Pardon Me, But I’m RACING Here. Running Ettiquette: Rules of the Race

It’s that time of year again. SPRING. Today marks the first day of Spring, and of course in the great Northwest, Spring has announced itself with the ever-traditional Monsoon storm of storms. We expect this here, just like we know that no matter how warm and beautiful our Octobers are, we can count on Halloween being just about the worst weather on record for the entire year. (We save a lot of money on kids’ costumes, and just dress them in raincoats and boots.) When you live here, you just have to know how to buy outerwear!


Happy Spring!

Spring also marks the beginning of race season. If you are into organized races, you are probably scouring the Internet sites that advertise your favorite distance, and planning your life around training schedules, race schedules, and, oh yeah,the occasional family time.


My Irish friend Suzanne and I after the 2012 Shamrock 15k. Cold, wet, shivering, and      loving every minute of it.

Last Sunday was Portland’s annual Shamrock Run. It was NOT raining, which is pretty much a miracle, and myself and 35,000+ close friends and acquaintances thought it would be a good idea to dress like goof balls, and run anywhere from  5k to a 15k, shoulder to shoulder, in the “almost” freezing temperatures. To be honest, I almost bagged the whole thing.

As you may know, I have been crawling slowly, back from an injury like many athletes do, from time to time. No matter how positive I try to be, it really does SUCK. (How’s that for motivating?) Most of my running buddies were doing the 15k and that started at 7:40 am. MY race this year was the 5k, which started at 9:20. DISCLAIMER: Since I had to sign up early in the year for this one, and it ALWAYS sells out, I chose the shortest distance, since I didn’t know if my Physical Therapist was even going to clear me for running by this time. When I woke up on Sunday, I was sore from having run 10 miles the day before. This is the furthest I have run, since starting up again a few weeks ago. So, my self talk went something like this: “It’s cold out. Your friends are all gathering early for photos and you are still home in your jammies.” “Why bother going at all? You are running by yourself.” “Just bag it, you’re sore from yesterday”…..and so on. I almost didn’t go, and then at 8:30, I slapped myself and got dressed. It was definitely cold out, but it wasn’t raining, and I didn’t know if I would ever run the Shamrock again without rain.

                                                                                                                          Getting ready to start

Getting ready to start, in my “toned down” costume.

I never remember how crowed this race actually is until I try to line up in the corral:

photo (3)I was pressing flesh with throngs of green clad crazies, all gussied up in and awaiting the start time. There was a great DJ getting everyone excited, live music, bag pipes-the works. It was festive, to say the least. I started smelling trouble however, when the DJ asked “Everybody that’s here to run the Shamrock for the very first time, raise your hands”. In a split second, I realized that I was surrounded by 12,000 people and just about 11,999 of them were here for the first time. Oh God, help me.

This was my view at the start. If you look really closely, you can almost see the actual starting line archway.

This was my view at the start. If you look really closely, you can almost see the actual starting line archway.

Purely for sanity reasons, I decided to try and wade my way to the front section of the line. This proved to be  impossible, but I gave it a gallant attempt. They started the race in waves every 30-90 seconds, and it took about 20 minutes for my wave to cross the starting line. To say that I was running at that point would be a lie. It took several blocks before I did anything that even resembled running. Here is where the etiquette lesson starts. NEWBIES, pay attention:

First off, KNOW your abilities. For Heaven’s sake, you signed up for a 5k RUN, not a 5k WALK. (For the record, there was a 5k walk and a 1k “Leprechaun Lap” for kids 12 and under and their adult companions.) Some people get all excited and sign up for these things thinking they will train,but never get around to it. Here’s the thing: while this might be a fun event, when you are walking 3 blocks after the start, holding hands 3 across, in the middle of the road, and stopping to turn around and see who’s behind you, you are causing a hazard. Before I got to the 1/2 mile mark according to my Garmin, I saw 2 people that had collapsed from exhaustion. Seriously??? Know your abilities, people, and act accordingly.

Know how to dress. Most races have groups of people in costume. I do my best to look like the biggest idiot of the bunch,  because I am an attention hog, but there are rules. (Well not really-but humor me here, ok?) I think Stacey and Clinton would have a hay day with this guy:denimDenim Cargo shorts? Really? I’ll bet THAT felt really good going up the hill! I saw lots of great costumes, as I always do, but I’m not that good with the camera while running and dodging people.

Honor the other runners’ race. Despite your own goals or lack thereof, most seasoned runners of all levels come to a race with some kind of goal in mind. Maybe it’s the first time they will run the distance without walking. Maybe it’s a celebratory race in honor of a loved one. Maybe they are trying to PR. It doesn’t matter, just make sure that YOU are aware of those around you. I can’t tell you how many times people stopped short right in front of me on Sunday. Then there’s the groups that HAVE to stay together and spread out across the whole street. My favorite is the family that decided to hold hands in the middle of the road and walk at mile 2.9, while most everyone else was just starting to pour it on for a strong finish. So here’s the deal: If you are struggling, (and most of us do at one time or another) pull yourself over to the side of the course, and get the heck out of the way. If you walk through a water station, GREAT! Just don’t walk back into the middle of the pack with your cup and then slowly start up again. MOVE OVER. Simple rules of the road will give your running mates and yourselves a positive experience, AND reduce the risk of injury and collisions. While I’m at it, here’s a very important suggestion. At the finish line, KEEP MOVING. (Am I shouting?) Holy mother of God, I hate it when runners stop and bunch up, and start hanging out at the finish line. Do your socializing, stretching, or throwing up on the sidelines out of the way of the other people barreling through the chute.

I had been struggling a little up the hill in the second mile, mostly because of my tired legs and lungs from the previous day’s run. The entire race, I was bobbing in and out of people, running in place several times looking for a clean break, and bouncing off people at other times. didn’t really have a time goal for the Shamrock, because I’m not a 5k runner by habit, and I just wanted to have some fun and get in a few miles. But, when I looked at my watch and realized that I would have a chance to finish in under 30 minutes, I turned it on. I know I can get a little competitive when I am not keeping a lid on it, and I might have yelled at a few people in that last 1/4 mile. “Get out of my way” “Comin’ Through”, and a few more not so nice things did find their way out of my mouth. (Oops. I’ll have to work on that.) In the end, I finished in 29:54, 16th out of 302 women in my age group. I’m happy with that. It was a great day and a great race.

I left right after running because I had to go to work so I missed all the Irish music, and the huge party, but I had a wonderful walk back to my car over the Hawthorne Bridge, and managed to avoid all the downtown traffic.

I took this while walking back to my car. I just love Portland mornings.

I took this while walking back to my car. I just love Portland mornings.

I hope you enjoy my blog. Share with your friends and let me know what you think. Rock on runners.

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