All Your Running Etiquette Questions — Answered

The gym has its own unique etiquette norms, meant to allow everyone who's sharing the space to work out with ease. From reracking your weights and wiping down equipment after your sets to using headphones, there are plenty of steps you might take as a common courtesy.

Similarly, running has its own set of unspoken rules. While gym etiquette strictly benefits fellow gym-goers, the public nature of road running requires consideration of walkers, bikers, and drivers in addition to other runners. As for race settings, even low-stakes fun runs have distinct dos and don'ts.

In a perfect world, an official guide to running etiquette would exist, which every runner would read and live by. No such document exists, but we came up with the next best thing, surveying runners to put together some general guidelines. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro who's curious about others' takes, here's a basic guide to running etiquette.

General Outdoor Running Etiquette

General Rules For Passing Other Runners

  • Several respondents specifically called out passing etiquette. The consensus: run as far to the right side of the path as possible, and pass others on the left. And when you're passing, give a quick, friendly warning. "A simple, 'On your left!' can alert others that you're passing, reducing the risk of an accident," says Angela Ficken, a psychotherapist and avid runner.
  • If you're the one being passed, keep your pace steady, and if the trail is narrow and busy in both directions, try to move over slightly to make room for the passer, if possible, suggests marathoner Jordan Duncan, a chiropractor and the owner Silverdale Sport & Spine.
  • When you're passing runners who are going in the opposite direction as you, it's considered polite to greet them. "Acknowledge other runners with a quick nod, smile, or wave. This can go a long way in fostering a friendly running community," Ficken says. The exception: if you live in a heavily populated urban area or use a busy trail or track, it's generally considered acceptable to drop the greeting.

General Rule For Being Aware of Your Surroundings

  • Everyone likes to zone out on a run, but make sure you're keeping tabs on things like traffic signals and signs, private property lines, and the flow of other runners. "You should make sure that your headphones are set up so that you can hear both the traffic signals and the background noise. For your own and other people's safety, you must do this whenever you are in a busy or urban place," says running coach George Yang, the founder of Yanre Fitness.

Group Running Etiquette

General Rule For Running Alongside a Buddy or 2

  • While it's tempting to run shoulder-to-shoulder with pals so you can chat during your run, leave space for others to pass. "Run two abreast or single file, particularly in busy areas, to allow others to pass safely," Ficken says.

General Rules For Running in a Large Group

  • As with when you're running with one or two friends, try to keep larger groups — like a running club or a pace group in a race — tight and organized, and always make sure you're leaving room for people to pass in both directions. Don't force oncoming runners to dive off the path to make way for you, even if you're trying to complete a speedwork interval.
  • Splitting a larger group into multiple small groups by pace can make life easier. This prevents anyone from feeling left out or like they have to keep up with someone who runs at a faster pace, Yang notes.

General Rule For Running With a Pet

  • "If you run with a dog, keep it on a short leash," Ficken says. "This is safer for your pet, yourself, and anyone who passes by, as it prevents tripping over the leash or the pet darting into someone's path."

Race Etiquette

General Rule For the Starting Line

  • Sometimes, starting lines are crowded and it can be tempting to sneak out of your assigned corral and move a little farther up so you can get moving sooner. Resist that urge. Corrals are assigned for a reason, and starting in the one that lines up with your pace will avoid congestion and help everyone have the best race possible, says Ficken, who's completed races from 10Ks to half-marathons.

General Rules For Water Stops

  • "Don't stop suddenly at water stations," Ficken warns. Instead, slow down to grab a drink, then down it while on the go; creasing the cup can help you avoid spilling. If you need to slow down or stop, move to the side of the course to avoid causing a pileup.
  • When you're done drinking, try to throw the cup in a trash can — or at least near it. This isn't necessarily common practice, and you'll see cups littered all over the course, but that can be a pain for race volunteers to clean up, and it can even be a tripping hazard for other runners. Duncan makes a point of throwing his cups in a trash can and says he's noticed his example often inspires other runners to follow suit.

General Rule For Time Questions

  • Some runners love to share their times, others don't. Keep that in mind when asking a runner friend about their race performance, or even their general running habits. "It is rude to ask another runner for details about their race times, or weekly miles or speed," Yang says. "A nice thing to ask someone is, 'How did the race go for you?' This gives people the freedom to say what they want without feeling like they have to share private information."

General Rule For Running Selfies

  • "When taking photos to capture a moment in a race, always be mindful of not blocking others or intruding on their personal space," Ficken says. That one should be an etiquette rule for daily life, not just on the course.

Renee Cherry is a POPSUGAR contributor who specializes in beauty and wellness. Her writing has appeared in Shape, Women's Health, Glamour, and Well+Good, among other publications.