The marathon season is peaking with big races coming thick and fast. The Chennai Marathon was held last week, the Tata Mumbai Marathon is just around the corner, and big races in New Delhi and other cities are all set to follow. With multiple race days fast approaching, it is natural to be preoccupied with race strategy, nutrition, tapering and looking back at how your training has been.
However, in between all this it is also important to remember this is a mass participation race and, as with any big event with other people, there is common decency and etiquettes that one must follow. You need to ensure that you and other runners also have an enjoyable race day experience.
“We should prioritise a citizen-first mindset above all else. Our actions collectively contribute to the sea of humanity of more than 50,000 runners on race day. The way we conduct ourselves, our responsibilities, priorities, etiquettes, and attitudes all shape the essence of running events,” says Bengaluru-based runner Arun Nair. Here are the 10 commandments of running etiquette on race day.
Be on time, follow instructions: Race day is usually all about time for most runners. People chase time targets and personal records on race days. The best way to start is getting to the start line well in time. “Arrive early to the start line holding areas. Also, follow the signs and instructions from volunteers, especially if the race starts and finishes at different locations,” says Taher Merchant, an ultramarathoner from Bengaluru, who has completed the Mt. Everest Ultra among other gruelling races. On time is already late.
Be polite and kind: Yes, race day is all about you. But it won’t be possible without the hundreds of volunteers and organisers who make sure you have a smooth race, or the thousands of people who show up early morning to cheer you and other runners on. “Yes, we get up at 4 am and we are doing this for ourselves, but in Mumbai, lots of spectators come out to encourage you. They are just doing it for you, to cheer you on. They get up early too, they stand there with food and chocolates and cookies and everything… for you. So, how much ever you are struggling, smile at them, wave back at them,” says Chennai-based Dr. Erika Patel, a Combrades finisher and pacer at the Tata Mumbai Marathon. Don’t forget the volunteers and organisers. “Say thank you and give a high five to the volunteers. They sacrifice their time to come out on the streets and support your race,” adds Merchant.
Never stop suddenly: Whether you want to stop to catch your breath or switch to walking, never stop suddenly during a race, says Samson Sequeira, a running coach in Mumbai. “This will cause a collision with the runners behind you. Always slow down gradually and meander away from the racing line to take your pit stop or walk break,” says Sequeira. Also, look around you and raise your hand to alert other runners that you are stopping or slowing down. Chennai-based runner Sridhar Rajamohan suggests sticking to the left of the track whenever slowing down or walking and letting faster runners pass on the right.
Use bins and toilets: All race routes have plenty of waste bins for runners to dispose of their bottles, glasses and wrappers. Use them. Littering on the race route endangers other runners, warns Sequeira. Nair is particularly irked by the number of runners who tend to take a pee break just about anywhere along the race route. “This is unacceptable behaviour and this practice needs to be eradicated,” insists Nair. There are plenty of porta potties installed along the race route at all races, so use them.
Don’t hog the hydration station: Don't crowd the aid stations. There are thousands of runners besides you who need to hydrate and get nutritional supplements at these aid stations. “So, just pick up your bottles and keep running,” says Patel.
Do not push and shove: As running becomes more popular and people chase records and targets, there have been increasing incidents of pushing and shoving at the start line. This is neither in the spirit of the sport nor civil behaviour. Such aggression could easily lead to stampedes and endanger the lives of runners. Just don’t do it.
Do not inconvenience others while taking pictures: Posting on social media and sending a mid-race selfie is pretty much the norm nowadays. But remember there are many who are here just for the run. Tata Mumbai Marathon pacer Vijay Ragwan requests runners to be conscious of this and not crowd the track by stopping or slowing to take pictures or talking on the phone.
Don’t blast music on your phone: Another mobile related grouse that many runners have complained of is that many blast music on their phone speakers. If you need music to run, carry headphones. You don’t have to subject others to your music that too at a time when they are pushing you pain and endurance barriers. No one needs an unwanted DJ mid-race.
Keep moving past the finish line: Crowding the finish line could potentially lead to a stampede as all runners, fast and slow, have to pass through. “Our primary focus should remain on continuously moving forward once we cross the finish line until we reach the medal collection area and this adherence is paramount,” says Merchant.
Never compare timings: There is plenty of competition at work and life. But running a race is about personal achievement and enjoying oneself. Be content with your performance or reflect and analyse it if you aren’t happy. But do not do the disservice of comparing your performance with others’ timings. Barring a handful on the podium, everyone gets the same medal.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.