A Guide To Etiquette On The Trails

Sometimes, it’s hard to feel on top of things whilst competing in a trail race.

Feeling Rough On The Trails

Think about how you feel after you’ve been running hard for several hours across muddy terrain, or slogging uphill midsummer with no shade, your face will probably have a ridiculous expression and be decorated by mixture of encrusted sweat and snot.

Perhaps your body is reacting to the effects of a less than perfect digestion, or struggling with gastric issues and proudly emitting all sorts of liquids, noises and smells.

In trail running circles, no one would look twice. This is the norm. And we all accept that.

Good And Bad Manners In Trail Running

But that doesn’t go to say that everything is permissible on the trails. Just because we attain an apparent state of human devolution, we still usually have firmly in mind what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behaviour whilst trail running.

Curious about what get’s trail runners annoyed, both as ‘trail runners’ and ‘Italians’, in March 2018 I created a survey in a Facebook Trail Running Group (Italian) – also predominantly visited by Italians.

Living and trail running in Italy myself, but being of English upbringing, means that behind an Italian name (Maria Elisabetta Bellini), and under a facade of Italian-ness, much of my quirky, awkward, perennially apologetic ‘Britishness’ is still firmly there. And I had my own ideas and rules about what was Trail-OK and what was not-Trail-OK.

Would things be different for the Italians?!

The Top 7 Rules for Good Manners on the (Italian) Trails

So keep these in mind if you’re coming to Italy to participate in a future trail event, to avoid any ‘faux pas’ along the trails.

Spirito Trail - Io Non Getto I miei rifiuti - Don't Trash The Trails!
Spirito Trail – Io Non Getto i miei rifiuti – Don’t Trash The Trails!

#1) Don’t discard litter!

This really infuriates trail runners. Right at the beginning of the trail running boom, leading Italian Trail Running magazine, Spirito Trail, started a “Don’t Trash The Trails” campaign to educate newbie trail runners (perhaps more used to the ‘habit’ of abandoning plastic cups by the roadside at road marathons) in carrying all litter with them, throughout the race, until the end. We wrote about this famous Italian Trail Running Campaign here. Littering can also incur penalties or disqualification.

Top tip: Pocket your trash and keep the trails clean!

Watch out how you cary your poles
Watch out how you cary your poles

#2) Carry your racing poles correctly

Many trail runners use poles in Italy, as trails races can be pretty mountainous. Not all trail runners, however, possess the skills required on how to carry them whilst not in use! Keep your poles, either folded up and attached to your backpack (if they are telescopic), or either with the pointy end, facing frontwards, with the point oriented downwards.

Top tip: Don’t carry poles pointing backwards, or even worse backward and upwards!

Smile, and say "Ciao" to marshals, and volunteers!
Smile, and say “Ciao” to marshals, and volunteers!

#3) Say “Ciao!” and be polite to race marshals and volunteers

Let’s face it, the person who’s at that aid station, checks your mandatory kit, or is standing at the road junction, perhaps for hours on end under pouring rain, is there for YOU. These are the people that have given top their free time, to give you a friendly smile, encourage you to go on, and make sure you stay safe, fed and hydrated. Not giving them a smile, or a friendly ‘Ciao’ and even ‘Thanks!’ is considered rude!

Top tip: Be considerate with a quick wave, a smile, and a ‘Ciao’ and a ‘Grazie!

#4) Be mindful of who is running behind you

So, you’re on the single track, you’re slightly tired and going at a slower than normal pace. That doesn’t mean that everyone else behind you is! Be aware of trail runners that may want to overtake, check, ask and move to the side if needed. Be respectful.

Top tip: Turn down the music on you mp3, occasionally have a look, and let those faster, pass you!

Smile, and say "Ciao" to marshals, and volunteers!
Be mindful of who’s running behind or in front of you.

#5) Be polite when overtaking other trail runners

Trails can be a tight squeeze, especially on a single track. If you want to overtake the person in front of you, how you go about it may depend on many things, but people in the survey said they really hated when someone from behind shouts: “Get out of my way!
Top tip: Don’t yell, push or breathe down someone’s neck, try saying, “Excuse me!” or “Posso passare” (Can I pass?) And always say ‘Grazie!’ when they move aside.

Smile, and say "Ciao" to marshals, and volunteers!
Don’t whine on the trails!

#6) Don’t whine and don’t keep asking at what mile/kilometer we are

This fuses together two points that’s considered bad manners on the trail. Continuously moaning, or even complaining about the race organisation, whilst running on the trails, and also asking everyone, and anyone at what point are we in the race (A bit like the kid who in the car asks, “Are we nearly there yet?”).

Top tip: Keep your pain to yourself, and use your sports watch for the miles, or ask at the aid stations!

Try not to boast about past glories!
Try not to boast about past glories!

#7) Try not to boast (too much) about past trail running performances

Have you run with someone who spends the best part of a trail race talking about their past trail running high points? Do you really want to listen to someone’s life story on the trails?

Maybe you do… but maybe you’re just happy with a quick chat and then each just want to enjoy the journey… So if you’re the one who’s feeling inclined to share your whole trail running experiences with the fellow runner (that happens to share your pace), throughout the whole length of an 80k across the Alps, try and sound out the terrain before you embark on your autobiography. Unless of course your Kilian Jornet – who we’d all probably love to listen to, and also share the same pace!

Top tip: Share your past glories over a beer and some friendly chat, post race at the pasty party!

 


Maria E. BelliniMaria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.