The Unspoken Rules of Racing: How to Exude Experience Without Having Any

With the official start of the Spring road racing season this past weekend, the annual Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago, it’s time to think racing! Previously we’ve touched on subjects related to racing from pre-race fuel to footwear and everything in between. Now however we jump into arguably the most important race-related topic…rules (kind of)! If it’s one of your very first competitive races, you want to be sure that you’re not breaking any of the numerous unspoken racing rules held sacred between runners. Follow this easy guide below to be sure that you project confidence, knowledge, and experience to all of your fellow racers...whether you have any or not!

quino-al-480679-unsplash.jpg

Situation 1:

You’ve arrived at the race site, and there are dozens of signs, announcements and vendors pulling you in dozens of directions.

Your Response:

Head DIRECTLY for the checkin-in/bib table. When we say “DIRECTLY,” we mean it! Put on blinders, lock in visually to your destination and don’t let anything stand in your way. No one wants to be that guy/gal who grabs their bib at the last minute and is pinning it on as they push through the start corrals looking rushed and lost from the very first moment. 


Situation 2:

You have to use the bathroom. Naturally.

Your Response:

This should be your second stop directly after getting your bib (which you’ve smartly already pinned to your race top). Like any port-a-potty environment you want to queue up based on an analysis of who you believe to be your best bets to get in and out and move quickly. Kind of like picking a race horse at the Kentucky Derby. NEVER switch lines and be sure that the port-a-potty destination that you eventually end up in is within your selected line’s parameters.


Situation 3:

You’re headed to the start line area where hundreds (thousands?) of racers have already begun to stack up in the start corral.

Your Response:

Assuming there are no assigned start corrals based on times, you have to follow the very important starting line rules. While it’s clearly best to be closest to the front in terms of crowd density, if there are no structured corral areas based on pace, you should know that there’s still an expectation that you order roughly where you expect to finish. If you do not imagine that this will be a race where you’re competing for the win, then you shouldn’t push your way to the very front only to make the faster finishers have to push by you right away. In addition, you want to be around similar racers to keep you honest in your pace, allow for race partners and to provide a few opportunities to pass others throughout your run.  


Situation 4:

You’re feeling great and just cruising through the race, closing in on slower racers quickly and frequently. 

Your Response:

Focus on achieving your own personal success (passing someone) without demolishing their own successes in the process. There are a few ways to do this that you should keep in mind. 1) Pass wide - don’t scoot right by someone’s shoulder so that they hear your less labored breathing and smell your victory sweat. It’s not an indoor track, you have plenty of room. 2) Cut back in front of someone only when a very safe distance ahead. This plays into both safety and sportsmanship. You don’t want to get tangled up with another runner as you cut them off. Equally, you don’t want to do the classic, vicious “pincer move” solo against someone who is just working hard to achieve their own personal goals. 3) An encouraging word never hurt. If you’re both genuinely working really hard to keep moving ahead, a simple “Good job! Keep it up!” could be just the thing to help them finish strong. Just make sure that your tone and body language isn’t reflecting a sarcastic air…that’s just cruel. 


Situation 5:

You finish your race fast, competitively and cross the finish line with a great personal victory only to be presented instantly with a finisher’s medal and more snacks and drinks than you can dream of!

Your Response:

Revel in your result at least for a moment! Then, if you had a great duel with another racer be sure to track them down and congratulate them. They are no longer competition but rather a fellow runner you now share a fun and painful experience with. Once that’s done, stand near the finish line for a few minutes, medal draped around your neck, and cheer in the racers finishing behind you. Yes, you can hydrate and eat while you do it, but at the very least clap and “Whooot whooot!” a bit. 

*Pro Tip: Everything that the sponsors provide for post-race meal carnage looks delicious after a hard run, but keep it simple and aim for the water and bananas—maybe a bagel. One can never quite tell what your body is going to do after a race when presented with any more complicated food consumption. 

peter-boccia-1422516-unsplash.jpg