Race day can be can an exciting process. A restless nights sleep, up at ungodly hours, waiting around for lengthy periods of time trying to keep your muscles warm while standing next to someone who may or may not have remembered to put on deodorant that morning. (wait... did I remember to put on deodorant this morning... no one will notice if I do a arm raise.... sniff... ok I'm good...Quick! Pretend like your just wiping your hair out of your eyes...look around... ok no one saw... phew) There's just so much going on that morning you may not be thinking about anyone's needs but your own. But the thing with races are there are hundreds or thousands of people standing way too close to you that also need to make it across that start line in one piece.
So let's go over a few Starting Line Etiquette rules that might help you along the way.
So you've found your way to the race, you've managed to get in and out of the port-a-johns in a timely manner and now you need to find your way to the start line. Congratulations! Now where do I go!?
Many races pre-assign you a corral to start in. Your corral is typically based off a time that you have pre-determined you will finish in when you sign up for the race. If you're entering a serious race like Boston, you will need to prove that number through an old race that you ran. You will typically have a letter A,B,C,D and up that corresponds with a sign in front of your corral.
One of the biggest problems with corrals and starting lines in general is that most runners don't start a race the same way they actually run a race. The majority runners start too fast and this can cause a problem when the field is still crowded at mile 1, but then start dropping back or initiating their run/walk program and the faster runners have issues making their way around slower runners.
So what can we ALL do to help make the start line a pleasant place.
1. First off, realize that nobody else there cares about you. (Just kidding) But seriously, nobody around you cares if you start the race off fast or slow. No one is judging you or critiquing your form or speed (that's reserved for mile 22 when people are bored and have been staring at your butt for 20 miles). At the starting line of a race, just do your own thing. Run the race the same way you did for those hundreds of training miles leading up to race day. Don't try to impress the girl running next to you, and then get smoked by her by mile 2 when you can't hang. That's not cute.
2. RRJRWS: Whether your corral has 1,000 people, or the entire race does you can still line up within that smaller field appropriately as to not frustrate the runners around you. This is where you can follow the RRJRWS rule.
Race - No matter if you are running a 6 minute mile or a 10, your goal is to RACE the event. You will have a different mindset then those who aren't raceing. You want to PR. You want to give it all you've got. Your ready to knock out someone who stops to walk in front of you. You may not be an elite (or maybe you are) but your mindset is the same as the other people at the front of the line, and that's the most important part.
Run - Races are fun, but we don't enter them all for the same reason. Sometimes we want to PR, and sometimes we are just out there to log some miles or support a good cause. While you have every intention of running the race, and even trying to do well, you're not going to knock someone out if the slow you down as you enter the water stop, and if you don't PR you're ok with that too. Don't start up front. Your not going to go off with bang, let those who want to have their space to do so.
Jog - Let's face it. Maybe you want to run this race, and even do well. But you
1. Didn't train right
2. Are doing a run/walk method.
3. Have like, 10 friends you're running with.
4. Were convinced by someone else to run this and you really didn't want to.
5. Would take a phone call or answer a text during the race.
Any of these things automatically takes you out of the front of the pack, because you're in this, you're running, you're giving it your best. But if there were donuts and wine at the water stops you would be happier.
Race Walk - Something you find a lot in races are people that intend to race walk a race. These individuals have the same mind set as the racers in the group, but their pace will not compare to a runners no matter how fast they race walk. This is just one of those times where you have to be confident and practical with your strategy and line up behind the majority of the runners. There's a grey line here on how to find where the runners stop and the walkers start. If there are pace signs, then find your pace. If not then gather somewhere near the back of the event, knowing most of the runners are going to go out too fast anyways.
Stroll - Are you...
Running with a dog?
Running with a stroller?
Lacking desire to be here?
Talking on your cell phone when the DJ yells go!!?
Then out of respect for the other participants, please start in the back. The biggest need to have even runners start in the back that have strollers and dogs is to prevent injury to you, your dog and runners ankles. If you're faster, then once the field thins out you are free to run ahead and pass as many runners as you wish as long as you....
3. BE COURTEOUS.
This is an over all category of starting line etiquette that can cover so many things. We will briefly go over a few of them.
A. Don't throw anything on anyone or aimlessly into the air like its just going to disappear up there. Throw away clothes, GU wrappers, water bottles, etc. If you're holding onto it at the start line but you are done with it then you can either keep holding it till you see a trash can, leave the corral to go find a trash can, tie it around your waist, stuff it in your shorts, or hold it in your hand until you can find a time to politely scoot over to the side of the road to discard an item you have and no longer need. Unless it's trash. Find a trash can.
B. Communicate with each other. Races are emotional. There's a lot of anxiety and expectations going around. That, coupled with physical exertion, strangers in your personal space, and dehydration can set even the nicest people off. Communicate with your neighbors. Say please, thank you, excuse me, watch out, on your left, good job, you can do it, and anything else you think would be helpful to someone who might not be maying attention.
C. Smile at others.
We race not so much to beat each other, but to be with each other.