle for a better position as the participants will spread out and you will be able to run your race.
  • If you do bring your pram/children’s stroller (which generally you shouldn’t) then start at the very back.
  • When running obey the marshals and traffic officials instructions and don’t forget to greet them or thank them as you go by. Remember they are out there looking out for your safety, often with nothing more than a T-shirt or even only something to eat or drink for their efforts.
  • In football, rugby, tennis, etc, we take time to thank the referee after the game, even if we think he’s not been up to scratch. When last did you thank a referee or time keeper? No officials – No results.
  • If the athletes in front of you cross the road 10 metres ahead of you then wait until you have run/walked another 10 metres before you start to cross. Don’t start to cross as soon as you see them doing so because if we all do that then the last athletes start crossing the road half a kilometre before they’re supposed to.
  • Try to keep moving through a water point after taking the sachet and coke. If you are going to walk then move out to the side of the road and begin your walk. By doing so others can continue moving through.
  • After passing a water table you may have water sachet, cup or bottle in your hand. If there isn’t a rubbish bin available to discard it in then either carry it with you to the next table.
  • If you get to a refreshment table and they have run out of coke, water, ice or whatever do not blame, curse or shout at the people manning the table. They can only hand out what they have been given. If you want to blame someone then it has to be either the race organizers who failed to cater sufficiently, or those selfish athletes who went past previously and grabbed three or four water sachets because somehow they thought they needed them but then tossed them aside half a kilometre down the road.
  • Helpers’ races are exactly that. They are meant to assist those individuals who give up their time to help the race organizers on main race day. Do not go and run club A’s helpers’ race on the Saturday or week before or after main race day and then go and run club B’s race on the main race day for club A.
  • Don’t train on a race route and use the water / coke tables, even if you are running the wrong way round. The entry fees in KZN are cheap. Pay your money and get your drinks even if you only do half the race or pull out before the finish if you prefer not to have a result against your name.
  • Don’t arrange for seconds / supporters to follow you by car. If 1000 runners each arranged one car to follow them the race would not work and it would be a danger to the runners and general road users.
  • After the race enjoy the hospitality of the race hosts and your club tents. Please do not leave litter at your site when you pack up.
  • When leaving the finish take care to follow the instructions of the marshals and the police and most importantly be careful to avoid interfering with the late finishing athletes.