Part 2 – Running Etiquette for Beginners

Etiquette: a code of behavior that is governed by an expectation of conformity to social norms… or something like that.

Now, some might say that etiquette is just common sense, but move people slightly outside of their day-to-day environment and it’s amazing how quickly their usually polite and courteous manners vanish. We have all come across inconsiderate individuals exercising, head down, mowing through whatever is in their path. We generally refer to these people as ‘knobheads’ or other such niceties. We really don’t want to become one of them.

Thus, below is a list of do’s and don’ts for the beginner runner. Some are simply reminders to proceed as if you were not knackered and dying for a pee. Others are runner community specific, but all are essential if us athletes are to train harmoniously alongside fellow pedestrians and road users.

1: Share the pavement/road

Remember, most of the places we train are classed as shared space and other users are just as entitled to be there as us. This includes pedestrians, dog walkers, cyclists, drivers and of course, other runners. Where the path is narrow, adopt single file and be prepared to wait. Also, try to let people know that you’re passing them from behind. I appreciate that sometimes these people will behave in a discourteous manner (particularly some cyclists and drivers) but in these circumstances it’s best not to pick a fight with a vehicle. Simply stand aside, and moan about them later.

2. Be polite and friendly to other pedestrians/road users

The vast majority of people sharing our space go out of their way to not interrupt your stride. Even here in Stoke-on-Trent, where some drivers simply put their foot down and turn their wipers on, most will wait patiently for you to pass when they see you coming. Say ‘thank you’ or give them a wave. It doesn’t take much, but makes a huge difference! Share that feel-good feeling.

Handy Hint: If you’re up to it, be especially nice to people who are rude to you… it really puts them in their place!

3. Acknowledge fellow runners

As I said in my previous post, most runners love to see other runners out and about sharing in this pastime that we love. You don’t have to stop and exchange life-stories, but a nod, a ‘hello’ or a thumbs up is enough to share that community spirit that binds us together. You never know, that person you’ve been smiling at for the past three months could pop up at a local race meeting… and this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.


Many is the time I’ve been up a hill somewhere and feeling like I’m on top of the world. I’m miles from anywhere, exhausted and feeling great… Then I look down and there’s a spent energy gel sachet on the floor. Grrrrr…. It seems so obvious, but if you’ve managed to get the gel up there, you can bloody take the wrapper home with you. There really is no excuse. Running takes us away from the grime of the city and envelopes us in the beauty of nature and the good clean dirt of the hills. Don’t pollute this beautiful environment.

5. Look before crossing the road

D’uh! But… your head is fuzzy, you’re eight miles in and you’re really tired. You need to be over there… so you step out into the road and then choose to look. As well as this practice being very, very dangerous, it makes the running community look like a bunch of reckless idiots. In a group, it can be particularly confusing for drivers with runners swarming all over the place and around their vehicle. Sharks die if they stop moving, human’s don’t. Have a 15 second breather and carry on when it’s safe to do so.

6. Expel bodily fluids discretely

Once again, it seems so obvious, but having had my trainers spat on from time to time, it’s proof that normal behavior is often ignored when out on the trail. If you have to expel a chewy one (most of us will from time-to-time) do so away from other people and make sure you know where it’s going to land. Spitting can often get you a fixed penalty notice if you’re in an urban area, so it’s simply not worth the risk, but even out in the wilds of the unwashed countryside the verges are the best place. No-one wants to tread on a phlegm-ball that’s been left in the middle of their path.

All of us will be guilty of occasionally disobeying one or more of these principles, but if we can try to keep them in check for the most part, they should a) enhance your running/training experience b) enhance it for others, c) keep you safe! and d) help re-enforce the running community’s reputation as THE BEST sporting community of which to be a part. There are many more finer details of running etiquette that I could cover, but most are personal gripes or situation specific, so I won’t bore you with them now. If you have any to add, please comment and have your say!

“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will be able to treat life as art.” Maya Angelou


About Trenthamfolk

Marathon Runner, Optimist, Joie de vivre…
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One Response to Part 2 – Running Etiquette for Beginners

  1. Brilliant post! Running can be a lonely business at times, on awful days there are very few other that venture out. So when you see another runner in the middle of nowhere you’d think they’d be happy to see you. Not always so.
    Your post has just reminded me that I got spat on at the GNR last year, luckily it was raining…

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