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Dedicated, Involved, Respectful, Thoughtful (DIRT)

Trail running is as much about the community as it is about the places we visit. However, that community only functions well when we all understand the basics of how we should act when out on the trails. We’re hoping this quick list of tips will help you understand the trail running world a bit more, and what it means to be a “trail person”:

  • Don’t litter- Simply put, don’t do it. Carry your empty gel wrappers and other trash with you to dispose of off the trail. If you can, consider picking up others’ trash, and leave each trail a little better than when you arrived!

  • Run through mud- When we detour around mud and standing water on the trail instead of going through it, it damages the trail by widening it beyond its design. It increases erosion and hurts the plants and trees we come to the woods to enjoy. It can be a bummer to get your feet wet and your shoes dirty, but it’s the right way to trail run. And once you get going, splashing through the mud like a happy kid is not only better for the trail, it’s genuinely fun!

  • Pass with care - In races, or even training runs, you’ll sometimes come up behind runners who are going slower than you. In a race, these runners might be 100-mile runners who have been on the trail for a long time. It’s courteous to announce yourself and declare your intention to pass. Also, inform them which side of the trail you’d like to go around them on. Tired runners don’t do well with surprises! A simple, “Hello, I’d like to pass on your left, please” is great.

  • In general, when meeting other runners, the uphill runner should get the right of way, unless the hill is so steep that the downhill runner is going to have a hard time moving over. Use common sense.  

  • Don’t run two abreast when there isn’t room and be aware of other runners trying to pass. 

  • On multi-use trails, bikers (should) yield to hikers / runners, and both runners / hikers should yield to horses. Be aware that even in races, other users have a right to be on the trail. Be courteous. 

  • Keep your music to yourself- Some people love their tunes and that’s great! But the trails aren’t a place to share your music. Be respectful of those who might be trying to enjoy the solitude of the outdoors; don’t play your music out loud on the trail. If you use headphones, keep the volume low enough to hear runners coming up behind you. In a race, make sure you respect any race rules about headphone usage.

  • Respect trail closures - If a trail is marked as closed, don’t use it. Many runners share trails with mountain bikers, and those trails are closed during wet times. In soft mud and snow, feet and tires leave marks that contribute to trail erosion, mud holes, and bad trail conditions that can persist for weeks or months. Other trails might be closed for wildlife management, construction, or re-vegetation. Be a good representative of trail people and obey closures. 

  • Answer the call of nature far off the trail - - We all need to do it on occasion, especially during ultras. If you can’t make it to a bathroom, get well off the trail to relieve yourself. Hikers and non-runners don’t want to see that (and neither do park rangers)! Don’t relieve yourself within 200’ of a water source. And when you’re done with #2, bury it in a 6” deep hole, bag your TP, and carry it out to the trash. 

  • Be a respectful spectator - Watching your friends do amazing things is cool. However, many trailheads are not built for large crowds, so if you’re spectating or crewing at a race, always follow race rules about where spectators and crew should drive, park, and sit/stand. If you feel like there’s not enough room, there probably isn’t. If possible, move to a different trailhead that’s less crowded or can accommodate more people. Also, if you are spectating a race, and you see that an aid station is swamped with runners, with volunteers struggling to keep up with the crush, offer to help! Getting involved is fun!

  • Even if a race isn’t cupless, consider bringing your own reusable cup for soda / electrolyte drink or water. So many companies sell affordable, collapsible cups now. Leave no trace is the future of trail races; it feels good to embrace it!


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