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Avoid Being “That Guy” at Your Next Race

Posted by: on June, 8 2017

Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by M. Nicole Nazzaro

Learn from the two viral faux pas at this year’s Boston Marathon and the experiences of a long-time race director.

It’s the modern equivalent of writing “I will not behave badly” a hundred times on a classroom chalkboard, but worse: being Internet-shamed for questionable antics at a race.

Last week’s Boston Marathon attracted attention for the Kenyan sweep, the push-rim world bests, the Americans on the podium…and the runner who took (or was offered, depending on whom you ask) an extra finishers medal for his wife. He posted a photograph thanking his wife for her support, with the happy couple wearing the twin medals, on his Instagram page. The running community promptly weighed in: Not cool. (The runner in question says he did not realize his error until the backlash happened, and he has since apologized and returned the medal to the Boston Athletic Association with a note of regret.)


At the same race, a group of midpackers stretched across the entirety of Boylston Street as they finished, holding hands, in a fabulous photo op (as long as you weren’ t the poor soul trying to notch your PR right behind them). Internet verdict: Not cool. Impeding another runner’s progress is bad race behavior, no matter how awesome you think that photo is going to look on Instagram.

Runners are a little nuts about making race day memorable, no matter how many others are on the course. So many of us think it’s our day—ours alone!—despite the crowds. That’ s the mentality that contributes to just about all the bad behavior Pittsburgh Marathon race director Patrice Matamoros has seen in her nine years at the helm of her race: impeding others at aid stations, running the half when you registered for the full (and taking the wrong medal), and expecting special favors on the course.


There was the time a runner called before the race to request a special brand of energy gel be provided just for them at Mile 15. There was the runner who wanted a chilled banana waiting at the finish line. It gets crazier: One runner gave his finisher’s medal to his mother, who died soon afterwards and was buried wearing it. The runner then called Matamoros and asked for a replacement. “I don’t want to have to dig up my mom,” he said. (Matamoros gave him one.)


There’s always a run on the free postrun food, so the Pittsburgh finish line volunteers are trained to tell people in the nicest possible way that no, they can’t have five bagels. And these days the provisions are pre-bagged: You get one bag of goodies when you’re done and that’s that. It’s harder to slink off with five bags than to stuff a few extra energy bars down your shorts.


Then there are the proposals. Anyone who still thinks you’re hot when you look the way you look after 26.2 miles is a keeper, but there’s just one problem: Magic moments at the finish line impede other runners, the medical staff, and the volunteers whose job it is to keep finishers moving along efficiently.

 “We have proposals [at the finish line] every year,” Matamoros says. “Everyone thinks they’re the only one who has thought of this brilliant idea!” Matamoros’ solution: She and her team search out runners determined to have their special moment and help them to do it without getting in the way. (Yes, there is now an official “Proposal Area” near the finish line.) “We ask people to let us know their plans in advance,” she says. “If you’re running on a special day, we’ll work with you to make it happen.”

At next week’s Pittsburgh Marathon running, there will be an actual wedding on a bridge overlooking its half-marathon race course. In becoming an accidental race director (she took the helm when a friend had to bow out due to medical issues), Matamoros has now become an accidental wedding planner—all to help runners stay safe on the course and have the experience they dream of having.


Here’s Running Etiquette 101: Don’t take an extra medal or extra food. Don’t expect elite athlete treatment at the water stops. Do make way for your fellow runners. Do realize the day is about more than just you. If you want a chilled banana at the finish line, put one in a cooler and give it to a friend to hold for you. And if you want to make a human chain, do it in the postrace party area—not at the finish line.