You've been training for months and you're finally ready to lace up your running shoes and hit the road in a competitive capacity. In other words, you've signed up for a race. Before you hear the starting gun, however, you need to understand that there is etiquette involved in racing, as with any social situation. Here are a few important points of etiquette every racing newbie should observe.
If you're new to racing, you're not the fastest runner in the bunch, which means you won't outdistance other runners and be the one to break through the tape at the finish line. So why would you position yourself at the front of the pack? You need to start in the right corral, or section of the race cue based on your anticipated finish time.
There are two reasons to avoid this common newbie snafu. First and foremost, you're going to irritate the seasoned runners in the group, who have earned the right to start the race in the front through training, competing, winning, and hitting spectacular finish times.
Second, you're going to cripple your morale. Even if you manage to start out as fast as the other runners at the front, eventually you're going to run out of steam because you didn't pace yourself properly from the outset, and as one competitor after another passes you by, your mindset is bound to suffer, along with your physical performance.
It's great to have a gung-ho attitude entering your first race, but don't get cocky. Temper your urge to be number one with a solid plan for finishing the race at a personal best time. This is a win that will motivate you to keep training and improving, so that one day soon, you'll be ready to start the race at the head of the pack.
Passing on the left sounds pretty obvious, but there are always a few newbies in the race who run smack in the middle of the lane and impede the progress of faster competitors. You don't want to be that impediment. At the least, you'll risk some serious side eye, but if you're weaving mindlessly around the course instead of remaining to the right, chances are you're going to cause a collision and possibly injury to yourself or others.
Racing etiquette dictates that you stay on the right as much as possible after the initial jostling of the start gives way to more spacing between runners. If you happen to come up behind another runner and you want to pass, just take a quick glance back in your blind spot to make sure you're not wandering into the path of an approaching runner in the passing lane.
There are certain things many runners want to take advantage of at a race locale, including restrooms, water stations, and post-race food stands. You're not the only one who wants or needs these things and you need to behave in a conscientious manner.
For starters, do not jostle your way to front or cut the line, if there is one. Sure, you need to use the porta potty, stat, but so does everyone else who just ran a race. If there's an emergency, you're just going to have to ask if you can move ahead - don't assume.
When it comes to water stations, you're in a drive-by situation. Slow down to grab a cup and then get out of the way. If you need to stop to drink, pass the water station and pull over to the side. Don't stop in front of it and cause a backup.
Finally, don't be a hog at food stands following the race. Many races include a buffet of fruit, energy drinks, snack bars, and even bagels to help you refuel, but keep in mind that these are for everyone, not just for you. A good rule of thumb is to take no more than one of each item.
Just because you're new to running races doesn't mean you have to behave like a novice. Common sense will serve you well when it comes to racing etiquette, and if you're not sure where you're supposed to be or how to act, take a cue from more experienced runners or simply ask someone. The running community is happy to help newbies, especially if it means a safe and successful race for all.
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