Runners Guide to Road Etiquette


Runners are generally polite people, so it is no surprise that there is actually an established system of road etiquette for runners. Although we typically think of our sport as one of solitude, we must all share the road – and not just with other runners. There are ways of maintaining politeness on the road for other runners, pedestrians, drivers and the road itself.

Etiquette for Fellow Runners

Whether you train alone, with a partner or in a group, there are rules for the road. If you are running alone, don’t try to chat up every runner you come across. There is nothing more annoying than someone trying to find a road dog while you are trying to get in a good workout. A polite nod or smile is fine, but most contact beyond that is generally seen as an intrusion.

If you are running with a group, a little chit chat may be appropriate. However, save the long winded conversations for the coffee house. If you are able to carry on a full conversation during your run, you probably are not pushing yourself too hard. Another important tip for group running is to make sure that you are staying on pace with the group. Do not expect everyone to stop while you tie a shoe or peel off some layers of clothing – that stuff should be handled while you are moving, or else make sure that you can catch up.

If you run with a partner, choose someone who runs on your level. Don’t expect your friends who run faster (or slower) to keep up with you. Also, don’t be a volunteer coach. If they run slower, they may not welcome unsolicited advice. It also does not mean that you have more knowledge as a runner just because you have a faster pace.

Etiquette for Non-Runners

If you are sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists or drivers, there are rules that keep you both safe and polite. Obvious tips include avoiding traffic and bike lanes as much as possible. If you must run on the asphalt (which provides a better cushion than the sidewalk), at least run against traffic and off to the side. Do not keep your headphones on full blast so that you can’t hear oncoming drivers or cyclists, and always give them the right of way.

If you are running with a group, make sure that you run single file through areas where space is tight. The only thing worse than a road hog is a whole pack of them. If you run with a partner, this may also apply where the road is tight and people are coming and going in both directions on the same slab of road.

On the Road

Basic tips for road etiquette also include respecting the road itself. In other words, do not litter! It is one thing in a race where sweepers are coming behind you to handle the mass pile of paper cups; but on a training run, it is just wrong to drop your trash. Runners are typically friendly to the planet, but there have been times that I have seen a gel packet or chew wrapper on the ground that I know one of my fellow sportsmen have left behind. Road etiquette matters for both people and the planet.