The Unwritten Rules of Running

Like most sports, running has a lot of unwritten rules, things you may not learn about until you’ve been running for a while, and somebody tells you, yeah, don’t do that. That’s because you shouldn’t do this because there’s that thing.

Like most sports, running has a lot of unwritten rules, things you may not learn about until you’ve been running for a while, and somebody tells you, yeah, don’t do that. That’s because you shouldn’t do this because there’s that thing. So, there’s a whole series of unwritten rules I’ve learned over my 20 years of running, and that’s what we’re going to cover today.

If you haven’t been with me here before, you don’t know who I am. I’m Jesse Funk. And this is a show I call Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running, including today’s topic, the unwritten rules of running. Now, these are things I’ve picked up over the last 20 years of running, both in school, with teams, by myself, clinics, all kinds of different places. But these are things that aren’t necessarily, like I said, written down anywhere where it’s like, this is the codified rules running. It’s not like that.

So, these are things, in some sense, they’re going to be superstitions and others are going to be like etiquette. But there’s a lot to get through. And I’ve tried to keep track so I can get through all the ones that I can remember by putting them down on my phone. So, if I refer down to my phone, I’m going to look down, so sorry about that, not looking at you. But I want to make sure that we try to get all the things out of my brain and I don’t forget them as I’m recording. So, let’s get on to the first one.

Number one is pretty simple. When you’re coming up on somebody, whether it is on the trail or on the track or whatever, racing aside, I guess but if you’re out for a long run, so maybe you’re not on the track. But in any case, when you come up on somebody pass or fall back, don’t just sit behind somebody. Now, if you’re training with a group, and you have a pacer or you are the pacer, then you’re used to having somebody sit behind you or sitting behind somebody and that’s a different scenario. In this scenario I’m talking about, you’re coming up on a stranger and you don’t just want to sit behind them. You either want to pass them or give enough space, so they’re not listening to you breathe right behind them. It’s creepy, it’s annoying.

And the addendum to this one is, especially if me, as a man, or you maybe as a man or another woman, I don’t really know. But if you come up on a woman on the trail and she’s running, she just wants to run. She doesn’t want to talk to you. She doesn’t need a ride somewhere if you’re driving by and see her. And give plenty of room. Women deal with a lot of, for a lack of better term, bullshit, excuse the French, that we don’t have to deal with as men. So, give them space so they’re not going to have to worry about you being some weirdo that’s going to bother them or whatever. So, that’s the addendum to that one. And that, again, is etiquette. So, let’s get on to number two.

Number two, and this is one I learned not -- well early on, and then end up having a practice because I’ve got allergies. If you need to blow snot rocket or hock a loogie, move off to the side, you don’t want to try to inadvertently hit somebody in your group with those particular bodily fluids. Now, I’ve mentioned in other videos that because I have these such terrible allergies, and I didn’t really know how to resolve it in college, that I was -- I hock loogies all the time because I have so much sinus drainage year-round, particularly when the weather changes.

So, my teammates, lovingly, because they’re great, would always say if they got accidentally hit with one of my loogies, then it would be a little bit of speed for them. It’s like magical powers. So, I appreciate their humor. But in general, you want to avoid hitting your teammates, your friends for group run with snot or loogies. So, that’s number two. Let’s get on to the next one.

Number three, and I’m sorry, ladies, I’m going to pick on you but I see doing this more often than I see men doing it and that is do not run the width of the sidewalk, the trail the road of people. So, if you’re running three, four, five people wide, stop it. You can have a conversation if you’re running too wide even if you’re four deep, you know, switch spots, whatever you need to do. But frankly, it’s rude. It’s rude when people can’t pass you because you’ve got a phalanx of women, often, sometimes I see men doing this, but it’s because your social.

You want to talk, I get it, I understand. But there’s that etiquette part, that unwritten rule running of when you do this, then you have this blockade of people coming down the trail or the road or the sidewalk and people can’t get around you. So, it’s just not a good thing. Not to pick on women in particular, it’s just my experience, I’ve seen them do this more often. So, please, don’t do that.

Number four is a little less etiquette and a little more, not quite inside joke, but some kind of inside track. And that is, if you’ve got a hat, and you’ve got gloves, then you’re going to be warm. It doesn’t matter what else you’re wearing, if you’ve got those things, you’re good to go. Now, obviously, there’s a little bit of exaggeration to this, you can’t go run sub zero temperatures with just a hat and gloves. But usually, there’s a comfort level associated with if I put my hat and I put my gloves on, then those are going to be the things that keep me warm, because when your hands are cold, you don’t want to run, you feel more cold. And then keeping your head warm is important because your brain is operating what the rest of your body is doing. So, there’s an unwritten rule, if you got your gloves, got your hat, you’re good to go.

Five, this is real quick, but as a practice, go to the bathroom before you run, even if you don’t feel like it. Six, the wave or the nod if you’re passing another runner in the opposite direction, just a little head nod, little wave, something to acknowledge them. It happens pretty much all the time. This happens with cyclists too, it’s really common. The exception to this one is at racing, you don’t do this. And then if there’s so many people around, you also don’t do this because it becomes tiring. It’s just like, yes, we’re all out here, we know. But it’s like, if you’re out on a trail, you’re out running, and there’s just you and one other person very sparsely, there’s like nobody else out, there’s kind of an acknowledgement like, hey, we’re out here, we’re doing it, I see you.

Seven, is it seven, I don’t know. I’ve lost track. This one’s maybe more of a pet peeve of mine, but don’t run with a speaker. It’s really annoying. Again, etiquette, just paying attention to other people, run with headphones, perfectly fine. I’m not a big fan of running with music in any scenario, but if you’re going to do it, please don’t share it with me. Keep it to yourself, and then you’re fine. The other thing you want to watch out for is if you’re on roads, there is a safety concern. If you have headphones, you can’t hear what’s going on with traffic. It’s especially true with cyclists but a little less so with runners, but still important. But yeah, don’t need to share whatever podcast or music or jam you’re listening to, just jam on your own, enjoy your run and let it be from that.

Number eight, if you’re at the track, stay out of lane one unless you’re doing speed work. The addendum to this is if you are the fastest person on the track, you get the inside track. So, consequently, if you’re slower, move outwards. So, if you hear somebody behind you, move outwards. The exception to this is a lot of people don’t know this rule. So, often, if I’m at the track and there are other people on the track and they’re running in lane one, they’re simply not aware. I tend to just not say anything because if I say something I don’t know whether they’re going to move to the left, if they’re going to move to the right, if they’re going to try to slow down. So, I just go around them. So, it depends on which position you’re in, whether you’re the passing or the passe.

But generally, if somebody yells at you, move to the right out to lane two, lane three, whatever it is, give them room. Otherwise, I guess don’t worry about it, because they’re going to go around you. But generally, if you’re not doing speed work, you’re just running laps, go to the outside lanes. You can look up online and see what the extra mileage is for those particular lanes because you’ll add mileage. It’s not 400 unless it’s the inside. But that will help you figure out, hey, I need to start here or this is how much I’m going to do if that’s what you want to do on the track.

Last but not least, a little bit of superstition for you, never cross the finish line until the end of the race. When you go to a race, or at least when we went to races, often you’re going to be practicing the course or previewing the course as a warm up before you actually run the race. So you’re familiar with at least part of the course depending on how long your race is. If you’re running a marathon obviously you’re not running the entire marathon.

But if you’re running a 5K, it’s much easier to do that distance for a warm up before you do the race. And there’s just a superstition, basically, don’t go across the finish line. You can run up to the finish line, but don’t cross the finish line. Will anything happen to you? Probably not. But it is one of those unwritten rules of running that you just don’t do this.

Along with this, I’ve heard the superstition that you don’t wear the race shirt at the race. Plenty of people do this. But supposedly it’s bad luck. I’ve never had the inclination because I wear a singlet, but to each their own. Are there other unwritten rules of running I’ve missed? I’m absolutely sure that there are. So, what can you think of that I didn’t cover in this video? Leave them down in the comments below. Share with me your unwritten rules of running, and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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