Few things irk a serious runner more than starting a race, then spending the next 30 minutes weaving around slower runners who lined up at the front of the pack.
Unless, perhaps, it’s someone who stops in the middle of the course to tie a shoe. Or who, while attempting to throw away a half-full cup of Gatorade from the aid station, showers the runners behind him with sticky green liquid.
Even at next weekend’s Keep Austin Weird 5K, where pausing mid-race to sling back a shot of alcohol, eat ice cream, nibble a slice of bundt cake or skid down a suds-slickened plastic carpet qualifies as appropriate behavior, a little decorum is in order.
We checked with local experts and the Road Runners Club of America for tips on proper race etiquette.
“The worst is runners who absolutely abuse volunteers,” says Paul Carmona, a veteran runner, race volunteer and coach for Twenty-Six Two Marathon Club in Austin. “They spend hours out there, they’re not paid and they’re there to support you. They don’t expect you to scream at them.”
Carmona has watched runners go ballistic when asked to exit the finishers’ chute to wait for friends. He’s seen folks complain that bananas at the finish line are green or the Gatorade is warm. He’s even seen someone try to check a bicycle at the clothing drop tent.
He’s got a warning for “bandits,” those folks who jump into a race for which they haven’t registered, too. “The running gods are going to get you. And when you do register for a race, you’re going to get the flu the day before or trip at Mile 2 and break your wrist,” Carmona says.
Banditing is wrong, even if you’re just dropping in to pace a friend for a few miles in a long race, says John Conley, race director of the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon presented by Freescale.
It’s against USA Track and Field rules, for one. Unregistered runners are just as likely to need emergency medical care as registered runners, and if they stop by an aid station, they’re taking resources meant for paying customers, Conley says.
“I understand why people do it and I’m certain it happens all the time,” he says. “I am mostly watching for this kind of thing at the front of the pack to guard against anyone having an unfair advantage over another competitor.”
Heed that advice and check this list. You may not finish first, but you’ll blow away the competition when it comes to making friends on the course.
Before the race:
- Pre-register if you can. This will help ease the registration process for everyone.
- Arrive early on race day.
- Line up with the proper pace group. If you’re a 12-minute miler, don’t start in the 6-minute pace group.
- Don’t bring a stroller unless race organizers allow one. If you do, line up near the back of the pack.
- Unless this is a human-plus-dog race, leave Fido at home.
- Attach your race number to the front of your shirt or shorts, so race officials (and photographers) can see it.
Register! It costs money to put on a race, and people who run but don’t pay an entry fee are stealing the privilege to run on a supported course.
During the race:
- If you drop something, don’t stop and pick it up until the course is clear. Especially at the start.
- If you shed clothing, don’t just drop it in the road. Tie it around your waist or place it on the side of the road near the start or at an aid station. Don’t expect to get it back.
- Don’t swerve erratically. You might block runners behind you.
- If you must blow your nose, spit or barf, do it on the side of the road. Ditto if you need to tie a shoelace or take a break.
- If someone ahead of you wearing headphones is blocking your way, tap them lightly before you pass.
- Speaking of headphones, think twice before wearing them in a race. Stay alert to your surroundings.
- Don’t walk or run more than two abreast.
- Yield to wheelchair athletes.
- Don’t cut corners on the course.
- Thank volunteers and supporters.
If you decide to pace someone for part of a race you haven’t registered for (against Conley’s advice), don’t eat from the aid stations and certainly don’t romp through the finishers’ chute.
At aid stations:
- When approaching, move to the side, grab what you want and keep moving. If you need to stop, don’t block others.
- Throw used cups to the side and as close to the aid station as possible. Don’t fling them over your shoulder — you might inadvertently soak someone.
- If someone on the course needs help, report their number and location to a course official or at an aid station.
At the finish:
- After crossing the finish line, keep moving forward through the chute. Stay in order if the event is not electronically timed.
- Return the timing chip if you were issued one.
- Wait for friends outside the finish chute.
- Don’t get greedy at the post-race refreshment table. Take what you need, but don’t turn it into lunch for you and your family.
- Stick around for the awards ceremony if you can to show support for the winners.
If you go
Registration for the Keep Austin Weird 5K is open through Fridayat www.keepaustinweirdfest.com. Entry fee is $65 ($25 for kids) and includes admission to the festival. You can also sign up at Luke’s Locker during packet pickup, or at the festival the day of the race. The race starts at 7 p.m. Saturday outside the Long Center.