Tips for the Trail – Trail Running Etiquette – Xterra – 3-4-2011

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 3/4/2011

Trail running and racing can be a great experience — when everyone gets along.  It all starts with trail etiquette. The best way to get along is to treat other trail users and the trails itself with respect. As someone who believes in karma, I like to use trail etiquette whether just enjoying a casual run or in a race situation (even more enjoyable!).  Be good to others and they’ll be good to you.  But what does this mean? Not everyone is going to agree, but so far the following has served me well.

Rachel CieslewiczMany trail users love to get out there. Nature in general is wonderful for the soul.  Some trails may be designated for certain types of users only, so always follow the rules.  Other trails may allow access to all, including a variety of two-footed people, four-footed animals, mountain bikes, dirt bikes or other wheeled vehicles.  Honor this and you’re off to a fabulous start.

If you are sharing, the trail, I like to yield to the uphill hero as a right of way. If you are going downhill and you see a cyclist or hiker/runner coming up, let them by. Some say the biker should always yield, but what I do is smile pretty, step aside, and tell them ‘great work.’ Having been the one on the bike many times, I appreciate when this happens. Sometimes if cadence is stopped on a tricky steep uphill, it is hard to get going again. On the other hand, there are times when I am the uphill runner and someone is in their moment flying downhill. I love stepping aside to let them keep momentum. Always think: what will make everyone happy?

If you come upon a horse, always grant them the right of way. I am tough, but a spooked horse kicks harder and outweighs me by at least a couple pounds. Dogs on the trail are cool, as long as their owners are cool. Leash them when appropriate, and keep them home if they like to snack on skinny ankles. Otherwise, if you come up behind someone give advance notice. If they have headphones and don’t hear you, I suppose that is their karma. I am not an advocate of headphones on a trail.

Just as we respect the people and their pals, please respect nature. If it is really muddy, choose a different well-drained trail. Don’t create your own trail either. Excess erosion will eventually hurt us. Do not litter. Please!

In a race situation, some rules can change. Energy, focus, and drive are at heights, but I still believe in karma, so be nice. Respect nature. Chances are when a race is happening, hikers, bikers, etc., will move aside for you as they typically get it that you need to go fast. Remember to thank them! Thank the volunteers, race directors, and medical services for their time.  Follow special instructions for the day.

Other than that, typically pass other runners on the left. Let them know you are approaching. If it is unsafe to pass, be patient, the space will open soon.  Be kind. Thank the person you are passing as well.  If you are being passed, even if it burns you up inside, allow the runner to go by with grace. You may need the same courtesy soon. Collecting good karma points keeps you and everyone happy and enjoying the day. If you are on an out-and-back course, yield to the person on their way back. They are usually in a more competitive moment and will often be flying.

Other things I consider essential:  Embrace the day.  If something or someone rubs you the wrong way, I grant you a maximum of 15 minutes of pouting. After that, move forward, as at that point you only hurt yourself.  Be grateful we have beautiful trails to run on. Give back when you can. If there is a trail restoration day, gather a crew and help out for a while.  This way you will continue to have the best runs ever every time you get out there!

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in December at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete