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There is no better way to spend a Saturday morning than running a race. Race day allows you to put your training into action. There is a lot of energy around races and I enjoy the interaction between runners, spectators and race sponsors.

Occasionally, poor runner’s etiquette can get in the way of having a good race day experience. Here are a few helpful tips, whether you’ve never run a race before or are a seasoned runner.

Rules of the Road

Before the Race:

  • Arrive early, especially if you want to use the restroom before the start.  Don’t push yourself to the front of the bathroom line. Everyone starts the race at the same time, so no one wants to let you cut in line.

  • Think of the race environment when dressing for the race. Dress comfortably, but think of your audience. Be a role model for those watching you.
  • Pin your bib low on the front of your shirt, do this in advance. Avoid scrambling for safety pins or needing to ask for help.

Starting Line:

  • If you plan on walking or casually running with a stroller, line up towards the back of the race. Allow faster runners to go ahead of you, they may be trying to PR.
  • Avoid blaring your headset music at the beginning of the race, allow runners to listen to race start instructions.
  • Feel free to chat with nearby runners (only if they are interested) and find people to pace with. If you do pace them, stay at least two steps behind or in front of them.

During the Race:

  • Signal when stopping for water or bathroom breaks and when moving left to right.
  • When grabbing water or Gatorade throw your cup as close to the garbage as possible. This is helpful for volunteers who clean up after the race.
  • If you drop something while running, let it go. It can be challenging for other runners and you if you are running backward into traffic.
  • Try not to run more than two people wide, it can be difficult for runners to pass groups of three or four people wide.
  • We’ve all had to spit or experience other bodily functions during a race. Be polite and make sure no one is behind you.  
  • Avoid talking on your cell phone during a race. If you need to take a call, get off to the side.
  • Thank police officers and volunteers. It takes one breathe to stay thank you. Smile at fans and give high-fives.
  • It’s ok to pace runners and then try to pass them near the end of the race.  But as you approach, call out left or right and don’t cut them off.

Finish Line:

  • When crossing the finish line, don’t stop. Keep walking to clear room for other runners.  
  • Have a plan to meet family and friends; it can be difficult to find each other post-race.
  • Be thoughtful not to take more bananas, Gatorade, water and muffins then you need. The finish line is not your chance to stock up on groceries for the week. 

It may seem unbelievable, but everything on the list above I’ve personally experienced during a race. Follow the tips above to ensure a more enjoyable race experience and a great Saturday morning, for all runners.

Aaron Hewitt, PA-C is a physician assistant with the OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine Center. He is a former assistant athletic trainer with the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) and is an orthopedic provider for UNC-Charlotte and Myers Park High School. He also is a physician assistant manager for OrthoCarolina's PA department and a clinical and surgical preceptor for Physician and Physician Assistant Students. In his free time, Aaron is an avid marathoner, CrossFitter, and yogi and serves as an ambassador for lululemon®.

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