Rules and Etiquette

Now that you’ve survived the holiday break and all that yummy food and beverage, it’s time to get serious about your running career, again. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the Witness so that you don’t miss Norrie Williamson’s daily training programs and sage, fortnightly advice.
Like anything in life, there are “do’s” and “don’ts” that apply to running and walking as a sport. Some are set as rules, like in any sport, and some defined by common sense and “good, consderate behaviour”.
The local season is about to begin and this Sunday brings out the first local event. Annually, the first race of the season, Hilton Harriers’ Ronnie Darvel Memorial 16km run through the forests overlooking Cedara, gives an ideal opportunity to stretch the legs, get some country air in your lungs and set your early season standard. The race starts at 7am at Laddsworth School and costs R100.
Remember that, if you are not a licenced club runner or walker, you will need to purchase a temporary licence. There is, also, a 6km fun run/walk for those who aren’t quite so adventurous. Paul Laing, on 0824913194, has more information if you really need it (remember that he and the club members will be very busy preparing the event for you).
As a special incentive, entry forms for The Witness Medihelp Maritzburg City Marathon, powered by Clover and Khayelihle, will be available at the finish. So, if you want to get an entry to the marathon, half marathon, 10km or one of the other events at “EARLY BIRD PRICES”, bring the money and complete an entry whilst enjoying the fare available after your exercise.
Rules are many and varied, as always. They cover your dress and behaviour. Those you will need to learn from your running mates or the Athletics South Africa (ASA) web site. They can and will impact on you when you are taking part in organised events and, for want of the correct club kit, non compliance with the wearing of ASA licence numbers or age category tags, you may lose out on a prize or miss out on your Comrades or Two Oceans qualification. The referees are at events to help as many folk as possible, achieve their goals – legally! Don’t give them the opportunity of showing their grumpy side.
Etiquette? That’s the niceties and common sense side of the sport, and applies equally to training and racing. Here are just a few.
Heading the list is safety! Yours and everyone else’s.
If you must wear headphones to hear your favourite music, (this is actually in contravention of the ASA and International Association of Athletics Federations rules in races) then please make sure you can hear what is happening around you. Many athletes training have been hit by cars, coming up behind them! If you don’t hear the runner going the other way give a happy greeting, then you need to unplug! ALWAYS greet other runners. It makes your heart happier.
Unless specifically instructed during a race, ALWAYS run or walk on the RIGHT side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. If you are instructed to run on the left, then ONLY CROSS at the designated points.
DON’T LITTER! Especially at races! At and event like the Maritzburg City Marathon, around 500 volunteers, working, free of charge, for about 8 hours, will distribute 300000 water sachets and 5000 litres of Coke and Clover products in 100000 little cardboard cups. Please put your litter in the bins provided. If you don’t manage that, an empty sachet or cup scrunched in your hand until the next bin, isn’t very heavy or hard to carry. Failing that, it’s accepted policy to drop your litter at one of the kilometre marks as the organisers will be collecting those afterwards. The key word is “DROP”. It makes collection very much harder when litter is thrown left and right into the grass, hedges, etc.
When you line up at the start of ANY event, take realistic cognisance of your ability. If you can’t take off and sustain a pace of 3 minutes per kilometre (20 km per hour!), then don’t stand at the front. If you’re walking, line up to one side of the start so as not to endanger yourself or others who are mach faster. Remember, it’s much easier to start slowly and work your way comfortably through the field than chasing harder than you should and “hitting the wall”.
At the Maritzburg City Marathon, we will be providing “Mat to Mat” timing, which Comrades and Two Oceans Marathons accept for qualification, so there’s really no need to push and shove. Your time will be recorded from the second YOU cross the start line until the moment YOU cross the finish line.
When you collect your drinks at the watering tables, please say “please” and “thank you”, preferably with a smile. And, if for some very unfortunate reason, the seconding station doesn’t have just what you need at that critical moment, DON’T shout at or abuse them. They only hand out what the organisers give.
Never take too much and waste. There’s always another station just along the road. Remember that those behind you probably need refreshment more than you do because they’re out there longer.
If you are running in a “bus” or with a friend/s, please be aware of athletes who may be wishing to get past. This is especially applicable to lap events. If you are coming up, fast, behind slower athletes, it is acceptable to call out “track!” and they should let you past. “Excuse me” or “Please may I pass” takes about the same effort and is more acceptable. “Thank you” is obligatory.
If you are entering the event and the question arises “Runner or Walker?” The obvious answer is “Runner”. Walkers are a distinct category and wear a specific big, red, “W” on their vests. They are bound to keep one foot on the ground at all times and the front leg must stay straight until it passes under their centre of gravity. They are very distinctive in their style. If this isn’t you, then you’re a “Runner”. Runners can run or walk or any combination thereof.
Please thank the marshals and traffic officers. They’re out there doing their best to get you through to achieve your goals as safely and efficiently as possible. A smile and “thank you marshal/officer” go a long way to making both their and your day happier. If you’re not chasing for a win and they have to stop or slow you down, to ease traffic, please accept and obey graciously. We hope that the motorists will behave likewise. As an athlete, it doesn’t do any harm to smile and thank the waiting motorists, too.
When you finish a rugby, football or tennis match, or any other sport, for that matter, it’s customary to thank the officials. Even if “the idiot left his glasses behind and cost you the game”. Let’s do the same at our sport. A happy “Thank you, Ref” will make their days.
Finally, DON’T BE A BANDIT! When an event is placed on the calendar and the route approved by the authorities. The route is then the responsibility of the event and it’s organiser. All the health and safety rules apply. It is then a contravention of the law to run on the route during race time, without being a part of the race. Even if it’s just a “training run”. Those who take part, use the coke and water and make use of all the facilities provided, and don’t pay an entry fee are, in short, thieves and can be prosecuted by law as well as disqualification from the sport.
There is so much more, but you’ll pick it up as you go along. Many of us who have been in the sport for a long time believes it should almost be an obligation to help at a refreshment station before taking part in an event. Once you’ve experienced the clean-up, you’ll never litter again.
Most importantly, enjoy the togetherness of the running and walking community and make friends. It’s not about how far or how fast you go – you just have to go!