Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Running Courtesies

The other night, DJ Research and I were having a conversation about running courtesies: what courtesies we extend to other runners/pedestrians and what courtesies we expect in return.  We categorized these actions as courtesies rather than as etiquette because they are essentially polite behavior exercised (pun intended!) while running, whereas etiquette would be generally expected behavior practiced by the running community at large.

We run mostly on the sidewalks of our neighborhood, so we encounter a fair amount of like-minded perambulatory types: couples walking their dog, moms walking with their daughters, women and/or men taking a stroll, and of course, runners.  I always wave hello because...well...thats important to me: we're both out getting some exercise in our own way - let's at least say "Hi."

DJ Research is not the friendly type when he runs.  He gets in his zone, and he stays there.  If you say hi, he'll say hi, but he's not going to be the one to initiate the interaction.

"You don't say hello when you run?" I asked incredulously, "You don't acknowledge them in any way?"  Thats so bizarre to me.  I get slightly annoyed if someone out for a stroll or walking their dog does not return my greeting, but I get particularly annoyed if its a runner that just ignores me.  I mean, c'mon buddy.  We're in this together.  We need to either celebrate that we're out running or we need to commiserate that we're out running.  It'll take .02 seconds.  All I'm asking for a slight nod.

In my book, DJ Research was committing a serious running faux pas.

Least intimidating judge ever. (src)

Incidentally, the above image was found on blog that discusses the above topic...and sides with me. ;)

Then I admitted that I don't run off the sidewalk and onto the grass when a walker or another runner is approaching me.  If there is a biker coming towards me or someone walking their dog, then yes, I will get off the sidewalk and allow them the entire path (though most of the time the biker is on the road and the dog-walker graciously pulls off the sidewalk first).  But if its just walker, even if its a couple, or another runner, I stay on the sidewalk.  I didn't even cross my mind that I should run on the grass because, frankly, I think the sidewalk is big enough for both of us.

DJ Research, on the other had, always runs off the sidewalk and onto the grass when he passes walkers and other runners.  He thinks its a common courtesy because, frankly, he doesn't think the sidewalk is big enough for both himself and the approaching party.

In his book, I was committing a serious running faux pas.

Unrelated, but good general advice.  Though "Naked Flames"
would be an awesome name for a band. (src)

Which got me thinking, are there generally accepted running courtesies?  Or are we just making these up and unfairly projecting our expectations on others? (sounds like I've been watching Dr. Phil, doesn't it?  I haven't.  Is he even still around?)

Now there is such a thing as running etiquette - behavior that is generally expected practice by the running community.  This list of running etiquette is from the Road Runners Club of America website:

  1. Run against traffic if running on the road. If running on the sidewalk or multi-use trails, travel on the right and pass on the left.
  2. Never run more than two abreast if you are running in a group. Don’t be a road or trail hog.
  3. Don’t run down the middle of the road or trail.
  4. If you are running an out-and-back route, don’t just make a sudden u-turn at your turn around point. Stop, step to the right to allow oncoming traffic the opportunity to pass. Ensure the road or trail is clear of oncoming traffic (runners, cyclists, in-line skaters, etc.) then make your u-turn. Making a sudden u-turn without looking over your shoulder is a good way to get hit.
  5. Alert pedestrians when you are passing them – don’t assume they are aware of their surroundings. A simple “on your left” warning will suffice.
  6. Be alert on blind curves.
  7. Stop at stop signs and ensure oncoming traffic yields to you before proceeding across a road. Don’t assume cars will stop if you are entering a cross walk.
  8. Respect private property along your route. Don’t relieve yourself in the neighbor’s bushes.
  9. Don’t litter. If you can’t find a trash can, carry your trash home.

Apparently, this is a no-no.  Wish I had known that yesterday.

But as far as running courtesies--that is, polite behavior practiced while running--is there expected or accepted practice, or do we just make it up as we go?

What running courtesies do you practice? What running courtesies do you feel other runners should exercise more?



  1. I'm with you on the saying hi. I try not to take offense when people don't even look at me, but I almost always make an effort at a greeting. The only exception is when I'm descending on a trail. I try to focus on my footing since I fall so easily. How embarrassing would it be if I said hello and proceeded to eat dirt right after! (Which has happened before... Awkward!)

    1. You make an excellent point! For the record, I am as clumsy as they come, and it looks like my son has inherited this same graceful quality. Yay genes!

  2. Wait a second... I say hi to lots of people! I just think that some people don't *want* to be said hi to. If they are clearly avoiding contact, I'm not going to force them to acknowledge me. It wouldn't be very courteous!

    1. True dat. I agree that if someone clearly does not want to be social, its probably more courteous to leave them to their day.

      Although, if they're having a bad day, shouldn't we really be giving them a hug? :) #hug-a-day!

  3. I side with DJ Research on the wave thing. I will respond to your wave or hello if you give me enough time to do so, and I'll say hi and wave to people I know. I'll even slap the hands of tourists who stick them out with that intent when I'm on a long as I have enough time to do so.

    But, yesterday during a 6-mile run, I must have crossed paths with at least 30 other runners and countless pedestrians all out before 9am — it was an awesome day weather-wise in DC — and there's no way I'm going to wave to/interact with that many people. There's also no way I'm going to wave to the tourists who are taking up the entire sidewalk, walking 5 abreast, oblivious that someone other than them is using the sidewalk.

    If I'm running in a small town, I'll wave to the runners because usually I'll only come across a few.

    1. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for commenting! I totally see your point. I usually only come across a handful of runners and pedestrians when I'm out for a run. If I was running somewhere with much more sidewalk traffic, I'd probably be very conservative with my greetings; otherwise just saying hello may be as exhausting as my run!

      That said, I really do enjoy receiving a wave or acknowledgement from other runners. Gets me motivated for some reason!

      Thanks again for commenting! Hows training going? The race seems so far away, doesn't it? But we'll be at our starting lines before we know it!

    2. I agree, I do appreciate the waves/acknowledgement. Four instances that stick in my head were a cyclist once telling me to have a good run while I waited for a light to change, a cyclist yelling "great job!" as I ran up a hill (aka, parkway on ramp), a construction worker calling "Go girl!", and the shoeshine guy calling out, "Go shortie!" Okay, 5th instance, hot guy running toward me and giving me a wave. :)

      Still building base miles, but you're right, race day is right around the corner! Yikes.

  4. I donʻt run myself, but I do go walking in the mornings with my BFʻs dad and I enjoy telling people hi when they pass by. I also get somewhat annoyed when someone doesnʻt make eye contact and acknowledge me when going by, though I do make exceptions for the following:
    - Runners who look like they are seriously concentrating on their run
    - Old people who no longer care about what anyone thinks
    - Tourists who are lost

    But since I go walking around a park and its public domain, I think itʻs common courtesy to be ready to greet whomever passes.

    I do move onto the side for runners, strollers, bikers...actually just seems natural to do so. Though I also have exceptions for this...and its mostly construction workers who are on a smoke break.