A Basic Guide to Runner’s Etiquette

I feel like I’ve been ranting on here more than usual, but with the beautiful Spring weather comes a lot more traffic outdoors. The more people I encounter, the more humanity surprises me with its entitlement-issues.

My current gripe revolves around runners.

As I mentioned earlier this month, I’ve been participating in a lot of 5Ks recently. Last night, I ran in the Corporate 5K, an evening (7:15pm) run through Downtown Orlando.

The IOA Corporate 5K attracts a HUUUUUGE crowd with nearly 17,000 registered runners and walkers in attendance.

I'm short, so I couldn't even get a third of the attendees into the photo.

I’m short, so I couldn’t even get a third of the attendees into the photo.

I have NO PROBLEM with crowds. What I have a problem with are people that do not know the basic rules of etiquette for running events.

I understand that this is a combination of people who’ve just never run publicly before (good for you for joining!) and those that honestly don’t really care about others around them (really, it’s shameful, but it’s the climate of the 21st century).

I encountered every type of annoyance last night, from bad manners to blatant disregard for the safety of themselves and other people. To help ease the runners-entitlement epidemic growing around me and also help those that may be nervous about joining a group/public running event, I’ve decided to make a handy guide for runners joining the spring circuit.


  • If you need to run at a slow pace or you prefer to walk, DO stay to the right. Much like a highway, slower traffic needs to keep to the right to ensure that everyone is able to move efficiently and safely through the “herd.”
  • If you see someone on their own, DO go with your instinct to encourage them. One of the BEST memories I have from an athletic event was from the Savage Race I did in October 2012. My three friends had overslept, so I was ALL alone for my very first obstacle run. Less than a mile in and facing my first DIFFICULT obstacle, I was ready to quit. Fortunately, an AWESOME couple saw me struggling and offered encouragement – then invited me to run/pace with them. I ended up doing the full 7 miles and 25 obstacles by their side and we’re still friends, two years later. A kind word or two  (“You’ve got this, girl! Keep going!”) can really make someone’s day.
  • DO use verbal queues. As a fellow runner, I am not a mind-reader. These Nikes didn’t come with ESP. If you are going to pass me (left or right), call it out. If you’re running and are about to stop suddenly (such as getting a cramp or spotting a friend you want to join), call it out. It can be as simple as shouting, “I’m passing on your left!” or “BRAKES!” – some audio queue you will be a huge courtesy to your fellow runners. At last night’s Corporate 5K, I nearly PLOWED over multiple runners who short-stopped (out of nowhere) or tried to pass me (without sufficient space) and it wasn’t pretty.

    To use an analogy all Floridians should recognize: if you slam on your brakes on I-4, you WILL get rear-ended. The same concept applies to a crowded 5K run, so please be aware and use your VOICE.

  • DO wear appropriate clothing. I’m all for looking cute (and I’ve rocked my share of tutus and costumes at certain athletic events), but make sure you’re outfit is safe, comfortable, and appropriate for a 3+ mile run. If your shorts ride up and you will constantly need to adjust them while running, they’re probably not the best choice for working out. You should want to be comfortable. I just participated in a Super Hero themed run and I wore a fun costume – but I put it on OVER my running tights and sports bra. This ensured I was comfortable (no chaffing) and appropriate (your fun-bags popping out at a public event is never ideal) but still looked adorable for all the fun pictures.



  • DO NOT spit. Just don’t. I don’t care how hard you’re working out and the phlegm you’re producing in consequence, never hack a loogie while running a 5K with other participants, especially a crowded event. If you spit on me or I step in a puddle of your spittle, we’re going to have a MAJOR problem.
  • If you’re running with friends/family, DO NOT run side-by-side. While I appreciate your group “representing,” you create an impenetrable barrier for other runners to pass you and end up slowing down others who may be aiming for a personal record.
  • If at all possible, DO NOT throw your trash on the ground. While I recognize your desire to keep your physical momentum while passing through a water station, there are DOZENS of trash cans available. There is NO REASON – unless you’re an athlete focusing on a world record – to toss your trash on the ground when a trash receptacle is two steps away. These events are manned by VOLUNTEERS – people donating their time so you can enjoy your run with cold water and lots of clapping – so please don’t abuse them.
  • Please, for the love of all that is holy and good in the world, please DO NOT ignore the pace-dividers at the starting line. Most races break up the starting line based on the pace of the runners: i.e. if you’re under a 6 min/mile, you tend to be the first at the starting line, and then there are pace-markers for each range. Walkers and those slower than 12:30 min/mile are typically at the back. This isn’t to make you feel bad if you’re not as fast as the other runners – this is for the SAFETY of everyone involved. It allows those that are fast to get off the line quickly without the obstacle of strollers, walkers, and those not paying attention. It also helps you find runners with a similar stride/pace to you, which will improve YOUR pacing and make you a better runner.

OK, it’s not a complete list, but I would definitely say that these are my top DOs and DON’Ts regarding running at public events.

Please note, I am NOT being cynical of new runners. I love new runners. I was one just a few years ago! All I ask is that, like with any new hobby or endeavor, you educate yourself before you dive in . You wouldn’t jump off of a mountainside as a new cliff-diver without learning about the sport, so why join a crowded, public 5K run without first understanding the basic rules and etiquette of running?

So… get out there! Start running! And be nice (and courteous) to your fellow athletes!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori


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