10 Running Rules to Remember

1. Do Your Own Thing

Whether you're running or racing, go your own pace, in your own space. "It gets on my nerves when people sprint ahead, then stop and walk in front of me," says a high school harrier who goes by Sonic Runner online. "When you catch back up to them, they start sprinting." Conversely, ask before you match strides. A "partner" joined Tricia Lee of Flushing, New York, for the entire length of her very first race. "He kept bumping into me—for 13.1 miles."

What annoys me? Guys that can't handle being beat by girls and try to sprint by me at the end!" —Kelsey Scheitlin Tallahassee, Florida

2. Know Your Place

With 10.5 million people in races in 2007, starting lines get crowded, especially when ambitious (or impatient) runners and walkers start too far in front. "At the Disney marathon, there were some walkers four or five abreast, holding balloons and singing," says Stephan Pinchac of Jackson, New Jersey. "It was exhausting to get around them." If you find yourself slowing down, pull over to one side to let faster runners pass by.

3. Keep it Down

Sure, chatting helps pass the miles, but not everyone wants to eavesdrop. "I had to listen to three ladies discuss their bathroom schedules, and the impact of calcium on their you-know-what," says Margaret Vento-Wilson of Long Beach, California. Other irritants: too-loud iPods, slapping footfalls, jangling keys, and beeping heart-rate monitors. "I ran a 5K next to a guy who kept screaming, 'Hell, hell, hell,'" says Tom McKlin of Decatur, Georgia. "It was hell!"

4. Leash Your Best Friend

Bringing your pooch to road races is discouraged by most race directors, but many of your fellow competitors won't mind too much, as long as you keep your four-legged friend close. "At a crowded 8K last fall, a guy running with two dogs refused to tighten up their leashes, so they were constantly moving around and tripping people," says Gwyneth Shaw of Tucson. And no dog imitating, either, please. "A guy at the Lilac Bloomsday Run, in Spokane, Washington, barked like a dog for 7.46 miles," says John Hildebrand of Saint Regis, Montana.

5. Watch Your Step

There is a reason why aid stations are often on both sides of crowded race courses—so you don't have to cut people off to get to them. "One year at the Lilac Bloomsday, a young runner crossed right in front of me to get to one of the tables, forcing me to come to a near-abrupt stop," says Rod Steadman of Spokane. "After a sip or two, he did it again!" Doing a run-walk plan? "Pull over to the side so you don't hurt someone behind you," says Laresa McIntyre of Singer Island, Florida.

"To the guy at the Napa marathon who used his cell to let his friends know the view at mile 14 was great: Please hang up the phone!" —Ron Harvey Tracy, California

6. Aim Fluids Carefully

Yes, sometimes the fastest thing running is your nose. But please, focus on where you aim your snot rocket, or your spit. "One guy actually nailed me with a giant loogey during a training run on a path," says Wendy Shulik of Chicago. "I was behind him, unfortunately. I've also been splattered by spitters during many a race. So gross!" Also watch where you toss your half-finished cup of water. "I have never had blisters so huge, thanks to the butterfingers who poured a cupful down the back of my legs during the Miami Marathon," says Chris Sahs of Miami.

7. Don't Stink

"I once got stuck on a treadmill next to a person who reeked of smoke," says C.J. Epperson. Unpleasant odors carry outdoors, too. It should go without saying, but wear clean clothes and limit your use of personal products. "I ran the Chicago Marathon next to a guy who had slathered on smelly menthol stuff," says Pat Agnello of Brook Park, Ohio. "Phew-ee!" Runners tend to be forgiving of bodily functions, but there's a limit. "I ran behind a guy who smelled like he ate a ton of bean burritos and drank a gallon of green chile before the race," Joe McLennan of Denver says. "He stunk, bad."

8. Dress for Your Mom

Unless it's part of the program, as with San Francisco's Bay to Breakers, refrain from silly costumes and minimalist attire. "Some friends and I ran the ING Georgia Marathon in Atlanta last year, and if you were there, you'll remember the guy who was wearing nothing but a canary-yellow Speedo," Tom McKlin of Decatur, Georgia says. "Mr. Banana Hammock was a little doughy, and once the sweat seeped through the Speedo...let's just say that parents were covering their children's eyes."

9. No Whining

"The ones who quit a quarter of the way through a race because they're tired—or worse, not beating everyone else—now that's infuriating!" says Coyla Coblentz of Geneva, Indiana. Lapsed runners who have quit running entirely because they think it has wrecked some aspect of their bodies—and remind you repeatedly it will happen to you, just you wait!—deserve special opprobrium. Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, notes that his boss warns him off running all the time. The president, he says, "consistently tells me that I'm going to ruin my knees and that I should start to bike. I tell him I'm going to run as long as I can."

"I hate it when people yell, 'You're nearly there!' when there are still several miles to go. When there's no finish line in sight, I'm not 'nearly there'!" —Heather Shea Danbury, Connecticut

10. Just Run

"The most annoying runners are those who are sure their way is the only way—no headphones, no loud talking, no this, no that," says Susan Funk of Mystic, Connecticut. "Better to see more people out and exercising than defining who is doing it 'right.'" Adds Cindy Cauzzort of Zephyrhills, Florida, "I don't mind making room for someone faster or going around someone slower. After all, we are only in competition with ourselves. It's not about winning—it's about finishing what you start."

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