Guidelines and etiquette for the new runner

Oct 25, 2019

Female runner

Running is one of the easiest sports to get involved in, all you need to start is a pair of running shoes and a bit of motivation. However, there are still some basic guidelines and expected etiquette that runners should follow.  We give you the low down on a couple of the basics.

Basic guidelines

Be bright, wear a light

When running in the dark, or even at dusk or dawn, make yourself visible to cars. Wear a light, a reflective vest or even both. Do not assume that cars can see you. The driver in the car is thinking about other things and not actively looking for people on the road. There is also a misconception that bright coloured clothing will make you visible to cars. In the dark, your bright yellow shirt actually doesn’t show up that much.

Run facing on-coming traffic

Run on the side of the road facing on-coming traffic. This is to ensure that you can watch what the on-coming cars are doing and anticipate any potential danger.

Run in single file

One of the best parts of running is the time we get to spend with friends. However, it’s important to remember that cars rule the road – not us. So when you see a car approaching, don’t just assume that the car will go around you. Move into single file on the side of the road and give the car enough space to pass.

Run with a group

It’s an unfortunate reality that running on your own, especially as a woman, can be dangerous. Run with a friend, or even better, find a running group. Not only does this make your run safer for you, but everything is more fun when you get to do it with a friend or five.

Avoid running past open areas

This one is especially for women. If you’re running on your own, try avoid running past open areas such as a park or veld where there is the potential of being pulled off the road and out of site. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be a victim of crime on a busy road, but it’s a simple precaution.

Run clean

In South Africa we’re very lucky to have races that are well stocked with regular water points. But this doesn’t give you free reign to throw your sachet or gel packet onto the road or pavement – or even worse, into a drain. Consider the environment and hold on to your rubbish until you see a bin.

Lose the earphones

When you run with earphones you can’t hear anything that’s happening around you. A car might be speeding up from behind or someone could jump out of a hidden spot – you wouldn’t have any warning.

It’s also against the rules of most races to wear earphones while running.

Running etiquette

Greet other runners

Runners are a community. When you pass another runner on a training run, say good morning/good afternoon/hello. We’re all on this training journey together. Greeting cyclists is optional.

We support each other

If you see another runner on a race, or even a training run, who is struggling, offer them a word of support. “You can do this.” “Come on, you’ve got this. Keep going.” Whatever.

When you’re having a tough day out there – and trust us, it will happen to you at some point – you wouldn’t believe the difference that a supportive word from a complete stranger can make.

Spitting and snot rockets

Runners can sometimes be a little gross. Spitting and snot rockets are two examples of this, but our bodies can do funny things on a run, so these have become acceptable. However, other runners want nothing to do with your fluids of any kind. If you feel the need to partake in one of these, move over to the side of the road and make sure that no one is directly behind you.

Allow others to pass on single track

When running on a single track on a trail run, it can be difficult for others to pass. If someone is running right behind you and clearly trying to pass, move to the side and let them through – especially if they ask you to pass.

Don’t start at the front of a race if you’re a slow runner

The start of a race can be quite slow at times. Whilst you may be trying to improve your personal best time, this may be a competitive race for other people.  Allow the fast runners to start at the front, the middle of the pack runners should be starting in the middle and the slow runners and walkers should be close to the back. If we all follow this, then the field would move much quicker.

Move to the side to walk

Need a rest? Don’t just stop in the middle of the road. Other runners behind you may not be watching and you can get in their way. If you want to take a walk break, move to the side of the road before stopping.

Thank the marshals

The marshals on a race are usually volunteers and are not being paid to be out on the road. They play an important role in managing the traffic and ensuring that you stay on the correct route. So why not shout a quick thanks as you speed past. The same goes for the person handing you a sachet of water. They got up just as early as you to be there, so a little thanks wouldn’t go amiss.


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