Running has never been more popular, and trail running is certainly drawing huge converts as more and more people trade in pavement for pines.
But some feel the sudden spike in numbers and ability has come with a cost: indifference to etiquette.
Road runner and trail enthusiast Terry Kern said she and fellow runner Julie Keane have noticed that fewer runners offer up gratuitous greetings.
“More and more, we’re like, ‘Hey, how are you doing,’” Kern said, “and then we’re waiting, but there’s just nothing ... Nothing.”
In addition to simply civility, here are a few more tenets to trail manners.
Perhaps the Golden Rule of Running is to leave the route as you found it – or better.
Littering just isn’t acceptable.
That includes things as small as water-bottle caps or pieces of granola bar wrappers.
One of the keys to maintaining a trail environment is to adhere to the wishes of trail management and respect trail and road closures. Carolina North Forest management often posts signs pleading with runners to stay off single-track trails after rains, which leave standing water. When single-track trails are open, Kopsch encourages runners to stick to them, even when they’re flooded with water.
“Single-track trails don’t stay single-track if everyone walks around the puddles,” he said. “That’s how single-track trails become roads. People should stay on the most worn path rather than the least worn path.”
“There is nothing cool about running off trail, bushwhacking over and under trees, or cutting switchbacks up the side of a hill or mountain,” Trailrunner.com
said. “Such running … increases the runner’s footprint on the environment.”Into the Wild
The Carolina North Forest is host to a wealth of wildlife, including deer, box turtles, and even the occasional belligerent barred owl, but Kopsch said runners should let the wild things stay that way no matter how trusting they may seem.
“You could walk right up to the deer here,” Kopsch said, “but let wild things be wild.”
In fact, Kopsch said runners should be a little less trusting of animals.
“If you came across a coyote, it should be running away from you,” he said. “If you come across wildlife that’s acting strange, contact Animal Control. They want to know.”Navigating Traffic
There are many unspoken rules about when and where to yield on single-track trails. Even when we feel like we’re alone, there are other runners using the same trail system.
“When running with a group, run in a single-file formation,” One World Trailrunning.com
said. “Stay on the path and run through rocks, roots and mud – don’t go around.”
All things being equal, when approaching from opposite directions, runners should stick to the right side of the trail, just like automobile traffic. Indeed, most trail blazes or markers are on the runner’s right.
When the path is too narrow for two runners to pass by one another however, the one heading downhill has the right-of-way, and the other should yield by stepping off the path momentarily.
“Don’t just make a sudden U-turn at your turn-around point,” the Road Runners Club of America website said. “Stop, step to the right to allow oncoming traffic the opportunity to pass, make sure the trail is clear of runners or cyclists, and then make your U-turn.”
“We do trail runs, and we do talk about trail etiquette, but we also talk about general running etiquette,” Fleet Feet Carrboro Training Program Coordinator Natalie Reder said. “If you pass someone, you simply say, ‘On your left’ … or if you’re on the trail and you see a biker, you say, ‘Biker,’ you call ‘branch’ or ‘heads-up.’”
Such communication on the trails can decrease the possibility of a runner getting startled or even injured.
“Give a courteous and audible announcement well in advance of your presence and intention to pass hikers on the trail stating,” Trailrunner.com said. “Show respect when passing, by slowing down or stopping if necessary to prevent accidental contact.”Turn Off, Tune Out
Headphones are often discouraged, and for myriad reasons. First of all, they negate the music of nature, One World Trailrunniner.com said. Secondly, they make us less aware of our surroundings.
“Trail running is about trying something new as a runner,” said Steve Hoge, original member of the local off-road running enthusiasts the Trailheads. “If you’re trying to sharpen your running skills, and you’re used to running with headphones to drown out city noises, you may want to listen to the forest.”
And headphones don’t just mask the sound of approaching runners.
“I was actually wearing them when I got smacked in the back of the head by a barred owl,” Hoge said. “I loop the wire to my headphones through the back of my hat, and I’m sure that looked like (some animal’s) tail.”
“I always step aside when I see people coming, and I always say hello,” Hoge said. “The rule is always yield: that’s for critters, for humans, for bikes, or for dogs, some of which may be off-leash.”Happy Trails
Perhaps the key imperative in trail running – and the most precarious is to express appreciation for national surroundings through shared experience, to greet fellow pilgrims along the way with a hearty greeting and courtesy.
“How can people not say hello?” Kern asked.
“Let the person know that they have a friend on the trail,” Trailrunner.com said. “Friendly communication is the key. A ‘Thank you’ is fitting when others on the trail yield to you. A courteous, ‘Hello, how are you?’ shows kindness which is particularly welcome.”
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.