Race Etiquette

To make your race a more enjoyable event, follow race etiquette, these informal and unofficial rules of racing.

Register early

You can register for races in several ways. You can register on race day at the registration table; at a number of pre-race registration locations; by mail; sometimes over the internet.

You should plan on registering early at a pre-race registration site, by mail or by internet. This will guarantee that you will get a T-shirt. Some popular races have a limited number of entries. By registering early, you will be guaranteed a spot in the race. You also will not have to worry about registering on race day.

Arrive early on race day

Plan to arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour early on race day. This will give you time to park, jog to the start and warm-up. You will need approximately 20 minutes to warm-up and stretch before the start of the race. You will also need to make a last trip to the portable toilet. The lines may be long at the toilet, so plan accordingly or you may hear the starting gun while you are in the toilet.

Pin your starting number to the front of your shirt or shorts. The number must be visible throughout the race. Some of the larger races are timed using a computer chip. This chip will be given to you at registration. The chip is attached to the top of your shoe by lacing into your shoelaces.

Line up in your proper starting position

The fastest runners will line up at the front of the pack. The slower runners will line up farther back. The walkers line up at the back of the starting pack. This is to ensure a safe and efficient start. Make sure that you follow this procedure. If you are an average or slower runner and you line up in front, you will get trampled. If you are a fast runner, make sure you line up towards the front or you will be trying to leap frog over slower runners.

Larger races will sometimes have signs directing you to a certain spot in the starting field, depending upon your estimated pace per mile. Be sure to obey these signs. The start of large races can become very congested and if faster runners are trying to get by slower runners, safety can be compromised.

Fluid & aid stations

Shorter races, such as 5K’s and similar distances, will have one or two water stations. Medium distance races like 10K’s will have three or four water stations. Longer races (Marathons, ultramarathons) will have fluid and aid stations at every other mile marker. Some races have them set up at every mile marker. Short and medium distance races will usually have water only. Longer races will have fluid replacement drinks (sports drinks), water and food.

In shorter races, determine how often you should hydrate by monitoring your body and weather conditions. If it is hot, drink a cup of water at each stop. If the weather is cool and you began the race in a well-hydrated condition, you can probably complete a short race without stopping. In a medium distance race, you should drink a cup of water every 15 minutes, in order to stay properly hydrated. In a long race, drink at each station. You should drink the sports drink in a long race in order to replenish your body’s electrolytes, which become depleted in a long race. If you feel you are becoming overheated, take a cup of water and pour it over your head. This will help cool down your body.

Don’t stop at the water station when you are drinking. Grab a cup of fluid from the volunteer and keep moving. If you stop at the station, the other runners will be unable to get to the fluids. If you are new to racing, you should walk while you are drinking. If you try to run and drink, you will probably spill more than you take in. Practice pinching the top of the cup together and drinking through the small opening. With practice you will be able to run and drink at the same time. Give the volunteers handing out fluids a shout of thanks. They are out there for you.


As you approach the finish line, make sure your number is visible on the front of your shirt or shorts. If your number is not visible you may not be scored and timed properly at the finish. Pass through the finishing chute that you are directed to and keep moving. Do not stop in the chute. There may be a lot of runners finishing at the same time and if the chute becomes blocked a real log-jam can occur. Most races are timed by using a tab that is torn off at the finish. Start tearing your tag off as soon as you pass over the finish line and hand it to the volunteer at the end of the chute. If the race is being timed with the computer chips, just pass through without stopping. There will be a receptacle for you to return your chip.

There will be a lot of spectators cheering you on to your finish, so look your best at the finish. Try to put on a burst of speed and give the spectators a wave of acknowledgment. They will appreciate it.


Even if you are new to racing, you don’t want to look like it. One thing that makes a new racer stand out is by wearing the race T-shirt that you were given at registration. This is one of those unofficial “un-cool” things that only experienced runners know about. You never wear your race shirt in the race. Wear a shirt from a different race or from the same race at an earlier year. Do that and no one will no that you are a novice racer.