Coach Mike Mead

Road Race Etiquette - February 2005

I do not get out to as many road races as I once did, but of the few I attend and direct I am confounded by the actions of some runners. For the most part, runners are perhaps the most friendly, caring and appreciative folks you’ll come across. But there are some things that a few runners do that can spoil the racing experience for their fellow runners or frustrate the race director.

Perhaps these runners just don’t know any better. Maybe they’re new to road racing. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and pass on some road racing etiquette. My junior college coach, Ron Gunn, had a term for runners who were not quite with it – High School Harriers. The only name that I could come up with to describe an uncouth runner is “Road Hog.” I don’t know if this is an adequate name, but for the purpose of this column we’ll go with it.

So in the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy, “You are a Road Hog if….

…. You run without your race number. Better yet, you run with your race number covered up or pinned on your back. The number needs to be clearly visible on the front. There is a reason race directors use race numbers -- to identify you as a participant. Also, don’t alter or fold your race number when pinning since there is probably a race sponsor who paid for the exposure. Besides, there is probably a tab at the bottom that the finish line crew will need as a backup after your race. Unless you are instructed, DO NOT remove until you’re in the finish chute!

You are a Road Hog if you expect race directors to guess your age and sex. This is a rare occurrence, but some folks feel they do not need to supply such information such as age, sex or address. Sorry but we’re living in the Information Age. In order to score a race quickly, such information is vital. In addition, the address is important since some sponsors like Runner’s World requires race directors to send them mailing addresses of all participants. If you’re that paranoid, take up solitaire.

You are a Road Hog if you average 10-minute miles but start at the front. I’ve addressed this before and it is not safe for you or the runner next to you. Someone is going to get hurt and more than likely it’s going to be you.

You are a Road Hog if you hold up the start of the race. You’ve seen them. Everyone is assembled at the start line ready to go when someone comes dashing out from the crowd. At first you think it’s a late invited elite runner, but come to find out it’s Joe Jogger making a grand entrance. And they usually think that because they’re late that they are entitled to start near the front. Back of the line, Joe!

You are a Road Hog if you sprint out at the start to lead the field for the first 400-meters, then fade to the back of the pack. This is fairly common at most races, particularly if the local newspaper or -- better yet -- television station is covering the event. This behavior can hack off the good runners who might be trying to set a particular pace and these kind of Road Hogs screw it all up. Remember, it’s not where you start, but where you finish.

You are a Road Hog if you suddenly stop, while in a large pack of runners, to tie your shoes. I’ve seen this happen before. This is the equivalent of someone suddenly stopping his or her car in the middle of a freeway. A pileup is likely to happen.

You are a Road Hog if you don’t turn in your finish card after the race. This truly can be a race director’s nightmare. The folks most guilty of this action are those late finishers. They think, “I didn’t place in my age group, so no use turning in my finish card.” These must be the same folks who don’t vote because they do not think they’ll make a difference. All I can say is you never know. I usually hear someone at just about every road race I’ve run exclaim, “I didn’t think I was going to place in my age group!” If you’re that disgusted with your finish, perhaps you should not go through the finish chute next time.

You are a Road Hog if you walk back through the chute after finishing your race to see your finish time. I’ve seen this happen! Most runners may not understand that the clock at the finish line likely is not accurate. Treat the finish chute like a one-way street. If there is a clock at the finish line, it’s YOUR responsibility to look at it when you finish to get an idea of your finish time until official results are posted. And don’t ask for your finish time, either. The finish crew is doing their best to record times of everyone. If you’re that concern with your time, run with a watch next time.

You are a Road Hog if you walk off with armfuls of post-race snacks after your race. This is downright tacky. It’s one thing if race officials give you the okay after EVERYONE has finished and had an opportunity at the post-race spread. I remember a time when post-race food was a treat. Now it’s pretty commonplace and some runners take advantage of the situation. One or two bananas are one thing, but a box? You’re not there to stock your home pantry!

Well, that’s a start. If you have any you’d like to add to our “You are a Road Hog….”, send them on to Scott. Meantime, continue to being the friendly, caring and appreciative folks I’ve come to know.