How Many of These Running Etiquette Rules Do You Know?
Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, (the woman behind Etiquette, published in 1922 and numerous etiquette and advice columns) spends her days continuing her family legacy of writing about, talking about, and advising on etiquette. She’s written books on etiquette—including the recently published Higher Etiquette, and Emily Post’s Etiquette 19th edition—is copresident of the Emily Post Institute and cohost of the Awesome Etiquette podcast.
In her free time, Post is also a dedicated runner. She started running 10 years ago, using a couch to 5K app on her phone, and finished with a 5K she ran with her cousin. Since then, she gets out on the paths and trails in Burlington, Vermont, for regular runs.
“I covet my daily run,” she said.
So we asked Post to put her etiquette expertise to use to answer some of your most pressing running etiquette questions.
What is the proper way to pass a runner during a race?
Firstly, “you want to give people ample space” when passing them. In terms of alerting people, she said it depends on the situation.
“I can see calling out to let someone know, especially if you come up on someone and they’re on a trail where the runners are pretty spread out. But if you are running a race as part of a big group, you don’t need to call out.”
The main thing she emphasized: “Leaving plenty of room is really important, you want to think about that personal space bubble to really give someone some space especially when everyone is sweating and breathing hard.”
What about passing on a training run?
Post has personal experience with the side-of-the-path dilemma. She runs on a slanted running path in Burlington and wants to run down and back on the same side to even out her legs.
“If you are running the ‘wrong’ way down a path—on the right hand side—then anytime someone is coming toward you, you should do your best to move to the left,” she said. “You’re the person operating out of the standard, so you need to be the one to move over. I’ve had people yell at me when I was doing that, and I choose to ignore it and do what I can, say, ‘Sorry to inconvenience you’ and move on, because you have your reasons.”
When it comes to runners with strollers, she said both the stroller pusher and the people running around the stroller need to be trying their best to be out of the way. “The stroller is bigger, so for those pushing, you want to be in control, move around people if you need to and slow down if you need to,” she said. “For people moving around, give space.”
How to respond to someone asking about your pace/race times
“It’s up to you if you want to share your times,” Post replied. “If you don’t keep track, just say that. You can say, ‘I run about this, or my range is this.’”
If you do pay attention to your time but don’t want to share it, she advises not lying and saying you don’t keep track. “You could say, I never compare race notes or stats,” she suggested.
And she said to give someone the benefit of the doubt—they may be asking out of politeness, not competition. “I don’t always know why someone else is asking, if it’s to actively compare, or is it the thing to do, like asking how someone’s meal was,” she said.
But if it’s making you feel pressured to share, you need to “decide whether to brush this off, let someone know you don’t compare, or move into that territory of white lies,” she said.
How do you talk about running with someone who is injured?
“What it really comes down to is being aware of your [injured] friend,” Post said. “If talking about running is going to make them get excited about getting through PT, then talk about it. But if you sense they are frustrated, that they aren’t in a place where they can hear it, then back off. You have to read the room.”
But, she said, asking how someone is doing isn’t bad etiquette in her book.
“You can ask, ‘I know you hurt your hip last month, how are you doing?’” she said. “Then the other person can say, ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ or ‘I’m doing better.’”
She said we’ve gotten to a place in our society where we feel like even asking a question can be bad etiquette, and she wants to move away from that, to give the question answerer back their agency to say, “I don’t feel like talking about that.”
“We’ve made people question the question,” Post said. “When you’re inquiring about someone’s well-being, there’s no reason not to try to do that. Just trust the other person is strong enough and mature enough to say, ‘Boy, I really don’t want to talk about it.’”
When is it appropriate to drop someone on a run?
“I would ask, what’s the point of this run?” Post said. “Is it to encourage them to be out there? Then heck no, you’re not going to drop them. If you are trying push each other, then yeah I’ll drop someone because they have to work harder to keep up. If the point is to really get some exercise, I might say, ‘I need to push this up a notch, I’m going to forward if that’s okay.’”
And, she added, it’s always better to check in before you speed up than just “slow, in-person ghosting” as you fade into the distance.
How do you decline a run with someone who isn’t your pace?
“I’ve had this happen to me tons of times,” Post said. “A lot of people say, ‘I really like to run solo,’ ‘I’m not looking for running buddy right now,’ or ‘I’m super competitive so I don’t like to run with other people.’”
She said you can just answer honestly, saying something like, “I’m working hard on pacing so I’m doing solo runs right now.”
Expectations for chatting on the group run?
If you don’t want to talk, speak up about that, ha,” Post said. “It’s a good idea to say in advance, ‘I’m looking forward to zoning out, not engaging in conversation.’ A lot of people understand.”
In her own running life, Post struggles to keep up with a conversation, so she puts out the expectation at the start that she won’t be talking much, especially if part of a group or a friend you run with regularly.
As for the constant-talking runner, Post said she advises asking people during the run if it’s okay to talk.
“You can say, ‘Is my talking annoying,’ and that’s a chance for people to take you up on it,” she said. “Or you can just pause yourself, see if they pipe up, or if they say, tell me another story, quick.”
What should you do if someone is late to a group run?
“Establish in advance when you decide to meet that there will be this long a grace period, and then I’m starting the run. You can either catch up or not,” Post said. “Especially people who run in the morning can’t wait for someone else. But if you have a predetermined grace period and you leave, then if they can catch up, they can.”
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Should you greet other runners while out on a run?
“I’m such a fan of it, but I can also see how if you’re in a more runner-trafficked area it could get to be a bit much,” Post said. “If you make eye contact, then you can wave or smile, thumbs-up, gauge it the best you can.”
During a race, should you talk to other people? Also, should you offer words of encouragement to people you pass?
I personally think, if people are competing, let them be in their own zone,” Post said. “Let people on the sidelines do the cheering on.”
But, she said, some races are more for fun, so she can see more talking in that situation. As for encouraging people during a race, you could do it, but don’t be offended if people don’t acknowledge it.
“A race is a pressured environment, and you are really looking out for number one, so if someone is calling out or being encouraging, you don’t have to respond in any way shape or form, you run your race,” Post said. “I think people understand and respect that.”
What’s the correct running ettiquette when it comes to your bodily functions?
Farting — “If you can master the silent fart, that’s best,” Post said. “If you are making noise and it’s notable, saying excuse me and sorry is perfect.”
Snot rocketing — “Do it to the side, put one hand up over your nose as you’re doing it, disguise it as best you can.”
Spitting — “Also fine, just follow the rules of snot rocketing. It all needs to go off to the side, not in the direction of other people, and definitely look first,” she said. “And better in the grass than on the concrete path.”
This article originally appeared on runnersworld.com