The etiquette of running

The etiquette of running

Running is a great way of fitting exercise into a busy day, but some people are put off by because they perceive it to be governed by an impenetrable code of social behaviour. This article debunks that notion – polite running is really no different than polite conduct in any other context.

We hardly need to be told about the benefits of running, yet most of us don't manage to fit this relatively straightforward, economical form of exercise into our daily lives. One thing that seems to hold some people back is a sense of insecurity about the unspoken rules of exercising in public, about what is and what isn't the “done thing.” It can feel daunting enough to take up a new sport without having to worry about breaking unspoken codes of social conduct.

Fortunately, exercise etiquette is not rocket science, which makes it reasonably straightforward to define some basic rules that govern polite running behaviour. These rules aren't that different to the rules of  polite social conduct in any other context, but given that basic courtesy seems to be a dying art it may be helpful to spell them out.

Matt Kurton recently posted the “10 commandments” of running etiquette on The Guardian's popular running blog. If ever there was an authoritative source on the manners of running, this is it. Break these rules, he says, and you'll just look silly. Here are his guidelines to help you navigate the social niceties of running.

Nod hello

It seems surprising that this even needs to be said, but it does – as anyone whose friendly hello to a fellow runner has been met with silence or a scowl can attest. You don't have to be effusive. Just be polite.

Commute considerately

More and more people are running to work. That's fairly straightforward if you're actually running from your home to your work and your workplace has a shower. It gets more complicated if you're running from home to a tube station. However tempting it is, common courtesy dictates that you cannot plonk your sweat-drenched body down on the nearest available seat. The only polite thing to do is to stand by the train doors. And try not to drip too much.

Don't phlegm

At least not in public. Yes, all runners need to clear their noses from time to time, but no-one should be party to another person's phlegm. Disguise it as a sneeze and use a tissue. Or keep it in.

Share your space

If you're running with friends, it's tempting to run three or four abreast. It's more companionable. It's also, says Matt Kurton, akin to hogging the middle lane of the motorway. It's vastly irritating to anyone else using your path. Ideally, you should run in a line and save your social time for after the run.

Dress with dignity

Good for you if you have the body confidence to run bare-chested/without an appropriate running bra/wearing ludicrously skimpy clothing. But really, most of the public doesn't want to see you in that much detail. It sounds faintly Victorian, but dressing with decorum is another basic courtesy that is hardly specific to running.

Don't litter

Water bottles, energy gel packs, the hanky you've just used to discreetly dispose of your phlegm... Take it with you or throw it in a bin. Does this really need saying?! Don't contribute to runners getting a bad reputation and an image of carelessness for their environments.

Be realistic when you race

Know your limits. You're going to look a right pratt if you insist on starting out at the very front of the pack and go hell for leather, only to give up half way, a pathetic bundle of winded exhaustion. Meanwhile you've got in the way of a whole bunch of athletes who are better at pacing themselves than you are. Oh the humilation.

Use your common sense

Just that. Stay safe, don't put yourself or other in unnecessary danger. That means not turning up your music so loudly that you can't hear traffic, going around blind corners with an element of caution, and crossing the road safely. Durrr.

Be courteous to marshalls

Race marhsalls voluntarily give up their time to make sure you don't get lost on race day. Take a moment to appreciate them. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.

Don't take yourself too seriously

Mark Kurton describes running as an “irrational hobby” that involves exerting considerable effort “in order to undertake a needless journey that finishes back where you began.” Such a dose of self-deprecating humour can't fail to make anyone a more considerate, polite runner.

So there you have it. That wasn't so complicated, was it! A bit of common courtsesy will go a long way, not just when you're running. In fact, most of these rules could be summed up with the simple but comprehensive injunction to do as you would be done by.

We're interested in your feedback. What is your experience of exercise etiquette? Do you take care to be a polite runner? Do you find other runners polite? Would you add any further rules to the 10 commandments outlined here?


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