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Runner Etiquette: Who Gets The Right Of Way On Trails?

Horses, bikes, or runners? The answer to this and other running etiquette questions.

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Cait trail

Etiquette expert Lizzie Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post, knows a thing or two about the rules of the road—and the descendant of the famous decorum diva is a runner too!

Q: Who has the right of way on trails when there are horses bikes, runners and walkers?

Anytime horses are involved, they get to go first unless the rider waves you on. Trails are meant for enjoying nature and disturbing as little as possible. A person won’t cause as much damage as a 1,200-pound horse trampling the trailside vegetation (not good!). Even the most trustworthy horse can get spooked by a runner coming up near them, especially from behind.

When it comes to bikers, walkers and runners, follow the fast-to-slow rule: Bikers yield to runners and walkers; runners yield to walkers. Just because they don’t have to yield, walkers obviously should be paying attention, not just rocking out to their iPods.

There’s one trail wildcard worth mentioning: dogs! I always run with my dog. I’m super lucky that Benny never pays attention to people on the path or dogs that bark at us as we run. If your dog barks or is aggressive, step to the side, keep a short leash and do whatever training is necessary. (Make sure Fido is focused on you, or praise Fifi for not reacting.) Understand if your dog might come across as a bit scary, and yield to others.

Q: Is it okay to cut through my neighbors’ yard to get to the trailhead near my house? I asked and they said it’s fine, but I feel like it might become an intrusion.

It’s understandable to be a little nervous, but it’s good that you asked. You can double-check that there aren’t times when it might be awkward. If you hear them entertaining guests, it might not be the right moment to jog on through. But for the most part, if they know when to expect you, feel confident that you’ve done your part and have been given permission.

Do keep an eye out for flowerbeds, new grass and holes the dog digs. If your neighbors are in the backyard, give a friendly wave. If not, just run with your eyes front.

I also think it would be nice to add them to your holiday thank-you list—a small gift or sincere note will show your appreciation and help keep their good will.

Q: Is it possible to display medals or bibs in my cube at work without seeming arrogant?

Yes. It is possible. As long as it’s okay with your office policy, it’s perfectly fine to display your bibs or medals if you wish. I might not put all of them up, and I would certainly avoid making a shelf for trophies. But I’ve known plenty of co-workers who post their bibs and the occasional medal, and it has never seemed arrogant or showy. Display your triumphs with quiet pride and you’ll be just fine—you might even inspire a few colleagues or make a new running buddy!

Have a question for for Lizzie? Email editorial@womensrunnning. com or tweet @womensrunning with the hashtag #ProperForm.