Etiquette expert and runner Lizzie Post knows a thing or two about the rules of the road. The great-great granddaughter of etiquette’s original reigning queen, Emily Post, advises on proper protocol for runners that accidentally take the wrong path during trail races.
What is the proper protocol if you make a wrong turn during a trail race?
This has happened to most trail runners at some point, so you’re in good company. Because I’m not a trail race official, I researched this. Upper Left Distance Training, a coaching service based in Washington state, has some great practical advice. The first step is not to panic. Assess your safety and try to retrace your steps, thinking of the last time you saw a course marker. You may end up earning a DNF (did not finish) even if you complete the race, but you should be honest about the situation when you do check in with officials. Upper Left tells a story of how chatting with a friend during a race brought them so far off track that they did find their way and earned a DNF—even though if they had stayed on course, they would have come in first or second place. Honesty is key here. It keeps the race legitimate and keeps you safe.