runner etiquette

Our suburban neighborhood’s Facebook page recently tackled an oft-repeated battle: Should runners stay on the sidewalk or is it OK for us to be on the road?

Or as my neighbor, who says he barely missed hitting a runner who darted in front of his car, put it: “Attention runners. Help me understand the infatuation of running in the road? I don’t get it, especially when there are very nice sidewalks.”

road-vs-sidewalk-debateIn Michigan, pedestrians are not supposed to “walk upon the main traveled portion of the highway” where sidewalks are provided. Where sidewalks are not provided, the law says, pedestrians “shall, when practicable, walk on the left side of the highway facing traffic which passes nearest.” Being a scofflaw in this case is a civil infraction.

My friends and I meet up to run at 5:15 a.m. a couple of days a week and follow all of the rules for running in the dark. In fact, we look like a rave is running through the neighborhood. But, frankly, we typically do end up on the road for many reasons, including:

  1. Cars parked blocking the sidewalk
  2. Overgrown trees and shrubs
  3. Surprise sprinklers pointed toward the sidewalk
  4. Uneven cement
  5. Wasp nests on trees near the sidewalk
  6. Dogs in yards who charge at passersby
  7. Things like basketball hoops, hoses and large toys blocking the sidewalk
  8. Cars backing out of garages
  9. Neighbors who don’t shovel or salt in the winter
  10. Dark, spooky spots that look like they were cast for a movie abduction scene

In what I hope was a polite response to my neighbor’s post, I acknowledged runners’ responsibility to be seen (by wearing high-visibility or reflective gear and/or headlamps) and to not dart in front of cars or run too close to the road when cars are around. I also thanked my neighbor for his concern for our safety. But I also listed several of the above reasons for why some of us do end up on the road. My response was echoed by several other runners, but the original poster (and others) did not appreciate what we had to say and accused us of not following the rules.

I’m left perplexed. What’s a runner chica to do? For now, my friends and I continue to run on the road for long stretches if it’s just not safe to stay on the sidewalk, running against traffic, wearing proper, high-visibility gear, and keeping our eyes and ears peeled for cars. We’ve yet to have any close calls, in large part because we’ve been doing this long enough that we know our neighbors’ habits (I’m looking at you, guy with the two cute Maltese dogs who love to bark “ferociously” at us), so we can avoid potential trouble.

It really would be nice to run on smooth sidewalks with no risk of tripping (done that), twisting an ankle when falling into someone’s too-deep lawn edging (a week before my longest-ever race) or almost getting hit by a teenager or sleepy driver pulling out of their garage (every. single. time.).

But the reality is that our sidewalks are a lot like the people who share our quest for an idyllic home in the ‘burbs: imperfect. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. (Except for the neighbors who don’t pick up after their dogs — they all suck!)

Where do you stand in the road vs. sidewalk debate? (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Yup, it happened today. I used a popsicle stick to smear Vaseline on a guy’s nipple.

You see, I volunteered at the Capital City River Run with my running group, Team Playmakers. It was at mile 9 for the half marathoners; mile 22 for the full marathon. The weather was perfect for standing around, handing out oranges, M&Ms, pretzels, Gatorade and water. Too warm for running, really, so a lot of the runners coming through were on the struggle bus.


Great set up to volunteer for today’s race.

But we thoroughly enjoyed helping runners — or at least giving them a few words of encouragement — as they came through.

A welcome sight for most runners: paper towels dipped in ice water.

A welcome sight for most runners: paper towels dipped in ice water.

Everyone helped out, including some friends who ran their races then came back for the fun. I was inspired by so many who kept running or walking, even when they were obviously suffering.

My friend Vicki came back to help after she finished her half marathon.

My friend Vicki came back to help after she finished her half marathon.

I even got to run for the last four miles with my friend Angela who was running her first full marathon. She was hurting. She was miserable. And she probably wished she were anywhere but on that race course.

Yet, she just kept going. All the way to the finish line.

Angela killed that race course.

Angela killed that race course.

In the end, she and our friend Dena celebrated their accomplishment: they joined the marathoners club.

Dena and Angela join the marathoner tribe.

Dena and Angela join the marathoner tribe.

As for the guy and his Vaseline-needing nipple. He was on mile 22 of his marathon when his chaffing got so bad that he stopped by our table to see if we had Vaseline. I went to hand him the stuff on a popsicle stick when he lifted his shirt, pointed to the spot and I, well, swabbed it.

He thanked me and ran off. It’s not what I had in mind when I signed up to volunteer, but I did say that I wanted to pay it back for all of the people who have helped me during all of my races. Can I consider that debt paid now?

Have you ever needed Vaseline for race-day chaffing? Have you volunteered at a cheer tent? What’s the weirdest thing you have seen on a run or race? (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Whether you’re a new or, ahem, more-experienced runner, there are few things more important to your success than the right running partner. But what makes a person good running-buddy material?

good running-buddy traitsHere are five traits that will make you a good running buddy:

  1. They listen. Whether you’re having a crappy day or celebrating a recent accomplishment, a good running buddy listens. Just like with any relationship, it’s a good sign when both of you can take turns talking about what’s going on in your life. Bonus points for a running partner who knows when to be quiet and when to provide solutions or feedback. Extra bonus points for knowing that what’s said on the run stays on the pavement.
  2. They share. I’m not talking about sharing running gear, but about sharing their experience. Some of my most-memorable runs were those times when a very-experienced runner shared some nuggets about training that helped me overcome an issue or that helped me prepare for a challenge. Bonus points for a buddy who also brings extra fuel to share on long runs.
  3. They pace. Some of my favorite running partners can hit a 12-minute-per-mile pace for 13.1 miles without even looking at their watch. I call a couple of them my personal pacers. Some are particularly good at slowing us down when we get to talking and speed up too much on long-run day and risk burning out too early. Bonus points for being a buddy who knows when to help you adjust your pace, whether that’s slowing down or doing some speed work.
  4. They’re consistent. As I’ve said before, I have the best running friends. These particular running friends will get up to run at 5:15 a.m. on a regular basis to help each other stick with our training plans. And since consistency is one of the most important aspects of my training, I appreciate that my running buddies support my running goals. Bonus points for running partners who run with you in inclement weather.
  5. They’re encouraging. The best running partners are the most supportive, whether they’re there in person or not. Some of my favorite running buddies spend inordinate amounts of time chatting with me online, answering questions, helping me anticipate potential problems and find solutions. Bonus points for not killing me in the process (even though I know you want to).

I’m not following the day’s theme for Tuesdays on the Run, the weekly link-up with hosts runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice, but I am linking up. Do go check out their posts and make sure to comment below.

What makes for the best running buddies? Are you fortunate enough to have some in your life? Feel free to share your blog post if you’ve written about this topic. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

This week’s Tuesdays on the Run topic is “Race shirt controversy: Wear TO the race or only after the race?” for the link-up hosted by runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice.

In a word: Nope. Never. Not gonna do it.



I mostly agree with David E. Graf who explained in Runner’s World magazine:

“I would like to start off by quoting the good book, The Runner’s Rule Book, page 133, Rule 3.5:

“Wearing the official race shirt during the race is like wearing a U2 t-shirt to a U2 concert. Not cool. Don’t do it.”

That said, I could care less whether other people wear theirs to the race. I also don’t care whether they wear a tutu, costume or — gasp! — new gear or shoes on race day. None of which I plan to ever sport, but especially not a race shirt.

While it doesn’t hold the same significance as a race medal, there’s something about the race shirt that makes me feel that it should be earned. Another sort of carrot that I need to chase until I achieve my goal.

There should be some blood, sweat and tears involved before I pull out my race shirt. I’ve been known to bring it home from packet pickup, admire it, wash it and hang it up to wear immediately after my post-race shower.

It may not be socially acceptable to wear a race medal to Lowe’s (OK, not above the age of, say, 10), but nothing’s going to stop me from slipping my T-shirt on. It’s kind of a secret handshake as other runners wearing the same shirt nod to each other knowingly.

Once it’s been worn post-race, I especially like wearing my tech-material race shirts while on my weekend runs. I know they’re going to wear out sooner (and be especially stinky), but that’s how and when I enjoy my race shirts the most.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call them lucky, but they certainly are treasured on those runs when I need every bit of inspiration.

How do you feel about race shirts being worn on race day? What’s your favorite shirt and when do you enjoy wearing it most?