Race etiquette: nine things you should never do at a running event

With spring only a week or so away, we are just about to enter peak running event season. I love this time of year, because depending on where you live; you can pretty much count on an event being held every weekend from now until Christmas. From five kilometres community fun runs, to drawcard events such as the Brisbane or Melbourne marathon festivals, there's a race for runners of all tribes.

I got a jump-start on the season by running Sydney's City2Surf and the 10 kilometre leg of the Sandy Point Half Marathon recently. The events were well managed and lots of fun, but at both, I was reminded of how irritating and unsafe other runners can be when they either ignore or aren't aware of race day etiquette.

Here are some of the most annoying and dangerous behaviours that can leave fellow runners cursing under their breath or nursing an injury.

Being a tight-arse

No one likes a running event bandit. When you don't pay to register for an event and run it for free, you're stealing from the event organisers and the runners who've paid for the experience. Runners who have done the right thing and paid their entry fee are helping to fund a safe and successful event that involves many costs from road closures, insurance, permits, supplies and services.

Pushing in at the toilets

I'm not sure about you, but no matter how many times I go to the toilet before I leave home, I'll still have to make a pit stop at the portaloos before the start of the race. While the pre-race nerves might have kicked in and you're busting for a pee or a poo, so are the people in front and behind you in line. It might be tempting, but don't push in. If you're worried about missing the gun, get to the event early or join a line further away from the starting area, as they tend to be shorter. If you've got a medical condition that warrants you to go before someone else, then politely ask.

Starting in the wrong wave

This is a biggie and annoys a lot of people, including runner and triathlete Levi Hauwert. One of his pet hates at running events is when people push and shove to get to the front of the line. "At most events, your start group or wave is based on your predicted finish time," says Hauwert. "Know your pace and be honest with yourself. If you're a slower runner or plan to walk, position yourself towards the back of the line or start among other runners of your same pace. If you still want to be at the front when the gun goes off, start to the far left to allow faster runners to pass by."

Being an iRunner

It's great to capture the atmosphere of the event and document your run on your phone or camera, but doing it in the middle of the track is selfish and dangerous. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for race day photos on social, but just be mindful of when and how you take the photo or video. Step to the side when taking them to avoid a collision with another runner and damaging your gear.

Waddling through water stations

If you want to grab a drink at the water stations and prefer to stop to drink it, run with it until you're out of the area and then move to the side to sip it. Alternatively if you plan to walk and drink, don't dawdle. Keep moving and be careful of other runners when you throw your cup away. Finally, if you don't feel like a drink, run straight down the middle and avoid the crowded areas where other runners will be reaching out for water.

Bushman's hankie and spitting

Spitting and blowing your nose etiquette is a whole other topic, but I'll summarise it for you. The reasons why you may need to clear your throat and sinuses while running include cold weather, air pollutants and even dehydration. While it's not uncommon to spit or blow your nose while running, you do need to be careful when and where you spit so you don't hit other runners. Look around, then run to the outside of the course and spit away from runners, volunteers and spectators. Be sure to take into account the wind and runners that may be behind you, too.

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Running with headphones

This is polarising one as some people just can't run without music, but wearing headphones reduces your awareness of your surroundings and is dangerous to you and other runners. Hauwert says he was once in a battle for the win with another road racer when he came upon a group of people running four-wide and listening to music. "I tried to warn them I was passing quickly but they couldn't hear me because they were all listening to music. I squeezed past them only to be verbally abused because they got a fright."

Stockpiling freebies

At most events sponsors will usually provide runners with post-race drinks and snacks such as water, juice, bananas, protein powders and yogurt. They are just the pick-me-ups runners need to replenish their electrolyte and salt levels. Even if you're thirsty or hungry, don't be a glutton and stockpile post-race freebie snacks. Instead, take one of each item on offer so that everyone who crosses the finish line gets something to eat or drink.

Jamming the finish line

There is a couple of finish line behaviours that can make you look like a rude and uncivil road racer. Show boating such as pulling a Usain Bolt pose or doing push-ups at the finish line are a no-go. Just cross the line and keep moving. And don't stop after you cross the line. While you don't need to keep running, just walk and keep moving through the finish station so that you don't clog the finish line area and get in the way of other runners.

What running race pet peeves make you sweat? Let Laura know in the Comments section.

The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.

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