Just because you’re not in the city doesn’t mean you can lose awareness of what is going on around you.
Trail running etiquette is not often something found on a hard-bound list and it can be difficult to know exactly what is and isn’t socially and lawfully acceptable, especially if you don’t have years of trail running experience under your belt. Following posted signs is always the number one rule, however, some trail running etiquette is not as steadfast; many etiquette rules are social, adhered to differently in different running circles and are often debatable. Competitor talked with Movin Shoes’ footwear buyer and trail run leader and University of California San Diego track and field coach Mick Gieskes, to discuss appropriate trail running etiquette.
Follow these running etiquette rules to make sure you’re not run off the trail next time you head into the woods.
Yield right of way to anyone who is slower than you: “The faster person should always be yielding. That means bikes yield to walkers, runners yield to walkers. Step off the trail and allow enough room for others to pass. Horses always have the right away. Horses will spook if not yielded to, which causes danger to the horse and everyone else involved.”
Stay on the trail: “In order to preserve the integrity of the trail system you need to stay on the trail. When you go off trail, you tend to destroy habitat and eventually if enough people stray from the path, the foot traffic can create a trail where one was not intended.”
Leave nothing but footprints: “Point blank, you shouldn’t litter. It’s so easy to leave gel packets and energy bar wrappers, but don’t do it. Litter damages the environment and ruins the experience for other people. People get into trail running and hiking to escape and get away from typical American life and when they are in the escape it is unpleasant to have to see trash and waste littering the trails. Trash can also ingested by animals; there are cultural reasons and safety reasons for the wildlife against littering.”
Stay to the right and pass on the left: “Ideally you should stay to the right, and announce your presence by saying, ‘on your left’ as you pass. This is not always achievable when you are moving with kids or are hiking so simply being aware and polite is best.”
Be aware: This is the simplest tip that Gieskes suggested, but also the most important. Knowing what is going on around you and adjusting appropriately and politely is your best trail running etiquette. “If you are running as a group, don’t throw someone off trail if you come up on others going in the other direction because you are talking and not paying attention. If you are running in a group or abreast it is incumbent upon that group to shift so others can pass. Also be aware of mountain bikers who often do not yield,” Gieskes said. Even though mountain bikers should yield to everyone they come upon on a trail this is often not the case. If you are aware, you’ll see or hear them coming you can make the appropriate move either out of the way or in a different direction, Gieskes explained. Because you are out of the hustle bustle of the city does not mean you can lose awareness of what is going on around you. Take in the fresh air and listen to the birds as your feet hit the dirt, but also pay attention to the environment and others using the trail.