On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Racing etiquette

So, my last post about my bad experiences with a fun run got me thinking. About race etiquette.

Every race has some newcomers to the sport, and that's awesome. When one of them is walking in the middle of the course wearing dress clothes and swinging an umbrella and then whacks you in the knee with it, that's NOT awesome. (True story. Ref: the black and blue mark on my knee tonight.)

So... I suspect this will be a topic that I come back to, as I notice more things that I take for granted. But how about some starters?

-Walk to the sides so you're not in the way of the runners
-Try to avoid stopping on a dime, if you can. If you know you're going to be walking, start running over to the side
-Anticipate whatever you can. Do you need water at the next stop? Start moving over to that side so you're better able to get it and can avoid cutting people off suddenly
-Be realistic about your pace when you line up. If you know you're going to be walking a lot, stay to the back. If your 5k PR begins with a 3 (or even a 2), don't line up with the super skinny dudes in short shorts at the front.

And, one for people who are NOT new to the sport:
-Try to remember what it was like to run your first race. Remember the excitement, remember the feeling of not only racing against yourself, but of being part of something bigger. Try not to be hard on people who make mistakes and are inadvertently rude.

This includes the woman who waved me away at mile 3 of the Turkey Trot when I had a question about the course, or the woman who punched me - yes, fist in back - around mile 7 of the NYC Marathon TRAINING RUN. Not even a race. And she, a Marathon Maniac, should have known better than to be so rude. Ironically, I was trying to catch up with her to ask about her MM status when I got punched.

(If they're rude on purpose, you have my permission to go to town.)

VOLUNTEERS: try not to crowd the course! Yes, we all want our 'Ade, but we can move over the two feet to get it. The more you step into the roadway, the more of a choke you create.

Volunteers, of course, could merit a separate post entirely dedicated to what to say and what not to say when cheering on the course. (For instance: "Almost there! You're so close!" should NOT be used when more than 5% of the course remains. Mile 2 of a 5k, or mile 14 of a marathon, is NOT "almost there.")

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