For many of us, running is about freedom and escaping the routines of everyday life. However, it’s important to bear in mind some basic running etiquette and running rules to make sure you’re keeping the experience fun for everyone and that you’re staying safe.
Most running etiquette is generally based on these two aspects. However, it can be confusing sometimes knowing the right thing to do in a certain situation, so here are some concrete running rules to keep you on the right side of the track!
We’ve broken it down into a set of 13 general running rules, as well as some specifics for if you’re running on a track or in a race.
Let’s jump straight in!
#1: stick to the right side of the pavement or Track
By sticking to one side, it makes it much easier for people to pass you. Think about it – it’s a whole lot easier to pass someone when they’re clearly keeping to one side of the path.
Furthermore, if you’re running towards someone who’s coming in the opposite direction, it’s a lot more reassuring for them if they know which side you’re coming on, therefore you can easily and politely pass each other.
It’s probably best to run on whichever side of the road they drive on in your country, as this can be understood by everyone. There’s a good chance you’ve already seen people doing this out and about.
The most important thing is to try not to run in the middle when you’re sharing the space with other people, as this makes it confusing for everyone you come across. Even if the path seems empty, it’s best to stick to this one side just to be sure, especially if you’re running with headphones on or tend to zone out when you’re on the move.
#2: avoid having headphones too loud (I.e. stay aware!)
Listening to music or podcasts can be a great way to keep running enjoyable and can actually help improve your performance in some situations. However, by making sure to keep your headphones at a reasonable volume, you can stay aware of your surroundings.
Don’t have your music so loud that you can’t hear someone coming up behind you or asking you to move to the side so they can pass. Plus, this saves you from jumping out of your skin when someone zooms past you and you weren’t even aware there was anyone there!
#3: give someone a warning before you pass them
If you find yourself coming up behind someone, give them a bit of warning before you come past. This is particularly relevant in a situation where you’re approaching someone who is listening to music or perhaps is elderly and not quite as aware of their surroundings. You don’t want to come hurtling past and send them spinning.
A good practice is to say ‘on your left’ if you’re passing someone to their left, or vice versa. This way, other runners who hear you approaching will know which side you’re coming on, and you avoid any awkward ‘this way/that way’ stepping from side to side or making someone jump.
#4: don’t pass someone if there isn’t enough room (be patient!)
This one should be obvious, but don’t try to pass someone if there isn’t enough room! On a narrow trail, it can be easy to trip.
As per the previous rule, this can be further avoided by warning someone if you’re approaching, and you’ll often find they’ll open up a bit of space to let you pass.
Furthermore, in these times of COVID, it’s probably not best (nor respectful) to be squeezing past someone whilst you’re panting away.
#5: Look around before suddenly lurching or stopping
If you do decide to listen to music or just become lost in your thoughts, try to avoid quick sudden movements across the path or suddenly stopping, especially if it’s a trail or walkway that’s shared with cyclists!
#6: Be spatially aware when running with a partner
It’s easy to be lost in conversation if you’re running with a partner, however, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and not blocking the trail or path for others behind you.
Similarly, if you’re running towards someone side by side and the trail isn’t massive, then run single file whilst you pass so no one ends up in the bushes!
#7: don’t leave your running partner in the dust
Running with a partner isn’t an excuse to show off! Make sure you’re aware of their progress and that they’re not struggling to keep up.
#8: Be nice!
Whilst perhaps less of a running rule, and more of general courtesy, it’s nice to give a nod of recognition to fellow runners who you pass, as well as pedestrians. Above all else, don’t leave someone in the dark and ignore them if they nod or smile at you!
Keeping a little humanity and warmth on the trails makes it a better place for us all.
#9: Avoid running on roads where you can
For your own safety and for the peace of mind of road users, always try to run on the pavement or on paths and trails wherever you can. However, this might not always be possible, which brings us to rule #10
#10: if running on the road, run in the direction of oncoming traffic
If you’re running on or next to a road, make sure to run on the side of the traffic coming towards you. Whilst running head-on towards traffic might seem counter-intuitive to some, in reality, it means you can see exactly what’s coming towards you. Similarly to if you’re running on a path or track, the most important thing is to not run in the middle.
#11: Use crossings and intersections safely
Again, hopefully, you should be already doing this in your day-to-day life, however, it’s easy to become lost in the moment when you’re out on a run and your main focus is powering forward.
Make sure to look both ways at crossings or junctions, whether it be on a road, pavement, or an intersection between trails (whilst a collision between two runners probably won’t be fatal, it’s far from ideal…)
#12: never leave trash
This one goes without saying; never throw away trash out on a run. This is especially important considering the fact that so many of us run in beautiful natural locations and parks, where a bit of rubbish can easily ruin the space for everyone.
#13: Keep Your Dog In Check
It can be amazing fun to run with a furry companion, however, if you’re running with a dog, make sure to keep it close and don’t let it run wild in front of others. The last thing a fellow walker or runner wants is a muddy or wet dog running up to them a full speed, and some can find it quite intimidating.
5 Bonus Running rules for The Track
Whilst the general running rules still apply here, there are a few extra things to remember when running on a track.
- #1: Ensure that you’re running the right way around the track (usually counter clockwise)
- #2: Don’t suddenly stop or stand about on the track – move to the edge if you need to stop
- #3: Use the outside lane if you’re slower (only use the innermost lane for sprinting)
- #5: Keep an eye out for any posted rules as you enter the track (some tracks might have their own specific running etiquette or guidelines)
7 Bonus Running Rules for Race Day
Whilst race day can be intimidating for many, here are a few general guidelines and running rules to keep the experience fun and flowing smoothly for you and those around you.
- #1: Pay attention to the specific race instructions.
- #2: Allow faster runners to take the lead. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to keep up at the front if there’s no way you’re going to be able to sustain it.
- #3: Line up in the correct place.
- #4: Similarly to when you’re on the track, if you need to stop, move to the side.
- #5: Keep the flow moving at water stops and after you’ve crossed the finish line. Again this is common courtesy about being aware of your surrounding and not getting in the way of fellow racers
- #6: Appreciate and show respect the to volunteers and workers who make it all possible!
- #7: Don’t cheat. I don’t think we need to even explain why you shouldn’t do this one (even if it is just a little course cut…)
In conclusion, the running rules listed here aren’t rocket science and mostly revolve around looking after yourself when you’re on the move, as well as looking out for others along the way and being respectful. All things which hopefully you’re already practicing in your daily life.
At the end of the day, running is about having fun, and bearing in mind some basic running etiquette whilst doing so keeps the running environment a positive place for everyone.
If you’re looking for a bit more specific guidance on track running or what to do on race day, we’ve got you covered:
The Complete Track Running Guide: Best Track Workouts For Runners
Start Line Checklist: Everything you need to bring for your big race!
1 thought on “Running Rules: The 13 Unspoken Rules + Proper Running Etiquette”
#10 – oncoming traffic. This isn’t a great rule to stick to when running on rural roads with bends in them. If you stay on the outside of the curve, you can see (and be seen) a lot further away than if you’re hugging the verge on the inside of a bend.
I’ve seen people nearly get wiped out by sticking to the ‘oncoming traffic’ rule when cars coming round the bend can only see them 20 feet away. By simply running on the outside of the bend, they can be seen 100 ft or more away.