Racing season has arrived. There’s no better time for those of us both old and new to the sport of ultra running to remember that trail etiquette can make or break a hard-earned race experience. Just last weekend, I was reminded how small things can have a huge impact in even the shortest of trail races. Here are a few reminders of how to create a positive experience not just for you, but your fellow trail runners.
Pass with politeness. When running single track, I learned early on that I didn’t enjoy people haphazardly passing from behind without warning. If you’ve somehow found yourself in front of a faster pack, it’s probably a wise option (and a safe one, at that) to pull over to the side of the trail and let them pass. On the flip side, if you’re the one who’s come up behind a slower runner, use caution and verbalize your intention to pass when the trail allows. All too often, I’ve seen a runner saddle up behind someone and stay glued to their heels, which can not only be dangerous, but makes it harder for others to pass because there are two people neck and neck. Leap-frogging with fellow runners is probably one of my favorite things about ultras, and it’s all because runners can pass one another and have fun while doing it.
Keep it low. I happened to hear a few tunes being broadcast by a lone runner during my race last weekend, along with a few disgruntled comments. Music can be great but keeping it in the buds is ideal. Runners who enjoy their favorite playlists use it for distraction or focus throughout a race. And if you elect to bring along your greatest hits, make sure you’re still able to hear other runners. Being out on the trails can be isolating, but the ability to stay alert is key when it comes to safety. Finishing a race is important but getting through it safely is the goal. Keep the volume down and leave the loud music to the aid stations.
Practice gratitude. No matter how many races, no matter how tired I may be, I remind myself to say thanks. Talking to the race director last weekend, I could tell exhaustion was hitting him as packet pickup moved into full swing. RD’s lose a lot of sleep before runners ever cross the finish line, so let them know you appreciate all the work. If we didn’t have great race directors, we wouldn’t have great races. And don’t forget the volunteers. I definitely wasn’t vocal enough with my gratitude last weekend, but quickly reminded myself to do so at future events.
With all of these reminders in the hidden pocket of your hydration vest, go forth and conquer a new season of ultras, knowing that time on the trails is key to reaching your goals for the year. And whether you’re in the front gunning for a win or a back-of-the-packer digging for a finish, make sure to enjoy each and every moment this year along side your fellow runners.