As with every sport, there are some rules, and etiquette to follow. You know, to keep the peace, stay safe, so that all involved have a more enjoyable experience. Running is no exception; yep, running etiquette exists!
With running, you encounter other runners, cars, cyclists, walkers, dogs, etc. It’s helpful to know the “rules of the road” so that you don’t become the runner that makes folks roll their eyes (or worse!). With that, below is running etiquette for the road, trail, and track — wherever your feet may take you!
Before we dive in, many of these are truly common-sense guidelines. They’ll keep you safer, and make your runs (and others) more enjoyable.
On the ROAD – Running Etiquette
- Always run FACING traffic. Stay to the side, and as far from traffic as possible. IF there is a sidewalk/running path on both sides, stay on the side that allows you to see oncoming vehicles, and run facing traffic. If there’s only one sidewalk or path on your route, stick to the path/sidewalk.
- Wear bright-colored or reflective clothing so that drivers can see you at night. Lit shoe accessories, and other options are available to help you appear more noticeable to both drivers and cyclists.
- Pass on the LEFT. State your intentions to the person you’re passing. Say “on your left” so they know to move to the right. Know that you often must say it more than once for them to hear! It’s good to say it loudly, slowly, and with a friendly tone.
- Respect your fellow runners (and cyclists, drivers, walkers, etc.). Do this by signaling your intentions when you change directions or pass. They are not mind-readers, and likely are as absorbed into their run as you are.
- Cyclists. Cyclists ride with traffic. When you encounter a cyclist, go to the LEFT of the cyclist, as close to the side of the road as possible. If you see a cyclist approaching, and they don’t seem to notice you – give them a head’s up by saying “runner ahead!”
- Obey all traffic signs. NEVER, EVER, EVER assume a driver is going to stop for you at an intersection — even if you have the right-of-way. Also, never assume that a driver can SEE you. Attempt to make EYE contact before crossing a car at an intersection. Better yet, stop, and let them pass.
- Don’t run more than two abreast. This may be one of my biggest pet peeves. It is NOT cool to spread across a path or sidewalk with your running friends/group. This is especially true on busy roads, sidewalks, or multi-use trails. We must share the roads/trails, not hog them.
But wait, there’s more…
- Cross at crosswalks. If there is not one, then cross at the intersection. Also remember (as this has happened to me), having the right of way doesn’t mean it’s safe to cross. Ensure the driver sees/acknowledges you before crossing. Otherwise, wait and let them cross first.
- Don’t litter, carry your trash with you. This is straightforward, a hopely unnecessary reminder!
- Reconsider headphones especially on unfamiliar routes. It’s important to hear traffic/signals from other people. If you must have your music (like me), keep volume down, and use one earbud only.
- Dogs. If you are running with a dog, be sure to keep him on a tight/short leash. It is frightening when a dog on a ‘loose leash’ lunges at me while running (and unnecessary!). With that said, if you see a runner with a dog, try to give more space as you approach them, just in case.
On the TRAIL – Play Nice
Many of the running etiquette rules above (on the road) apply to trails, but here are some that are trail specific. Note this includes concrete and natural trail systems.
- Don’t run down the middle of the trail. Travel on the right and pass on the left. If someone is going to pass you, move or run to the right side to allow them to safely pass.
- Avoid sudden turns. I’m guilty of this one! I recall making a quick u-turn and a cyclist was approaching me from behind. I dodged/screamed, and made him swerve. Needless to say, he wasn’t too happy. Therefore, if you’re running an out-and-back route on a trail, or if you have to make a sudden u-turn, peer behind you before making the turn! Ensure the trail is clear of oncoming traffic.
- Go with the flow. Various trails will have specific traffic flows. While you run against traffic on the road, on a trail, YOU are the traffic. So, find out what the instructed traffic pattern is; most likely, you will bear to the right with faster traffic passing on the left.
- Keep your music to yourself. Especially on trails, folks are wanting to enjoy the solitude of the outdoors. Don’t play your music out loud.
- Respect trail closures. Don’t use a closed trail. In soft mud, rain, and snow, feet and tires can contribute to trail erosion, mud holes, and bad trail conditions. Ones that can persist for weeks or months! Or, trails might be closed for wildlife management, construction, or re-vegetation. Whatever the reason, respect the sign, and keep off.
On the TRACK – Running Etiquette
If you are fortunate to have access to a track, use it! Enjoy it! And, of course, be mindful of their posted rules. As with the trail rules, many of the “rules of the road” apply here, too.
- Respect the track’s operating hours and rules. If there are no posted rules, ask other runners on the track or follow their lead.
- Pets, strollers, kid’s bikes/scooters, etc. are not appropriate on the track. Quite simply, only FEET should be on a track (and human feet, at that).
- The normal rotation on a track is counterclockwise. But, look for regulations; some reverse directions every other day to help with wear/tear on the track.
- Slower runners/walkers should use the outside lanes. Allow faster runners to run the inside lanes. But, if you’re the faster runner, and they don’t know the rules, don’t clip them as you pass by. 😉
- Be nice, courteous. Remember some folks are unaware that there is any such thing as track etiquette, or a certain direction to circle. They may be a first time runner, walker, etc. Diplomatically inform them of the correct etiquette with a smile.
What rules have I left out – comment and let me know!