My oldest son plays basketball. There are, obviously, rules in basketball, many of which I’m still learning. I understand traveling and fouls and recently learned about back court defense, but I’ll admit that on occasion, when the ref blows the whistle, I turn to the parent next to me to find out what just happened. My younger son plays baseball. That sport, of course, has rules, too.
Triathlon has a ton of rules. From transition set-up to helmet strapping to drafting and passing on the bike, there are a lot of rules to be aware of. They’re so complicated that it’s best to have someone explain them to you. Failure to follow the rules leads to time penalties and even disqualification.
Running doesn’t have many rules. At least on the road. Physical contact is ok, stopping dead in your tracks in front of another runner, while incredibly rude, doesn’t come with any penalties. You can spit and blow snot rockets, start way up front even if you don’t belong, etc.
Running on a track, however, is different. And it’s apparent that most people don’t know the rules of track, commonly known as “track etiquette.” And I think that, because road running doesn’t really have rules, people don’t realize that running on a track is different.
Generally, I run on my local track alone or with a running group. Everyone in my group is familiar with track etiquette and follows the rules. There might be the occasional runner who seems oblivious to the traffic flow or the importance of looking before crossing the track, not stopping dead in lane 1, etc., but they rarely cause a problem. However, I do think I have a responsibility to point out the most important rules, for everyone’s safety, and have no problem doing so. I don’t blame people for not knowing and do try to be patient, as this track etiquette page suggests!
So when I encountered a group of kids doing a workout Wednesday evening, standing around in lane 1, being held on the start line across all 6 lanes making it impossible for me to run around them, stopping in lane 1 as soon as they crossed the line, I figured I needed to point out a couple of rules to their coach. I started with, “It’s great that these kids are running during spring break!” to try to ease any tension, then moved in to, “it would be great if you could teach them basic track etiquette too, such as not standing in lane 1.” Unfortunately, when this coach passed on the message to the head coach, it got lost in translation and relayed as “keep the kids out of lane 1.” So as I’m finishing up a 400 I see the head coach walking towards me, quickly realize that the message got garbled, and explain that I am not trying to prevent them from running in lane 1, just standing around in it. He points out that they are doing a track workout (no kidding, and all the more reason these kids should know track etiquette!) and that they have permission to use the track. Hmmm…not my point at all. I make one last effort by demonstrating, as I get ready to start my next 400, how I look to see if anyone is coming before I step into lane 1. But he clearly isn’t interested. And that’s a shame. Because by not conveying this important information to this group of kids, he prevents them from learning the rules of track, which will become important if they decide to run in High School.
I finished my workout, dodging kids, and during my cool down thought about how this coach tried to turn my discussion of the rules of track into a debate about who had a right to use it. Do people just not like being told they don’t know something? I am happy to admit I don’t know all the rules of basketball, but of course I’m not coaching the game.
Anyway, time to move on…I feel like I’m beating a dead horse sometimes.
Monday is the Boston Marathon. I’m not running it this year. I felt fine when I made that decision, but I’ll admit that it’s been harder to deal with in the last week, with lots of friends running and all the media attention. I really enjoyed watching the NBC special on the progress some of the bombing victims have made and their plans for this year’s Boston. It will be an emotional event but it will also show the strength and resilience of Boston and its people as well as the running community in general. Also want to give a shout out to a woman I’ve never met, Stephanie Galvani, who lives in Natick and found my water belt after I unceremoniously dumped it around mile 10 last year. She and her husband Jeff contacted me and graciously returned the belt along with some lovely artwork from their son. This, year, Stephanie is running Boston (her first marathon!) and raising money for the Newton 9-11 Memorial Committee. To understand why she chose this charity, read the story. Good luck Stephanie and all the other runners!