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Pre-Race Etiquette: To Wait In Line Or Find A Tree

Etiquette expert Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, knows a thing or two about the rules of the road—and the descendant of the famous decorum diva is a runner too! 

Q: I always see people  relieving themselves in the bushes at overcrowded start lines. Is this acceptable in running circles, or should I stomach the long portapotty line and risk missing the start?
This happens when people’s competitive anxiety and drive overtake their sense of good etiquette. And it happens. Sometimes we choose to break social norms.

My advice, however, is to find a way around it. If you’re worried about long lines at the facilities provided, then stop at a gas station or even pull over on the side of the road and find a bush on your way to the race. The idea is to not make others uncomfortable by urinating in front of them.

Sure, there are times on a long run when you must duck behind a tree, and I would never suggest holding it for so long that you could cause yourself damage. When you gotta go, you gotta go. But, the start of a race? I think there’s time and space for runners to use a restroom rather than go right at the starting line.

Q: My friend wants to run with me, but she isn’t the right pace for my training. What’s a nice way to explain this to her?
It sounds like you’ve already tried running with her, which would have been my first piece of advice. Often when buddies run together, they find out quickly whether they work as running pals. If the run together didn’t deter her, it’s okay to bring it up the next time she wants to set a run date. “Katie, I’m glad we’re both runners, but with where I’m at with my training right now, I’m finding it easier to run on my own, or with someone who runs at the same pace as me. I hope you understand.”

The other option is to do some easy runs with her. Maybe she’s someone you just do a casual run with to enjoy your time together. She may be looking for a buddy who can push her harder too, so it’s good to ask.

Regardless, it’s always okay for you to speak up if you want your runs to be at a particular pace or in a specific location or with certain people. I’ll do occasional runs with friends, but for the most part, this is MY time with my dog, to work out, feel good and be proud of myself.

Have a question for Lizzie? Email editorial@womensrunning.com or tweet @womensrunning with the hashtag #ProperForm.