Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Race Etiquette

Manners on the Run

Published May 28, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

A recent incident at a local road race, in which a runner was less than cordial to a water-station volunteer, provided the impetus to writing about race etiquette. Although most runners and racers are perfect ladies and gentlemen, a little reminder at the start of the summer racing season does not hurt.

Before you enter a race, make sure that you are properly trained for the distance. While most people can run 5K without training, it takes a lot more preparation to safely complete a 10-miler in the heat.

Send in you entry form early. A good estimate of the number of runners helps a race director to buy the necessary supplies. If you are injured on race day, offer to volunteer. Whatever you do, never give your race number to another runner.

Do not run in a race unless you have registered. Bandits take away resources intended for registered runners, including water cups and first aid supplies. If you cannot afford the entry fee, call the race director. Every director whom I know will gladly send a complimentary entry to a fellow runner in hardship.

Carpool whenever possible, and arrive an hour before the start of the race. This will provide ample time to pick up the packet, pin the number to the front of your shirt, familiarize yourself with the course, and perform a ritual warm-up routine.

Leave your pets, radio headsets, roller blades and baby strollers at home, or at the very least, off the course.

Line up for the start of the race with runners of your own pace. Unless you expect to finish among the winners, do not start near them. It is discourteous and downright dangerous for walkers and joggers to start in front of five-minute milers.

Listen to last minute instructions before the start of the race, lest there is a downed power line on the course, and join in singing our National Anthem.

Drink a couple of water cups before the start, and a couple more at every water station. If you walk while drinking, make sure you step off the course to avoid impeding fellow runners.

If your shoelace becomes untied, get out of the way to tie it. Whatever you do, do not stop and crouch in the middle of the course, lest the masses come tumbling onto you.

If you must pass body fluids, through spitting or otherwise, make sure you aim away from other runners. Seconds spent in the bushes are a worthwhile investment that carries a big pay-off on the long run. Few of us have Grete Waitz's talent of motion in motion!

Once you cross the finish line, walk quickly through the chute, and head for the water and refreshments. Thank the volunteers at every opportunity, and stay for the awards. If you enjoyed the race, drop the director an email or a postcard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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