Dirt in your skirt blog

Race Day Etiquette – The Unwritten Rules

Posted on September 4, 2012 by Margaret Schlachter

My past race in Virginia had me thinking a lot about a few small things in the world of Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) Etiquette, some may not agree with my below points but as with all sports there are always a few unwritten rules which athletes follow.


The best place to start is well from the start. Running races like marathons and such have seeded corrals for starting the race. Obstacle Course Racing does not have this seeding system however it does an elite (competitive) heat in some of the race series.

If it is your first ever Obstacle Course Race do not sign up for the competitive heat, as with everything in life there are always exceptions but for the majority of people start in an open heat to test out the sport then move into the competitive heats (if available).

With the explosive growth of the sport many of the top racers are finding themselves shut out of elite heats, for the sake of the sport you want the top athletes all racing each other on race day. As the sport continues to grow I am sure in the future sanctions might be put in place regarding entrance into these heats but as any young sport it’s still in it’s growth stage.


Many OCR races find racers running on single-track trails and narrow pathways. As you are running down the trail or hear someone coming up from behind you, take the millisecond glance around and if they are looking for the pass if so give it to them. Conversely, if you are barreling down the trail and find yourself needing to pass a racer, kindly ask for the pass with a “on the left” or “on the right” or sometimes all that you can muster is “behind”. As you pass always remember to say thank you, even in your most out of breath state, the small gesture speaks oceans about you as a racer.

In addition, this one is more for the guys. Let’s face it right now in OCR the guys have faster finishing times then the women do. It’s a fact, how many in a race varies but normally the fastest woman still has about a dozen or so men in front of her. So many times the top three female racers may actually have twenty or thirty men in front of them. So in the elite heat especially when a woman asks to pass a guy, please guys let her pass. She just might be racing for the podium and a quick pass could make the difference between 2nd and 5th in a close race. Mostly this has not been a problem but almost every race I have been at I have heard from the women, one or two guys on course not wanting a woman to pass them. This isn’t about chicking or anything it’s simply about letting each runner run her best race possible.


This rule is specific to Spartan Race and any other race that might have a penalty for failing to complete an obstacle. These races are manned by volunteers and if a particular obstacle is challenging it may result in many failures. DO YOUR PENALTY. Many times it’s up to the racer to ensure they are doing the correct penalty but don’t cheat it, in the end you are only cheating yourself. Is that result going to feel as good knowing you cheated a penalty or obstacle.


Here is another rule that is fairly Spartan Race series specific however I have seen other races like Superhero Scramble have a similar theme to gladiators at the end of the race. Don’t make a pass in the gladiators. If this unwritten rule doesn’t make sense, basically the last obstacle in any Spartan Race is the gladiator pit. Depending on the day and the gladiators the pit can be completely benign to well a little more aggressive. It is really the ONLY part of the course where you are not in control of how your run will be. Depending on the racer, two might have completely different experiences in the pit.

Do not pass your competitor in the pit; it’s a cheap pass. If you go into the gladiator pit behind your competitor and the finish lies just ahead that should be the order you finish in. Even if you are going for the win, a pass in the gladiators isn’t the way to win a race. Don’t be the racer to win a race this way. In many running based sports a pass in the last 10 yards is a no no. Don’t be that guy or girl and win the race the way it should be run over the obstacles and miles that lay before this one.


As the sport continues to grow no doubt there will be other unwritten rules of etiquette that will present themselves in OCR. Many may disagree with me on several of these points however after over a dozen races this season and in my third year of OCR racing these are the unwritten rules that have presented themselves to me. I have been on all sides of these situations and know if we all hold ourselves accountable we can only progress the sport into the future. Who knows maybe someday soon we will see it on the likes of NBC, ABC, CBS or even ESPN!