Race Etiquette: Racers & Organizers, We're All in This Together

As much as we all want to run the perfect race, inevitably there will be race day obstacles that will require us to modify our strategies. On some occasions, the race day changes are beneficial (i.e starting early to account for extreme heat), but for the most part, they are usually a hindrance that have the potential put us in a bad race mentality. 

These obstacles are most noticeably inflicted by our fellow runners who are too tuned into their own race strategies to be cognizant of others, or runners who are so new to races they aren’t familiar with the unwritten runner’s code of etiquette. Not to be left out, race organizers also need to ensure they are doing their part to make sure everyone feels comfortable (to some degree) when the gun goes off.

To see what irks runners the most, I conducted an extremely unscientific survey (Twitter, Facebook, Always Running Forward website), asking runners what peeves them the most? As you read on, see if you agree or if you even have been guilty of some of the items listed.

Runners

1. Corral JumpersDefined as racers who did not qualify for a specific corral who weasel their way into a faster one to start early.
This is my absolute biggest pet peeve! If you didn’t earn it, you shouldn’t be there. Organizers set corrals to make sure runners are racing with people who have similar skills, thus a smoother overall race. Corral jumpers clog the system, forcing runners to serpentine and even add the potential for accidents. Just don’t do it!

2. Walking – Before you blow a gasket, I don’t want you to think the issue is with walkers overall, everyone getting out on race day is already a win. In fact, Jeff Galloway is a big proponent of systematic walking during a race. The problems arise in where and when walking occurs. A few examples kept rising to the top of the list:
            a. Stopping without notifying racers – If you have to stop and walk, make sure to move out of the flow, raise your hand up, and gradually slow down. Some runners will even yell, “Stopping” to alert folks behind you. C’mon, do you really want a runner ramming into you at Mile 21? Probably not
            b. Walking wideWalking wide refers to more than 2 walkers side-by-side or in the center of a race path. Races, typically don’t have wide paths (we’re spoiled with Disney races), so when there are more than 2 walkers side-by-side, it gums up the race and is a real potential for injury. Runners may have to jump on the median, or even slip outside the course to get by. If you have a group together, please start farther back in the race to where it’s more manageable for everyone.

3. Stopping at a Water-Aid StationDefined as the act of going to the first volunteer and stopping immediately. It’s extremely dangerous to do this, there a ton of runners coming in behind you and the area is most usually very slippery. If you need to stop, by all means do so, but work your way through the aid station and then slow down/stop near the end to make sure you and other runners are safe.

4. Taking More Than Your Fair ShareDefined as overindulging in the post-race goodies. Bagels, bananas, Powerade, cheese spread? (Disney), all provided after a race to keep runners moving after a long race. Yes, the costs for these are included in your registration, but a lot times there is just enough to go around. You are not going to be the last person to finish, so please remember that before you grab 4 bagels and 3 bananas.

5. Attitude – I can’t believe this even showed up on the list, but I guess I’ve seen a few. The absolute thing I love most about running is it’s a “low attitude, high camaraderie” sport. When you PR, folks are genuinely excited for you and bummed when you had a bad race. If you fall down, someone will help you up and they aren’t going to care what your shoes look like. People race the course and race themselves. That’s what matters.

So, that’s the runner-to-runner pet peeve. What about races themselves? Well, I also received some great feedback on race organizers and runners’ expectations:

Race Organizers

1. Inaccurate Race Length – If a race is advertised as a 5k then it should be 3.1 miles, not 3.2 or longer. A lot of runners use races for qualifying for other races and need them to be precise. USATF certify your race.

2. Poor Communication – Both on the front and back end. Make sure racers know of any last minute changes before the race and then keep the lines of communication open after the race, especially if there are major concerns. For instance, a race organizer here in Chicago had an absolutely abysmal race. They had poor bib pickup, lost racer’s times, even had multiple racers for one bib. When runners took to social media to express their frustration, the organizers took too long to respond and when they did, their message was more or less, “Sorry, stuff happens.”  It peeved a lot of runners who vowed not run that race again, myself included. Runners are social people, be social with us.

3. Poor Bib Pickup/Expo – If we can get our bibs fast, we’ll probably stick around and spend some money. Make packet pickup smooth and create a fun expo atmosphere. The Chicago Marathon has a terrific model.

4. Goody Bags – I think we can all agree a lot of the stuff in goody bags goes to waste. Organizers should consider e-bags, which contain waste (and production costs) and force the runner to decide what’s most important.

5. Oversold Races – Organizers know the course, they should know how many can safely navigate it. No one wants to run shoulder to shoulder for the entire race.

So, those are the top instances as defined by the running community. While the post was many about peeves, there is also some praise that needs to be called out.

Spectators: The more the better. Who can deny the best feeling in the world is turning onto Main Street USA and seeing the amazing group of spectators cheering you on?
Names on Bibs: Runners like when spectators call out their names during races. It certainly helped me during my last marathon.
Great Courses: Disney owns this one. But, if you don’t have a billion acres of theme parks, think about scenic areas in your region that may be fun to run.
Great Races: For every bad race there seems to be 100 good races and we don't want to forget that. If you are getting good feedback, keep doing what you are doing.

Are there peeves or praise that I have left out? I want to hear about it. Post feedback below, Always Running Forward Facebook Page, or Twitter (@disnyrunr24)

Happy Running!