Running etiquette: the 10 commandments

Running is all about freedom, right? It’s about escaping the daily grind, releasing those dormant endorphins and generally sticking it to the man while celebrating what it really means to be gloriously, breathlessly, chest-pumpingly alive, right?

Well, yes and no. Freedom is all well and good, but what if you’re irritating other people – or perhaps other runners – while you’re enjoying it? It’s at such times that a guide to running etiquette comes in handy. So take note of these simple points – and let us know your own commandments below. And the next time you’re out running, remember: freedom is much more fun with a few rules thrown in.

1 Thou shalt nod hello

If you see someone running towards you, as long as they haven’t recently committed a robbery or escaped from prison, nod a quick hello. Enjoy a fleeting moment of shared humanity. Acknowledge each other’s travails. Cyclists manage it without any bother, but in many places runners respond to a smile with an irritated frown, or by pretending not to notice. Come on people, share a little love. What’s the harm?

2 Thou shalt commute considerately

Running to somewhere makes a lot of sense, but it also brings with it certain responsibilities. Running to a place that has a shower is obviously fine. Things get trickier if you run to public transport, where the only reasonable thing to do is to stand by the doors, silently sweating and looking longingly at the seats, rather than ruining someone else’s journey by actually sitting in one of them. And as for the man I once saw run to a barber’s and ask for his dripping, shoulder-length mane to be cut while soaking the chair with fresh backsweat, that’s a definite no-no.

3 Thou shalt not flaunt your phlegm

It’s not big. It’s not clever. But sometimes when you’re out for a run, you do need to clear your nose. If you’re somewhere rural and remote, it’s not an issue. Free your phlegm with the frequency of a footballer. Otherwise, ask yourself one simple question: “Will anyone see me do this?” If the answer is yes, ideally wait until you’re out of sight. Or if that’s really not an option, just look utterly ashamed and put on a face that says: “I would never usually do this, but it’s an unfortunate symptom of my current heavy cold.” Follow this performance by feigning a sneeze and shaking your head, then you’re in the clear.

4 Thou shalt share the path

Running two or three abreast on a busy path is the equivalent of sitting in the middle lane on a motorway. Do it mindlessly and you’ll irritate people, get sworn at and have no one but yourself to blame if you end up getting undertaken/pushed into a canal.

5 Thou shalt dress with dignity

Gentlemen: if, on a sunny day, you should ever be tempted to go running without a shirt on, please think again. This isn’t Venice Beach and you’re not Matthew McConaughey. It’s an inner-city towpath and you’ve got a fly stuck in your backhair.

6 Though shalt not litter

Don’t do it, seriously. Look around you – it’s lovely here. So put that energy gel wrapper back in your pocket, or just use some of the gel that’s now smeared around your mouth to stick it to your face until you get home.

7 Thou shalt be realistic on race day

You’ve all seen him. The man (it’s always a man) who lines up suicidally close to the front of the pack, canters off at a rate he has no hope of sustaining and ends up walking, hands on hips, before the race is half-done, having been shunted out of the way by hundreds of more honest athletes with elbows as sharp as their legs are thin. Don’t be that man.

8 Thou shalt have a bit of common sense

At the risk of sounding like a public information film, do you really think it makes sense to turn up music so loud that you can’t hear cars? Or to run around blind corners in the direction of traffic? Or to sprint across the road in front of a car because you don’t want to interrupt your threshold session? Do you? Really?

9 Thou shalt say thank you to marshals

Across the land, race marshals get up before dawn on Sunday mornings to stand for hours on rainy street corners and stop you from getting lost. If you’re not already saying thanks to these plastic cup-wielding, tabard-wearing saints, you might want to ask yourself a few questions.

10 Thou shalt not take yourself too seriously

Make no bones about it, you have an irrational hobby. You frequently exert considerable effort, perhaps for several hours, in order to undertake a needless journey that finishes back where you began. Look at it like that and you might think twice the next time you’re tempted to break one of the highly scientific rules above. It’s a silly thing, this sport we love. Why make yourself look any sillier than you need to while you’re doing it?

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