Overtaking: What Is Good Race Etiquette?

Overtaking what is good race etiquette running runner trail race

Us runners are a friendly bunch really. To outsiders we may seem part of a clique; a closed group who appear a bit intimidating and unapproachable. But the opposite is true.

Becoming part of a running group can be a big step for some, whether it’s joining a running club or rocking up at events and becoming a regular face. Becoming a runner also includes learning the unspoken rules connected to running and racing. One I’ve often wondered about is overtaking, particularly during races.

Overtaking during road races is quite easily achieved – there’s usually plenty of room. I find I’m in a dilemma when I’m on the trails though.

I’ve raced on the coast path and other trails; it can be a tight squeeze. I find I feel very self-conscious when comes to asking the runner in front to let me pass.

Anyone else feel awkward, or is it just me?

Overtaking what is good race etiquette running trail

I remember completing a coast path race, The Cousin Jack Classic II, earlier this year and wanted to pass a group of women who were going at a steady pace. My legs were feeling strong and I had sustained a relatively good pace. They knew I was there, but they didn’t let me pass. To be fair, I didn’t ask them either as I didn’t want to appear rude.

Is this rude or inconsiderate of them, or should I have just said? I think the latter (but I’ve blatantly just highlighted how British I am!)

overtaking what is good race etiquette trail running runner

I’m quite a polite, inoffensive runner. I have been known to cough, pant loudly, or just give a cheery “excuse me”, but feel quite awkward asking if I can pass. I usually apologise.

There are those who rely on a loud and decisive, “coming up on your right”, or something similar, but I’m not that assertive.

I clearly try and avoid making someone else feel awkward when they’re behind me as well. I generally check to see if they want to overtake rather than wait for them to say so, and have no objection to standing aside.

overtaking what is good race etiquette running runner trail

Thankfully, I’m becoming more confident. I braced myself and gave a loud “runner on your right” when navigating around tourists in a busy Cornish village during my last race, The Roseland August Trail. It was ok, no one seemed to mind. It actually felt quite good.

What do you do when someone asks to pass you? What do you do when room is tight (& continues to be), and you want to pass a runner? Similarly, when it comes to people overtaking you, are you happy to let them?

Answers on a postcard folks…

Happy running, Penny.

Author: plbedford

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  • In triathlon we say “on your left” because there are rules about overtaking other competitors. I tried it in a recent trail race & it worked well, it told the other runners that I was passing & which side I was overtaking on, perhaps that could work?
    Which side do triathletes pass on in the UK? Right or left?

    • I don’t know, I’ve never done a tri. I’m guessing right so the person overtaking goes into the road rather than closer to the hedge/edge of the road.