And Now For a Word on Race Etiquette…

So, I developed a mild case of tendonitis in my peroneus brevis (a ligament that runs from the outside of your calf to the middle of your foot) during my 26.2 mile jaunt in DC, and thus my post-marathon rest period has been more intensely restful than I had planned. Waaah. I have been going crazy. I had planned to take a few days off, but not 14. And not from everything – running, walking, cycling. Ugh. Not wanting to turn a small problem into a big one, though, I have been a good doobie and have done nada for the past 2 weeks.

Yesterday, I finally was able to ease back into working out with a spin session on my bike trainer. And voila! I’m back. Working out my muscles also must have woken up my brain, because I feel motivated to write again. Yippee!

Today’s topic? Race etiquette. Or rather, lack thereof. I’ve seen rude people at plenty of races, and really came across some doozies at the Marine Corps Marathon. I guess the bigger the race, the more opportunity there is for bad behavior. And boy, was there some bad behavior.

Without further ado, here are some of the things I encountered during the marathon. It goes without saying that I think that they are all “don’ts.”

1. Cutting the porta potty line. Seriously.The MCM organizers are brilliant enough to place porta potties to the side of the starting corrals, to let people get that one last trip in before the start. I was one of the grateful people who took my place in the relatively short and orderly line for the porta potties lined up near the 4 hour finisher start. To the shock of everyone in line with me, a man snuck under the corral tape and jumped into a porta potty just as a woman was exiting it, cutting ahead of 8 of us in the process. I don’t know what he was thinking, cutting ahead of 8 women – law of averages dictates that at least one of us had PMS and/or was peri, mid or post-menopausal at the time, and he’s lucky he escaped with his life. I was near the front of the line, and was in one of the porta potties when he came out, so I actually don’t know what kind of abuse he faced by the angry line when he emerged. Hopefully a lot.

2. Not lining up where you are supposed to. C’mon, people. We all have an idea of where we might finish, and given that a marathon, even if your first marathon, is unlikely your very first race, you should have an idea of how you start. I started with the 4 hour finishers, which I felt to be a realistic estimate of where I would finish. Others around me and ahead of me were a bit more delusional. Such as the heavily pregnant woman. Or the woman in front of me frantically using her inhaler at the start. Or the half-dozen people who were walking by mile 1. Don’t get me wrong; I applaud each and every one of them for running the race. But it’s a starting corral, not a vision board. The finish time signs are there for a reason. It helps the race stay organized and moving efficiently. As I wrote in my recap, the first mile or so was ridiculously crowded, and given the breadth of the course, I don’t think it needed to be. But when people start off too slowly for their corral placement, it causes a bottleneck that is hard to get through. I spent the first miles or so desperately trying to avoid being part of a multi-runner pile-up on the route. Not necessary.

3. Running in the wrong direction on the course. Does this really need to be addressed? Apparently, yes. Yes, it does. Some dude must have dropped something and not realized it until he was some distance beyond whatever it is he dropped, so he turned around and ran at top speed, back up the course, in the wrong direction, around mile 7. I noticed this when he almost knocked me over. And by almost, I mean, he actually did run into me, clipping my arm and throwing me off balance, but didn’t quite knock me over. I must have channeled my inner weeble to avoid being roadkill. I’m sure that whatever he dropped was important, but kinda wish he had walked back up on the side to retrieve it instead of running at top speed up the middle of the course.

4. Turning the volume on your headphones so high that you can’t hear what is going on around you. I love my headphones. I listened to music for almost the entire race. But, since I was aware that I was not the only person running the race, I kept them at a volume low enough that I could hear what was happening around me. Such as people directing us to move out of the way of a wheelchair participant, which happened numerous times. At one point, a guy was so unaware of the wheelchair crew coming up behind him, despite numerous shouted requests for him to love to the left, that someone had to run over and pull him to the side. If your headphones are that loud, it is dangerous. And you will probably need a hearing aid sooner rather than later. Turn ’em down.

5. Cutting off someone in a wheelchair. Yes, I saw this, and yes if I was close enough I would have run over and tripped him. I don’t care if you are gunning for a time that will qualify you for the Olympic trials. If you deliberately cut off a wheelchair participant, you are a Grade A asshole. Period.

6. Spitting on people. Gross. Please move to the side.

7. Running in packs. I know, I’m biased because I’m a lone wolf runner. But it is difficult for other runners if groups run together more than two across. Races – especially big, crowded ones – are not the time to be running four across. It makes it harder for everyone around you to navigate the course.

8. Also, if you are a spectator, please don’t run into the course with your sign and hit a runner. Especially if that runner is me. Yup, mile 18. Spectating Friend is very excited to see Runner Friend. So excited that Spectator Friend runs into the middle of the course, carrying a huge sign, to run alongside Runner Friend. Supportive and well-intentioned, I’m sure, but not cool to run into the middle of the course and hit another runner (me) with your sign while you jog up to your friend. It’s not a private race, you know?

OK, that’s enough from Miss Manners. Have a good Wednesday!

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11 thoughts on “And Now For a Word on Race Etiquette…

  1. “It’s a starting corral, not a vision board” …this happens at EVERY race and it can be frustrating.

    As for the four wide…this was a huge problem at NY for me. Not that I was in destroyer mode but there were times when there were multiple packs and it made weaving a necessity…even at mile 16 this was still going strong.

    The ports-potty…there are very few things in the world that make more irate than someone who thinks the their situation is pressing enough to disregard the unwritten rules of lines/traffic. Pure anger. I may have asked people to help me tip the port-potty…or at least jokingly suggested it loudly by the door as I shook it.

    • Honestly, all of us in the porta potty line were too shocked to react when he snuck in. I couldn’t believe it! And it was before the race – not like a mid race stop where he was puking or something – yeesh, we would have let him cut if he said it was an emergency.
      Packs. I know for some people, the ONLY way to run a marathon is with their running group – and I respect that. But I really feel that 2 across is the limit, out of courtesy for the other runners.

  2. Good points. I think they should be read out at the start of every event. I particularly find it difficult to move in front of packs of runners who are perhaps unintentionally taking up the whole width of the course. It’s also a good reminder to all of us to be courteous of all runners so we can make sure we’re not stuffing up the race for others.

    • Yeah – actually most of the transgressions were people just treating it like it was their own personal race. Maybe for some it is too hard to transition their solitary activity into a 30,00+ person event. Some of the stuff I saw, though, was just people being downright selfish and rude, and those behaviors are certainly not limited to runners!

      • mmmm… earlier in the year I did an 11km fun run that met up with a 7km run/walk event. At the 3km to the finish mark I met up with countless groups of walkers who were taking up the whole width of the road. It was really demoralising to try and bring the race home hard while weaving round people who didn’t seem to notice how they were impacting on others.

  3. All good points! Earlier this year I did the London 10k and found to my astonishment that even after starting in the first wave I was able to come across a group of 5 people running (actually walking) for charity. Abreast. 5 abreast on a two lane road. And apart from the fact they were walking even though they started in the first wave, they had interlinked arms and were muttering about the rudeness of all the people who were pushing past them. I suspect they are also porta-potty queue jumpers also…

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