Rules of the Road: 10 Tips for Group Run Etiquette

A group of runners run down a tree-lined street in Chicago.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, your running friends are your best friends. From sharing sweaty miles to forging unfamiliar paths, a running friend is a built-in adventure buddy, cheerleader and competitor all wrapped in one. And there’s no better place to meet your best running friend than at a group run.

Group runs bring fun and friendship to what could otherwise be a lonely and exhausting sport. But, as with any group activity, there are guidelines to ensure a pleasant experience for all. Avoid a faux pas at your next group run with our top ten tips for group run etiquette:

1. Arrive on time. Text someone if you need them to wait for you.

In order for a run to end on time, it has to start on time! You and your fellow runners likely have other obligations to tend to after the run, whether that’s work, childcare or getting a jump start on your post-run recovery. Be courteous of everyone’s schedules by showing up on time, and be sure to factor in traffic and pre-run warmups before you leave.

If something comes up and you find yourself running late, call or text a group member to let them know your estimated time of arrival and whether or not you need them to wait for you.

A group of runners stand outside a Fleet Feet store, chatting and waiting to start their run.

2. Don’t leave the slowest runner behind.

In order to make your running group welcoming to new, and slower, runners, it’s important to leave no runner behind. The best way to do this is by being transparent about paces before the run begins, allowing runners who are similar in pace to group up. If there happens to be one runner who’s slower than all the rest, group members can take turns running with them so no one is left behind. Not only is pairing up a matter of inclusivity, it’s also a matter of safety.

3. Follow traffic rules.

Speaking of safety, let’s talk about traffic rules. Following the rules of the road is important whether you’re running solo or with a group, but when you’re with other runners it can create chaos if one person decides to sprint through that red light and everyone else follows suit.

A good rule of thumb is to stop at all intersections and stop lights, look both ways for traffic, and only cross at crosswalks when you have the walk signal or right of way. Don’t assume that cars will stop at a stop sign or red light, or that they can see you approaching on the sidewalk. Make eye contact with drivers and hold up a friendly hand to let them know you’re crossing.

4. Make sure you’re visible to drivers.

In addition to making eye contact with drivers, you also want to make sure you’re easy to spot. Some groups runs start early in the morning or later in the evening, making visibility a priority. Make sure you have reflective gear and a light source to alert drivers, bikers and other pedestrians. It’s a good idea to make this a common practice among group members, and consider having extra lights on hand in case someone forgets theirs. We love these Nathan StrobeLights because they’re small, convenient and easy to clip onto your clothes.

A group of runners run past a dry cleaning shop.

5. Bring your own water.

Unless otherwise stated, assume that water won’t be provided for you. Make sure you have a bottle of water to drink after the run so you’re not mooching off your friends. We love the 21-ounce HydroFlask bottle because it keeps your water ice cold, even if you leave it in your hot car during your run.

If you’re going to be running for longer than an hour or if it’s particularly hot outside, it’s a good idea to carry a handheld bottle on the run, too. Check out our list of the Best Running Water Bottles of 2023.

6. Don’t give unsolicited feedback on someone’s form.

Whether it’s cleaning advice from your mother-in-law or lifting tips from the local gym bro, no one likes unsolicited advice. Yes, even if you notice that your fellow runner’s arms are swinging side-to-side like they’re doing the funky chicken, keep your lips zipped. It’s best not to call out flaws in other runners’ form unless they specifically ask for feedback. Unsolicited advice can come across as condescending and, in some cases, downright rude. If they’re interested in improving their form, they’re more than capable of asking for advice or seeking out the resources to improve.

7. Don’t play your music out loud in a group.

Just because you’d rather listen to the new Taylor Swift single than enjoy the chirping birds doesn’t mean everyone else does, too. Many runners see their runs as a peaceful place to escape from the daily grind, and they probably don’t want your playlist following them into that space. Unless otherwise agreed upon, it’s best to leave the tunes for your car ride home.

If you absolutely have to run with music, we recommend the Shokz OpenRun Headphones. They use an open-ear design so you can jam out while still listening to your fellow runners chat about your brunch plans, not to mention keeping an ear out for traffic.

A group of runners talk and giggle during their run.

8. Check before bringing your stroller or your dog.

Babies and dogs are cute, but not necessarily when you’re trying to nail a tempo workout or squeeze through technical single-track. It’s always best to check and make sure your fellow runners are okay with you bringing your stroller or your dog to the group run. If your running group is registered with the Road Runners Club of America, they’ll have guidelines surrounding the use of strollers and pets at group events. Check with your group leader to learn more, and be respectful of group policies.

9. Respect other runners and pedestrians.

Believe it or not, your running buddies aren’t the only people using the road! When you’re running with a group, make sure to move into a single file line as you’re passing or if someone needs to pass you, and keep in mind the old adage “keep right, pass left” as you run.

If you see another pedestrian approaching on the sidewalk or pathway, move to your right side to let them pass. If you’re approaching someone from behind, call out “passing on your left” to give them a heads up. And if you hear a group of faster runners gaining on you, move over to your right to give them plenty of space to pass you.

10. Don't spit or blow snot on other runners, or on the track!

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Mucus and saliva build up can be common while running, especially in the colder months. While you may be tempted to blow a snot rocket in the middle of the group run, we strongly recommend stopping and stepping off to the side before launching your missile. A good snot rocket should only take a couple of seconds, so you won’t fall too far behind the group.

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