In the interest of promoting an enjoyable running and racing experience for everyone, the Road Runners Club of America encourages good runners’ etiquette. Whether running in a group or running alone, always follow the RRCA Safety Guidelines.
Whatever the pace, wherever the race, manners matter.
Rules of the road and trails
- Run against traffic if running on the road. If running on the sidewalk or multi-use trails, travel on the right and pass on the left.
- Never run more than two abreast if you are running in a group. Don’t be a road or trail hog.
- Don’t run down the middle of the road or trail.
- If you are running an out-and-back route, don’t just make a sudden u-turn at your turn around point. Stop, step to the right to allow oncoming traffic the opportunity to pass. Ensure the road or trail is clear of oncoming traffic (runners, cyclists, in-line skaters, etc.) then make your u-turn. Making a sudden u-turn without looking over your shoulder is a good way to get hit.
- Alert pedestrians when you are passing them – don’t assume they are aware of their surroundings. A simple “on your left” warning will suffice.
- Be alert on blind curves.
- Stop at stop signs and ensure oncoming traffic yields to you before proceeding across a road. Don’t assume cars will stop if you are entering a cross walk.
- Respect private property along your route. Don’t relieve yourself in the neighbor’s bushes.
- Don’t litter. If you can’t find a trash can, carry your trash home.
General Rules for Running in an Event
- Follow the rules of the race outlined on the race entry form! All runners have a collective responsibility to keep the event safe. Races generally discourage running with dogs, headphones, cell phones, and jogging strollers.
- Pre-register even if same day registration is offered. This will help ease the registration process for everyone involved.
- Arrive early for the event, especially if you are picking up your number on race day. Check your registration information carefully, especially if you are racing for an award or prize money.
- Use the facilities before the race start to lessen the need once on course, and help keep the facilities clean for person in line after you.
- Pin your race number on the front of your shirt/shorts. This is where it is most visible for photographers and race officials.
- Line up according to how fast you plan to run or walk the event. Slower runners and walkers should move to the back of the race pack. Just because you arrived early does not mean you should be at the front of the starting line.
- Pay attention to the pre-race instructions. This is not the time to be blaring your favorite song on your personal music device (which should be locked in your car or at home).
Race Etiquette on Course
- If you drop something as the race starts, don’t stop and pick it up! Wait until almost everyone has crossed the starting line; then retrieve it.
- Don’t drop clothing on the course after you warm-up. If you must shed layers of clothing, tie them around your waist or place them on the side of the road where no one will trip over them. If you drop it; don’t expect to get it back.
- Run or walk no more than two abreast.
- Do not block runners coming up behind you by swerving needlessly back and forth across the course.
- If you are walking in a group, stay to the back of the pack and follow the two abreast rule.
- Bodily functions are a fact of life during a race. If you need to spit, blow your nose or throw-up, move to the side of the road and do it there. If nature calls, check for a port-a-potty, an open business, a kind neighbor along the course, or as a last resort, a discreet clump of bushes before relieving yourself.
- Move to the side if someone behind you says “excuse me” or “on you’re your right/left”. The person behind you is giving you a heads up before passing. It’s proper race etiquette to let that person pass you without blocking their effort.
- If someone in front of you is wearing headphones, and they are blocking, gently touch their elbow or shoulder as you pass to alert them to your presence.
- If you need to tie your shoe or stop for any reason (phone call, nose blow, etc) move to the side of the road and step off the course.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. The course may or may not be closed to traffic. It is your responsibility to watch for oncoming traffic!
- Yield the right of way to all police and emergency vehicles. Yield the course to wheel chair athletes, you can change direction or stop more quickly then they can, especially on a downhill.
- Don’t cheat! Don’t cut the course or run with someone else’s number.
- Enjoy your race!
Aid Station Etiquette
- When approaching an aid station to hydrate or re-fuel, move to the right and grab your fluid/nutritional needs from the volunteers or the aid tables then continue forward away from the volunteers or aid table.
- If you need to stop at an aid station step to the right side of the road and proceed to the aid station, but do not block others from accessing the aid tables or volunteers handing out fluids.
- Throw your used cup to the right side away from the course as close to an aid station as possible. Drop your cup down by your waist as opposed to tossing it over your shoulder. The person behind you may not appreciate the shower if the cup is not empty.
- Say thank you to the volunteers manning the aid station.
- If you see someone in distress on the course, report their number to the aid station and try to recall the approximate mile maker where you saw them.
Finish Line Etiquette
- If you neglected to leave your personal music device at home, now would be the most important time to remove your headphones.
- Follow the instructions of the race officials at the finish.
- If a friend or family member is running the last stretch with you and isn’t in the race, he/she should move off the course before the finish chute starts.
- Once you have crossed the finish line, keep moving forward until the end of the finish chute. Stay in finishing order if the event is not electronically timed so the finish line volunteers can remove the pull tags for scoring.
- If the event is electronically timed, be sure to return the timing tag/chip before leaving the finishers’ chute.
- Exit the chute and wait for friends or family in a central location.
- Enjoy the post-race refreshments, but remember it is not an all you can eat buffet for you and your family.
- Stay around for the awards ceremony to cheer on the overall winners along with the age group winners. Running is one of the few sports where the participants get to mingle closely with the event winners.
- Be proud of your accomplishment!
- Don’t wear headphones. Use your ears to be aware of your surroundings. Your ears may help you avoid dangers your eyes may miss during evening or early morning runs.
- Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles. By facing on-coming traffic, you may be able to react quicker than if it is behind you.
- Look both ways before crossing. Be sure the driver of a car acknowledges your right-of-way before crossing in front of a vehicle. Obey traffic signals.
- Carry identification or write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside sole of your running shoe. Include any medical information.
- Always stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
- Carry a cell phone or change for a phone call. Know the locations of public phones along your regular route.
- Trust your intuition about a person or an area. React on your intuition and avoid a person or situation if you’re unsure. If something tells you a situation is not “right”, it isn’t.
- Alter or vary your running route pattern; run in familiar areas if possible. In unfamiliar areas, such as while traveling, contact a local RRCA club or running store. Know where open businesses or stores are located in case of emergency.
- Run with a partner. Run with a dog.
- Write down or leave word of the direction of your run. Tell friends and family of your favorite running routes.
- Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Avoid unlit areas, especially at night. Run clear of parked cars or bushes.
- Ignore verbal harassment and do not verbally harass others. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
- Wear reflective material if you must run before dawn or after dark. Avoid running on the street when it is dark.
- Practice memorizing license tags or identifying characteristics of strangers.
- Carry a noisemaker. Get training in self-defense.
- When using multi-use trails, follow the rules of the road. If you alter your direction, look over your should before crossing the trail to avoid a potential collision with an oncoming cyclist or passing runner.
- Call police immediately if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is important to report incidents immediately
The Road Runners Club of America wants to remind the running community about the importance of following our hot weather running tips. Running in the heat of summer can be dangerous if proper precautions and preparations are not followed.
- Avoid dehydration! You can lose between 6 and 12 oz. of fluid for every 20 minutes of running. Therefore it is important to pre-hydrate (10–15 oz. of fluid 10 to 15 minutes prior to running) and drink fluids every 20–30 minutes along your running route. To determine if you are hydrating properly, weigh yourself before and after running. You should have drunk one pint of fluid for every pound you’re missing. Indications that you are running while dehydrated are a persistent elevated pulse after finishing your run and dark yellow urine. Keep in mind that thirst is not an adequate indicator of dehydration.
- Visit Gatorade Endurance’s site. You will find great tools for developing a hydration strategy.
- To stay hydrated on your run, consider using one of the many products designed by FuelBelt, Inc. Get a 15% discount on online orders by using the RRCA coupon code: RRCA.
- Avoid running outside if the heat is above 98.6 degrees and the humidity is above 70-80%. While running, the body temperature is regulated by the process of sweat evaporating off of the skin. If the humidity in the air is so high that it prevents the process of evaporation of sweat from the skin, you can quickly overheat and literally cook your insides from an elevated body temperature. Check your local weather and humidity level.
- When running, if you become dizzy, nauseated, have the chills, or cease to sweat…. STOP RUNNING, find shade, and drink water or a fluid replacement drink such as Gatorade Endurance. If you do not feel better, get help. Heatstroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature, and the body temperature continues to rise. Symptoms of heatstroke include mental changes (such as confusion, delirium, or unconsciousness) and skin that is red, hot, and dry, even under the armpits. Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency, requiring emergency medical treatment.
- Run in the shade whenever possible and avoid direct sunlight and blacktop. When you are going to be exposed to the intense summer rays of the sun, apply at least 15 spf sunscreen and wear protective eyewear that filters out UVA and UVB rays. Consider wearing a visor that will shade your eyes and skin but will allow heat to transfer off the top of your head.
- If you have heart or respiratory problems or you are on any medications, consult your doctor about running in the heat. In some cases it may be in your best interests to run indoors. If you have a history of heatstroke/illness, run with extreme caution.
- Children should run in the morning or late afternoon hours, but should avoid the peak heat of the day to prevent heat related illnesses. It is especially important to keep children hydrated while running and playing outdoors in the heat.
- Do wear light colored breathable clothing. Do not wear long sleeves or long pants or sweat suits. Purposefully running in sweat suits hot days to lose water weight is dangerous!
- Plan your route so you can refill water bottles or find drinking fountains. City parks, local merchants, and restaurants are all good points to incorporate on your route during hot weather running. Be sure to tell someone where you are running how long you think you will gone, and carry identification.
Stay hydrated, cool, and safe this summer!
- Always follow the RRCA General Safety Guidelines
- Leave the headphones at home. Your ears may help you avoid dangers your eyes cannot see. Wet, wintery conditions may weaken tree limbs causing them to fall. Hearing the crack before the fall may be the difference between avoiding a falling branch or being tackled by a dead limb.
- Avoid running on the roads in snowy conditions. Drivers have a decreased ability to maneuver and stop.
- Winter means fewer daylight hours. Wear bright-colored, reflective clothing or a reflective vest so you are noticeable to area traffic. For added visibility, wear a lightweight headlamp or flashing light.
- Wear layers of clothing that will help you maintain your core body temperature during the run but will keep you warm during warm-up and cool-down phases.
- Consider wearing traction devices on your shoes if sidewalks, trails or roads have snow or ice cover.
- If you drive to a running trail or route, leave a change of dry cloths and a blanket in the car for emergency situations.
- Stay alert and aware of your surroundings and the weather conditions. Oncoming storms can quickly drop the temperature putting you at risk for frostbite or hypothermia if you are caught wearing the wrong clothes.
- Know where to find shelter on your route if the weather gets really bad.
- Do not ignore shivering. It is an important first sign that the body is losing heat, and you may be in danger of hypothermia.
Over the last two decades there has been significant growth of the multi-use trail system. The Road Runners Club of America takes this opportunity to share these important safety tips when training on the growing number of multi-use trails around the country. These safety tips, coupled with the RRCA General Running Safety Tips should help keep you and everyone else on the multi-use trail safe.
- Follow the rules of the road – travel on the right and pass on the left.
- Don’t run down the middle of the trail. Run to the right side to allow others to pass safely.
- Don’t wear headphones—but if you insist on going against this RRCA safety guideline, keep the volume low or only wear one headphone.
- If you are running an out-and-back route on a trail, don’t just make a sudden u-turn at your turn around point. Stop, step to the right to allow oncoming traffic the opportunity to pass. If you are wearing headphones, now is a good time to pop out an earphone to make sure no one is approaching. Ensure the trail is clear of oncoming traffic (runners, cyclists, in-line skaters, etc.) then make your u-turn. Making a sudden u-turn without looking over your shoulder is a good way to get hit by an oncoming cyclist or skater.
- Avoid running on trails in the evening if they are not well lit and do not have regular traffic.
- Never run more than two abreast if you are running in a group. Don’t be a trail hog. While pedestrians have the right of way on most trails, the goal is to share the trails.
- Alert people when you are passing them—don’t assume they are aware of their surroundings. A simple “on your left” warning will suffice.
- Be alert on blind curves.
- Stop at stop signs if the trail crosses a roadway. Don’t assume cars on the road will stop for the trail crossing.
- Be mindful of young children on the trail—their movements can be unpredictable. Slowing the pace a bit when you pass small children on the trail is a wise idea. Use this as an opportunity to slow the pace then pick up the tempo.
- Respect private property along the trail.
- Don’t litter. If you can’t find a trash can, carry your trash home.
- Get approval from local authorities before planning a race or training event on your local multi-use trail.
Single Track Trail Tips
American Trail Running Association Rules on the Run
“Rules on the Run” are principles of trail running etiquette that foster environmentally-sound and socially-responsible trail running. These principles emulate the well-established principles of Leave No Trace , and Rules of the Trail by the IMBA. The American Trail Running Association (ATRA)*, believes that by educating trail runners to observe “Rules on the Run,” trail runners will be able to enjoy continued access to their favorite trails and trail running competitions.
- Stay on Trail
Well marked trails already exist; they are not made on the day you head out for a run, i.e., making your o wn off-trail path. There is nothing cool about running off trail, bushwhacking over and under trees, or cutting switchbacks up the side of a hill or mountain. Such running creates new trails, encourages others to follow in your footsteps (creating unmarked “social trails”), and increases the runner’s footprint on the environment. When multiple trails exist, run on the one that is the most worn. Stay off closed trails and obey all posted regulations.
- Run Over Obstacles
Run single file in the middle of a trail, even when laden with a fresh blanket of snow or muddy. Go through puddles and not around them. Running around mud, rocks, or downed tree limbs widens trails, impacts vegetation, and causes further and unnecessary erosion. Use caution when going over obstacles, but challenge yourself by staying in the middle of the trail. If the terrain is exceedingly muddy, refrain from running on the trails so that you don’t create damaging “potholes” in the surface. Moisture is the chief factor that determines how traffic (from any user group) affects a trail. For some soil types, a 100-pound runner can wreak havoc on a trail surface in extremely wet conditions. In dry conditions the same trail might easily withstand a 1,200 -pound horse/rider combination. There are many situational factors to consider when making your trail running decision. Trails that have been constructed with rock work, or those with soils that drain quickly, may hold up to wet conditions—even a downpour. But, in general, if the trail is wet enough to become muddy and hold puddles ALL user groups should avoid it until the moisture has drained.
- Run Only on Officially Designated Open Trails
Respect trail and road closures and avoid trespassing on private land. Get permission first to enter and run on private land. Obtain permits or authorization that may be required for some wilderness areas and managed trail systems. Leave gates as you’ve found them. If you open a gate, be sure to close it behind you. Make sure the trails you run on are officially designated routes, not user created routes. When in doubt, ask the land managing agency or individuals responsible for the area you are using.
- Respect Animals
Do not disturb or harass wildlife or livestock. Animals scared by your sudden approach may be dangerous. Give them plenty of room to adjust to you. Avoid trails that cross known wildlife havens during sensitive times such as nesting or mating. When passing horses use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders. Running cattle is a serious offense. Consider turning around and going another direction when faced with disturbing large herds of animals, especially in winter when animals are highly stressed already.
- Keep Your Dog on a Leash
Unless otherwise posted, keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times. Dogs running off leash may result in adverse impacts on terrain and wildlife and degrade the outdoor experience of other trail users. If an area is posted “no dogs” obey signage. This may mean that you leave your dog at home. It is also imperative that you exercise Leave No Trace practices with respect to removing any dog waste, packing out what your dog may leave on the trail. Be prepared with a plastic bag and carry the waste until you come across a proper disposal receptacle.
- Don’t Startle Other Trail Users
A quick moving trail runner, especially one who seemingly emerges from out of nowhere on an unsuspecting trail user, can be quite alarming. Give a courte ous and audible announcement well in advance of your presence and intention to pass hikers on the trail stating something like, “On your left,” or “Trail” as you approach the trail users. Keep in mind your announcement doesn’t work well for those who are wearing headphones and blasting music. Show respect when passing, by slowing down or stopping if necessary to prevent accidental contact. Be ready to yield to all other trail users (bikers, hikers, horses) even if you have the posted right of way. Uphill runners yield to downhill runners in most situations.
- Be Friendly
The next step after not startling someone is letting them know that they have a friend on the trail. Friendly communication is the key when trail users are yielding to one another. A “Thank you” is fitting when others on the trail yield to you. A courteous, “Hello, how are you?” shows kindness which is particularly welcome.
- Don’t Litter
Pack out at least as much as you pack in. Gel wrappers with their little torn-off tops, and old water bottles don’t have a place on the trail. Consider wearing apparel with pockets that zip or a hydration pack that has a place to secure litter you find on the trail. Learn and u se minimum impact techniques to dispose of human waste.
- Run in Small Groups
Split larger groups into smaller groups. Larger groups can be very intimidating to hikers and have a greater environmental impact on trails. Most trail systems, parks, and wilderness areas have limits on group size. Familiarize yourself with t he controlling policy and honor it.
Know the area you plan to run in and let at least one other person know where you are planning to run and when you expect to return. Run with a buddy if possible. Take a map with you in unfamiliar areas. Be prepared for the weather and conditions prevailing when you start your run and plan for the worst, given the likely duration of your run. Carry plenty of water, electrolyte replacement drink, or snacks for longer runs. Rescue efforts can be treacherous in remote areas . ATRA does not advise the use of headphones or iPods. The wearer typically hears nothing around them to include approaching wildlife, and other humans. The most important safety aspect is to know and respect your limits. Report unusually dangerous, unsafe, or damaging conditions and activities to the proper authorities.
- Leave What You Find
Leave natural or historic objects as you find them, this includes wildflowers and native grasses. Removing or collecting trail markers is serious vandalism that puts others at risk.
- Giving Back
Volunteer, support, & encourage others to participate in trail maintenance days.