How to Make Sure You Don't Ruin a Race for Others

We all pay the same fee's to enter a race.  Generally those fee's are pretty high, so we are expecting and hoping to not only achieve our race day goals.  But to also have an enjoyable fun race that we can look back on and think highly of.

Unfortunately things can happen in a race that can ruin it for us.  I am not talking about weather or our own limitations, training or under-training or injuries.  I am talking about the occasional time that another runner or runners on a course do things that ruin it or ruin parts of our experience.

Earlier this year, I asked this question in a few different online running groups.  The response I received was overwhelming.
I asked runners who run half marathons or marathons what things they experienced in a race that ruined part of the race experience?  Or if they could remind other runners new and old what things they may be doing that they should consider stop and consider runners etiquette first.

I am not going to mention everything everyone brought up.  Just the ones that had the highest response. I should note, I polled many and had over 400 responses from different distance runners for this purpose.

What is it? Generally groups of 3+ runners, who are running side by side each other blocking the path for other runners to get around them.
The Fix:  It's an unwritten rule (although in some races even written in the rules.) 2 abreast is runner politeness. Runners should never run more than 2 side by side, and in some instances in very crowded courses possible even single file.  It's called use your head, and be courteous and don't let your group of friends ruin the race course for others by blocking it!

What are they? Although pace groups are great, some leaders in them may have a hard time reminding the group to not hog the road, or they forget all together.
The Fix: Help the pacer out, remind others in the group it is rude to block the road, half the road or more should be left for others to pass, especially early on.  It's okay to be a courteous leader and mention this to others, because common sense and courtesy to is always okay!

Who/what are they? Runners who are using a run/walk program.  Or runners who are stopping frequently and not paying attention that they are running with others who trained or plan to run the entire race, and don't know the person in front of them is about to stop.  Especially early on when the course is still very crowded.
The Fix: Take a quick glance behind you before you stop, and always slow to a stop to allow someone behind you to catch on to what your doing.  Mostly so they don't run into you.  It's also common courtesy in a race to make your way to the side before stopping especially in crowds and early on in a race.
(Although some race walk programs tell you to raise your hand before you stop, it's a pretty good guess that very few runners know what that means, because it only makes sense to those who do the programs, not the rest of the field, so NO a hand raise isn't always the only thing to do just before you stop!)

Who What?  Runners who ask other runners to stop on the course and take their picture...  This is just rude and wrong, they may say yes to be polite but no one wants to stop the groove they have gotten into and take your picture.  Also in this, are the runners who stop frequently to take selfies along the course and not look behind them as they do.
The Fix: Just don't do it! But if you must, have your family and friends watching take your picture, or purchase a course picture after.  If you absolutely have to have a course selfie, move to the side of the road (do not stop abruptly) make sure no one is behind you, and snap it yourself.  Never ask other runners to stop and take your picture, that is just rude!

Who What?  Those runners who have trained themselves to have to spit constantly and decide to never look at where that spit is going to fly.  Many times, hitting the person just behind or to the side of them.
The Fix: You can train yourself not to spit, but if you absolutely must do it; watch where you're spitting.  If it's a crowded course, consider running on the sideline so you can spit into non traffic of runners.  Or if it is supper crowded, use your shirt.  Use COURTESY and be KIND, remembering, you probably don't want someone elses stinky saliva or drippy boogers stuck to you either.

Who What?  You've seen them, they throw their gloves, energy packets or other items right on the ground in the middle of the course for others to have to dodge or step on or in some cases trip over. Some just assume the entire course is theirs and drop whatever garbage anywhere.
The Fix: Sweats, bags, unwanted gear, etc... Early on in the course when you discard these either place them off the course on the side of the road, or wait until you get to a water station.
Energy packets, if you use them make sure you're holding on to them, or throwing them in the garbage's at the aid stations.  It's just rude to litter and a lot of races are starting to add fines for anyone caught littering.
Proper etiquette: If your running, generally it's okay to throw things on the ground or to the side if you are at a water station, But if you're walking slower you should aim for the garbage cans, since you have the time.

Who What?  You're a 12 minute mile runner, and you line up with the 6 minute mile group for some reason or another.  All you're going to do is annoy everyone around you, and possibly cause injury to others.
The Fix: Line up where you're supposed to, in your target pace field.  Worst case scenario you have a great day and you get to pass a lot more people on the course!

Who What? You've heard them, their keys are in their pocket or packs or spare change or other things that jingle.  We have no idea how it doesn't annoy them, but it annoys everyone else around.
The Fix: If you think you might jingle, pack better so you don't!  If you're running next to a jingler, use this as time to pick up your pace and get away from them, who knows that annoying person may be the reason you PR. (Hint: If you must carry possible jingle items Tape your keys or change together!  You can thank me for that tip later!)

Who are they?  We've all seen them, they run right up to the water station grab their cup and come to an abrupt stop, ignoring that others around want to grab a cup and keep going.
The Fix:  If you must stop to drink your water, run by grab your cup(s) and keep on running until you are out of the traffic of others trying to get theirs.  Or grab your cup and move to the center or other side of the road before stopping to walk.
Additionally, it is possible to drink and run at the same time.  The trick is to bend your cup so you have a corner to drink from.
For runners who don't plan on stopping, your best bet are the volunteers further down the water station line.  Most the stopper and newbies will hit the first few volunteers.

Who are they?  Those who decided to skip the headphones and share their play list with everyone. Because they figure if it is awesome to them then it might be awesome for others to hear too.
Why is this wrong? Because some don't want to listen to music at all, and we can only listen to the Rocky theme song so many times....  Actually it's just rude, if you want to listen to music that is totally fine, but be courteous and kind to others and put headphones on.  If you can't run with headphones then music isn't for you!  Learn to love the sound of the pavement or nature and the casual fun runners chat, that's the best part anyway!

Who are they?  They finish their race and think nothing of others and fill their arms up, their bags up with as much food as they possibly can and some even give it to their families who watched and go back for more.
Why is this wrong? It's wrong because food hoarders are the rudest finishers at a race.  It's not fair if you take all the food early on and there is nothing left for those back of the pack runners.  Everyone pays the entrance fee's and everyone deserves to have food waiting for them at the finish, even if they are last.
The Fix: Only take 1, and only take your share.  Food is for runners not spectators, if you don't want it leave it for someone who ran who does.  If you see someone food hogging, it is okay to tell them politely that it is not appropriate.  If you volunteer at a race, this is definitely okay and your job to say something if you are manning the finish food area's.

Who are they?  Those who are doing the run/walk plans or who use GPS devices that use beeps to pace them and keep them on track.  We aren't talking about the ones that beep once a mile, but the ones that either have a constant beep that they run a stride too, or the ones that beep several times every 10-30 seconds if a runner is off pace.
Why are they rude?  Because others running your same pace didn't come to listen to a beep every few seconds or less.
The fix: If you can't stay on track to keep the beeping off, then just turn the device off.  If you have one that you can turn the beep notification off, turn it off if it become excessive.
It is possible to learn to run/walk at a certain pace without a machine beeping to tell you, you are on target, I promise.  Trust me, thousands of others do it every day, and if they can, so can you:)
If your near a beeper, while it is okay to politely ask them to turn it off, chances are since they thought it was okay to begin with, they probably won't listen to you unless you get the group of runners around you to all ask them at the same time.  Instead, if all else fails just run faster than them, and hopefully you can leave them and their beep in the dust and maybe even have PR:)

Who are they?  Sometimes these are spectators, other times they are runners who are passing you thinking you need someone to tell you "its okay, you are almost there."
Why is this annoying?  First everyone knows how far they have to go, and generally when someone says "your almost there" you probably aren't almost there.
While it might be fine to say to your family or friends jokingly, it's become one of the most annoying comments on the course runners get.
The fix: For spectators, instead come up with something less annoying to say or be more creative! Also if you are the runner passing someone while saying this, just don't.  Even though you may have the best of intentions, its actually more courteous not to say anything than the famously annoying "you can do it, you're almost there."
On that note, your "almost there" to the end of this post, LOL

Who are they?  They finished their race, and for some reason feel it is appropriate to get back on the course and run against you to either cheer or tell you that you're getting closer to the finish.  Because they think it is cool to let others know they finished, and before you, and now they are running even more???
Why is this annoying?  Duh... You had your race, why would you think it is appropriate to hop back on the course and run against the traffic?
The fix: Don't do it!  If you want to cheer, cheer on the sidelines!

Who are they?  Rude runners, who say rude comments or put others down.  This includes those who complain about the course or the officials or the volunteers.
If this is you: Quit your complaining, and never say rude comments to others.  Don't be a race bully. Be courteous, be kind!  Just like Cinderella would promote:)  It's also that thing they tried to teach you in kindergarten, but you ,may have forgotten.
Don't complain about the race or course, others are there to have a great time and have fun, they don't want to hear your whining.  If you must complain, save it after when you are back in your hotel room alone!
Never complain about the volunteers to the volunteers, they are volunteers if it wasn't for them, a race couldn't operate!  If you have an issue and something needs to be said, email the race director after, so they can fix things in the future.
What can you do?  If you hear others being rude, or putting others down, take a stand and stick up for it and stop it.  No one likes a bully, and others will take your side!
If you are around a complainer, the best way to deal with them is just to speed up and get away from them!

Although, those were the top responses I was given on this topic.  I would like to say, there are very few of these people out there, MOST RUNNERS ARE GREAT and AMAZING to run along with and meet, runners with KIND HEARTS who would never do anything intentionally to ruin someone else's race.

In the end, it just comes down to being KIND so that everyone can have their own most enjoyable race possible!

Have you witnessed rude sportsmanship before in a race?  Or have you seen something in races that you wish others would think twice before doing?

Or have you witnessed awesome things runners do on a race course that have made your race day?


  1. Yes to all of this! As a runner who uses the run/walk method, really try to move to the right side of the course for my walk breaks. My frustration comes in when runners try to pass me on the right, or get mad at me that I've moved to the right side of the course and I'm "slowing" them down. Course etiquette is the same as driving, pass on the left people!

    1. One of the things about newer runners are they don't understand the pass on the left thing. For those who have a few races under their belts or who have been doing it for years it is like common sense. But so many people go out to run one race, or something now days that they never are into the sport long enough to catch on to runners etiquette!

  2. When I know I'm coming up on a walk break, I merge over like I do traffic. Look first, then move with the flow until you're over to the side.

    1. I think most seasoned runners actually do, do this! I know if I have points in a marathon that I take a walking break I always move over, or glance behind, I would feel awful if I caused someone an accident.
      I once had a group stop right in front of me and we were going a good pace, they stopped so quick I ran right into them, and they were mad at me??? But although I should have kept my mouth shut, I made sure they knew who was really at fault! LOL

  3. Oh gosh - I HATE the people that come back on the course. It's like they are rubbing it in that they've been done & had nothing better to do then wait for the slow herd.

    I am a runner/walker & always try to stay on the side & double check when I need to go to walk mode. I would never just STOP in front of a group of runners.... that's why I like staying in my allotted corral so I don't get in the way.

    1. I know huh, I've seen that so many times too. I had one guy once that ran by the group of runners I was around and he was all, check out my medal, you'll get one too if you just pick it up and make it to the finish? I was like, oh no he didn't!

  4. You've pretty much nailed all of my pet peeves! I think the abrupt stopping in the middle of a course is the absolute worst!

    1. Would have to agree! When I was asking others in the FB groups what they disliked, this was one of the things that was top on my list and would have been in this post even if many others didn't agree with me.
      I am okay with both the runners and the run/walk ones, but regardless the worst thing are the ones that stop abruptly, especially in the first few miles of the race. I will never understand ever especially in a marathon why people stop and walk in the first few miles??

  5. For the most part, people are nice and supportive in all the races I've ever done. The loud exhaler annoys me, but I don't think he can help it. The too close runner is annoying when there is plenty of space. I was once brushed up against by a very body hairy and very sweaty man in a tank top. (I swear I just shuddered at the memory.) Yeah, I don't really appreciate when the faster runners turn around and come back against the racers. Your done. Go celebrate.

    1. I would have to agree, I think probably 90% of all runners in a race are awesome and fun with good supportive etiquette!
      You know, I didn't add this but I agree with you on the "too close" runners. I ran a marathon that was super icy windy and I understand everyone wants to get behind another runner for a while and block some of the weather, and if your in a group you take turns. I had this guy once who just hugged behind me way to close. I wouldn't have been bothered but he was in no mood to take a turn blocking. So I sped up shook him off my tail, I just couldn't stand how close he kept to me.
      Oh yuck, I would shutter at that memory too! I don't even like being too close to the guys who figure they are sweating anyway and decide to forgo the deodorant, I mean they just stink like crazy!

  6. Oh so have I. In fact I ran the Philly Marathon and the half follows the same course for a while as the full. Oh my gosh I could't wait until the half marathoners made the turn and left the course in front of me, that particular time they were horrible at blocking the entire road in large groups.
    In fact several other marathoners commented to me after the half's were off the course how much better the race was.
    I have been hit by spit several before, OMG I hated it! If I could fling it back at them I would LOL

  7. The snot blowers and spitters are my pet peeve It's so gross!

    1. Those are one of mine too! I have been hit by them before, and seriously nothing is more gross when you just want to enjoy your race!

  8. Great list! Yes, there is something to be said about following race ettiquette and anyone who is running a race should be required to read up on it. However, runners do have to understand that it IS a race, meaning that they will be out there with other people of all abilities. If they don't ever want to be annoyed with something then they should just run alone at Runners will no doubt at least experience one of the things on your list.
    In all my races i've done, i've never thought I had a bad experience because of something another runner did or didn't do. I actually have my Garmin set to beep at different intervals and never thought that it might annoy people. If it does than they can just pass me. They'll have room cus i'll be running on the left!

    1. Make that the right. I'll be running on the right because I am sure i'll need a walk break. And yes, I do raise my hand when I am about to stop.

    2. Thanks, I do owe a lot of credit to the list to some of the running FB pages I follow, I would't have come up with even half of these on my own:) I agree there is some race etiquette to follow. I think it is 2nd nature to most runners, especially those who love the sport and do it all the time. I think where most non-courteous actions occur are in some of the newer runners who haven't quite figured it all out yet, or only run one race ever and never know any better:)
      But you're right, it is a race and things will happen, but I guess the more aware a newer runner is, the more likely they will think before they shoot a snot rocket at someone, LOL
      The beep thing wasn't one I probably would have thought of on my own, but oddly was in the top 5 of the annoyances. (Guess there are different kinds of beeps??) I've actually only had one experience with a "beep runner" that got to me that I can remember. But he was being beyond rude. In short this guys watch kept beeping and I was around mile 16 and it was driving me nutz, I was in such a beautiful mountain area, it was just ruining the "pure nature" (I don't run with headphones in races.). So I did what most would do, I sped up, but then the beep guy sped up too. When he caught back up to me and I realized nothing I did, even slowing to a walk at one point would work, all of a sudden he says to me. You're keeping me going, thanks for picking it up, it's pushing me. So I politely said, that's fine and all, but if you'd turn your watch off I would be happy to pace you, but if you keep it going please go pick someone else to follow. He then says, "Oh that beep annoys you too, I thought it was just me", LOL LOL He turned it off, and we ran peacefully for several miles together:) I had to beat him though, so at mile 24 I just found energy I didn't know I had and pushed it to where he couldn't keep up anymore, I mean that's just the competitive side in me, LOL LOL LOL

  9. These are all right on!! I do walk some during long races, and I always make sure I'm over to the side first. Seems like I'm always the one running behind someone who just abruptly stops!
    Btw, I LOVE the new look!! My blog desperately needs an update!

  10. Hailey @ Striding StrongMarch 8, 2017 at 5:47 PM

    Kristy, I'm so out of the loop...I LOVE your new blog design!!!! The spitters and snot blowers is a big pet peeve of mine. At least do it in the OPPOSITE direction of me. Fortunately, I've managed to avoid getting any of it on me lol but people always do it in the same direction! Gross. The line up is another one of mine...of course I support all paces, but to be 3-6 minutes off of what you're actually going to be running is pretty rude! That always happens here with younger kids too. And the you're almost there, especially in longer races! Like really...I have like 6 more miles to go in a half and you're telling me I'm almost there? Haha that's just downright depressing! Poor sportsmanship is just so uncalled for. For such a supportive community in general, I have been surprised many times to hear the things that come out of other runner's mouths. We're all out there to better ourselves so to put someone else down for that is just ridiculous. Great post, Kristy! :)

  11. Tricia @ MissSippiPiddlinMarch 8, 2017 at 5:47 PM

    I can relate to all of these, but the jinglers so get me, If it is bothering me how in the world is not bothering them?? This I will never know!

  12. Great post! I've witnessed so many of these. The spitting bothers me along with the not lining up in the right group or corral. People need to know these things. So great that you listed many of the things that ruins a race for us runners and how to fix them.

  13. I think many end up walking a little in marathons, even I have done it a few times, but ya I do the same and make sure I am to the side or no one is around me to run into me first.
    Early on in a race, if someone is going to stop, guarantee I will be the one behind them, still never get why people stop in the first mile or two of a race, LOL
    Thanks so much, the new blog looks been a work in progress, I am finishing a few tweaks over the weekend and hopefully it will be how I want it to all by by next week!

  14. Thanks Hailey! I have been working on the new design for a while, I have a few more tweaks to do this weekend, but even after staring at it for a while now in creation, I am still liking how its turning out, which means it might just be a keeper, LOL
    I agree on the spitters, I've actually been spit on, well ran into some that someone just spit to the side not realizing I was right there, so gross!!!!
    I'm always in support of all paces, but ya people should line up where they are supposed to, it's just safer for everyone that way!
    LOL, I have had people tell me "your almost there" around mile 16 in a marathon, LOL I am like really, I am still feeling good, haven't even hit the real part of the race that comes after mile 22 an you're telling me I am almost there, LOL
    I think most runners are supportive and kind, but ya those few you wonder how they can even feel good about themselves after what comes out of their mouths:) Hope schools been going well for you Hailey!

  15. I hear ya! I have to admit, Jinglers are on my list of dislikes. I ran behind a guy once that had what sounded like his piggy bank in a fanny pack, I was like, really? How can that not bother a person:)

  16. Thanks Sharon! Ya, I don't get why people line up in the wrong Corrals, especially in races that give everyone the start time based on when they actually cross the starting line, not gun time!

  17. YES YES YES to all of the above. I agree with all of these but my BIGGEST pet peeve is the abrupt stoppers. Is it really that hard to move over to the side and then stop? It's common courtesy!! I have crashed into several people because of this and it's so frustrating. Second pet peeve, the 3-4 runner wide road block!

  18. Oh yes the abrupt stoppers. I will admit the ones who stop in suddenly in the first few miles if a marathon drive me nuts especially when its packed. I have gotten into so many "almost" accidents because of that.
    The roadblockers are also tough, I am usually a quiet polite runner, but once a group was so badly and rudely blocking I had to say something so I could get passed. After I did and passed a huge group behind me also came running through. I got several thank you's from others who were equally discouraged so I was glad I spoke up.

  19. Great post! I could not agree more! The runners that just STOP for no reason kill me! Kids are really bad at that, and they are already short! This should be mandatory ready for all new runners! Love the new banner!

  20. Thanks MB!!! Or should I say "Grazie", my returning Itallian vacationing friend:) I totally googled thank you in Italian just for you, LOL
    I think most runners are some of the kindest people out there, but there are a few that just don't realize that if they come to a sudden stop it can really hurt people behind them, even cause accidents, I have almost been in a few myself. Kids are hard, I love to see them out there, but I know exactly what you mean about the stop go, stop go, I think it's expected in 5k's, but if a parent is going to let them run in a longer race, they really should have a talk with them:)

  21. I've witnessed pretty much all of these things during a race and agree - super rude! To go along with the key jinglers, I would also say people with a loud, stomping stride. Although that's probably less rude and just more of a pet peeve of mine. When I hear what sounds like a dinosaur behind me I always speed up to avoid having to listen to it throughout the race ;)


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