Rules of the Trail

I participated in one of the local trail races last weekend.  Overall, a good time was had by all but there were a few WTF moments that made me realize that not everyone knows how trail running is different than road running and, therefore, has a different set of “rules”.  Here are a few that came to mind:

1. Call it out when you are passing.  Trails are usually fairly narrow and it can be tricky to pass someone. If you call out “on your left”, it alerts the person ahead of you that you want to pass so they can move over a bit.

2. Don’t wear earphones. If you do, you can’t hear those around you.  In a trail race, this is extremely dangerous and can usually get you disqualified.

3. Don’t slow to a walk without checking behind you.  Okay, this is true on the road too but on the trail, which is NARROW (have I mentioned that?) people tend to bunch up and run in pretty tight formation if they are unable to pass.  If someone at the front suddenly stops, the whole group goes down.

4. If you are walking, stay to the right and be mindful of those wanting to pass.  ‘Nuff said.

5. Point out unexpected hazards.  Some people call them out but I never have enough breath to project so I just point down.  I do this for unexpected drops, a particularly large rock/root, etc.  Also, watch the person ahead of you and if they suddenly point down, treat that spot with care.

6. If you see someone take a fall or is obviously limping along, ask if they are alright and if they need assistance.  There is usually an aid station relatively close so you can tell the workers to send help.  If you are trained and want to so more, that’s up to you but at least ask.

7. If you take a fall and someone asks if you are okay, don’t get embarrassed and huffy. We’ve all gone down and trail runners need to take care of each other.  If you’re fine, just say “I’m good! Thanks for checking!” and move on at a comfortable pace.  Don’t act like you suddenly need to “prove” yourself by sprinting off without a word to the would-be Samaritan.

8. Have fun.  Run the best race you can given the trail conditions and the natural congestion.  If you get behind a slower group, bide your time until you can politely pass. Don’t huff and mutter and elbow your way through. Settle down and enjoy the scenery while you wait to move – you’ll live longer without the extra stress!

9. Accept the mud.  Chances are good that you are going to get wet and muddy.  Just go for it!  Trying to find a drier spot to cross may take more time and take you off the course.  You’ll wash up just fine later.

10. Thank the volunteers.  All race volunteers work hard and endure a lot but the trail group often has to hike to their location, stand for long periods of time in the woods (where it is usually shady and cold), and deal with a lot of weird crap.  Hopefully, they are making your race better by providing fuel, fluids, and moral support.  A thank you from the runners goes a long way toward warming the hands that are freezing and chapped from dipping Gatorade all morning.

Do you have any “rules” you would add to the list?  Do you prefer road or trails?


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