Participating in your first race can be an exciting milestone in your walking career. But before you join the hundreds, or even thousands, of other walkers and runners at the start line, be sure you’re aware of the rules of the road. Follow these etiquette tips from experienced walkers to ensure that your race is a fun and rewarding experience.
Although it may look like a random mass of bodies at the start line, walkers and runners self-sort themselves by speed to avoid chaos when the race begins. If you don’t realize this and weave your way to the front to the runners, you’ll only get jostled as they eventually thunder by you. Walkers who want the least stressful and safest start to their races look for events that offer a separate, earlier start for walkers.
When the race begins, don’t let the starting pistol startle you, advises Helen Sellers, of Toronto, who has walked several 10k’s, half-marathons and marathons. “Stay calm, and enjoy some deep breaths as you move slowly toward the start line.”
It’s Sellers’ pet peeve: walkers (runners, too) who do the race as a group and create a barrier for others who want to pass. “Walk two-abreast at a maximum,” she suggests. Anné Herringer, a personal trainer and walking coach from Tsawwassen, B.C., agrees. “Always stay to the right if you’re a slower walker so the faster people can move by you easily and won’t bump you.” And pay attention to your arm swing if it’s crowded, she adds. If you practise good technique and pump your arms close to your sides, you’ll avoid elbowing fellow racers.
Pay attention to how your behaviour and presence affects others. Loud talking and cajoling can throw off those who are focused and concentrating. While you may be out for an easy-paced stroll, others may be trying to qualify for an upcoming race or beat a previous time.
Stay alert and be prepared to follow the directions of volunteers and police officers whose job is to provide a safe and organized event. “As walkers we share the route with runners, race staff, volunteers and even pedestrians who are trying to cross the road,” notes Sellers.
To avoid creating a roadblock at the water stations, continue to walk slowly through the station as you drink. Experienced racers know to pinch the top of their paper cup together to avoid a face full of water. If you need to catch your breath, change soggy socks or stretch tight muscles, step off to the side where you can do so safely.
It’s fine to toss your cup or packaging from gels and energy bars at a water station – volunteers continually sweep up debris – but drop it to the side of the road so it doesn’t create a slipping hazard.
Sellers likes to thank volunteers as well as the spectators who are cheering her on and encourages others to do the same. “A smile, a wave or a thank you is always appreciated, and you’ll feel energized by doing it.”