If you’re just getting started running, you probably have many questions about the rules of the sport.
How do I get started?
How can I run longer without getting tired?
Can I run every day?
How do I increase my running endurance?
While there are certainly some nitty-gritty details you might discover with time, most of the sport can be summed up in these 12 rules of running.
There are many unspoken rules of running.
One of the best things about running is that it is all inclusive – just about anybody can run. Running allows us to compete against ourselves, helping us focus on improving for the sake of our own well-being. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few rules you should aim to follow.
These golden rules of running are sometimes spoken about, but often discovered through trial, error, and simple involvement in the sport.
Many runners learn the rules of running through mistakes they make as a beginner. With more experience under their belt, they are able to make adjustments to their training to help best meet their goals.
Learning the rules of running can take time.
While learning through trial and error is certainly a humbling way to develop as a runner, it can sometimes slow down your progress.
Here you’ll find the 12 rules of running that all runners need to know. Whether you’re just beginning or are hoping to improve as a runner, these rules serve as unspoken guidelines in the running community.
Follow these rules and you’ll have the structure you need to succeed anywhere you go as a runner – whether you’re running the neighborhoods or packed in the starting corral of your next race.
The 12 Golden Rules of Running
The 10% Rule
This is one of the most helpful rules of running for beginners. The “10% rule” means that you should avoid increasing your mileage by more than 10% each week.
Many beginner runners or seasoned runners looking to build up their mileage use this rule to help determine the length of their long runs or overall mileage each week.
This rule helps runners avoid the common mistake of doing too much, too soon. While it may feel tempting to head out and double your regular distance when you’re feeling good, doing so too soon will usually lead to burnout or injury.
To avoid this, increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week. For example, if you ran 20 miles last week, you can safely run 22 miles this week. If your long run was 10 miles last week, test out 11 this weekend.
The Conversation Rule
Another helpful rule for beginner runners and those looking to determine an appropriate goal pace is the conversation rule. This rule of running creates a way for runners to gauge whether they are running an appropriate pace.
During an easy run or long run, you’ll want to follow the conversation rule. This means that the right easy pace for your body is one at which you can maintain a conversation with ease.
If you are able to maintain a conversation with your running partner or friend during your long runs and easy runs, you’re running at a great pace. If you find yourself feeling winded or having to pause to take breaths while talking, you’re probably running too fast.
If you’re running by yourself but want to check your pace using this rule, try talking out loud for a minute. You might get some crazy looks from anyone passing by, but it’ll be easy to determine whether or not you’re running at the correct pace.
The 10 Degree Rule
This rule of running sets a really helpful guideline to follow when trying to figure out how to dress to run outdoors. In any season, you can follow the 10 degree rule when deciding what to wear.
This means that you should dress as if it were 10 degrees warmer than the current “real-feel” temperature.
For example, if the temperature is 20 degrees, dress as if it were 30. If it’s 65 degrees, dress as if it were 75 degrees.
It’s best to use the “real-feel” temperature when putting this rule into place, if at all possible. Most weather apps will tell you the actual temperature as well as a “real-feel” temperature, that accounts for the wind, humidity, etc.
If you can’t find the “real-feel” temperature, still use the 10 degree rule, but this might need slight adjustment depending on whether it’s super windy, really humid, sunny, etc.
The Race Day Rule
While there are many unspoken running rules that we tend to follow on race day, one of the most important rules is this: don’t try anything new on race day.
Although it may sound obvious, many runners find themselves tempted to do so. We save our brand new running shoes, cute new outfit, or exciting new fuel to use during the race. And without realizing it, we’re setting our bodies up for shock and unexpected reactions when we’re in the middle of our most important run.
No matter how much you want to savor and treasure those new clothes or fuel sources, make sure to try them out before race day.
Wearing brand-new shoes sets you up for potential blisters or rubbing that you’ve never experienced before. Your stomach might react poorly to a different type of fuel and you’ll find yourself having to make an emergency bathroom stop. Avoid this at all costs by following this race day rule of running.
The Fuel and Refuel Rule
One of the biggest sources of confusion for distance runners seems to be when and how much to fuel – especially when completing long runs.
We all know that fueling our bodies correctly is key to our success on any run, but there seems to be so many varying sources of advice.
To keep it simple, follow this rule of running:
Fuel at least 60 minutes before a run with a meal that contains simple sugars and carbohydrates.
Refuel within 30 minutes of completing your run with a snack containing both sugar and protein.
Don’t go overboard with the meals and snacks, but try to be conscious of the type of food you are consuming and the timing of your eating.
Some examples might include a bagel with cream cheese, peanut butter toast or pasta with marinara sauce before your run. Try chocolate milk or a protein fruit smoothie afterwards to refuel.
The Pace Rule
One of the biggest questions both new and seasoned runners have is what pace they should be running, and how this might vary depending on the workout.
The pace rule of running gives you a general estimate of how fast you should aim to run each different workout during training.
Speedwork pace: for short intervals, run between 90-120 seconds per mile faster than your goal pace, or 20 seconds per mile faster than your 5k pace.
Tempo pace: usually around 60 seconds faster per mile than your goal pace, or the pace that you could maintain for an hour at maximum effort.
Long run pace: run 90-120 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace, or about 3 minutes per mile slower than your 5k pace.
The pace rule gives you a general guideline for running paces based on your goal pace or average running pace. However, keep in mind that the pace you should aim for will vary greatly depending on the running conditions, your health at the time, the rest you have gotten, etc.
The Running Workouts Rule
The longer you continue running, the more likely it is that you’ll want to start including or trying out different running workouts. After experimenting with a few, it’s likely that you’ll find one or two favorites.
However, one of the least effective things you can do is complete the same running workouts every single week. This rule of running reminds us to vary our running workouts every single week.
Try to avoid completing the same workout two weeks in a row. This helps prevent your body from adapting to the effort required and keeps your progress from getting stuck at a plateau.
You could take this rule a step further by varying the intervals, paces and efforts within each workout themselves. Rather than just running 400 meter repeats or a bunch of Yasso 800s, mix things up within the workout. Alternate between 200s and 400s, throw in a hill or even a few fartleks to keep your body guessing.
The Strength Train Rule
Probably one of the most well-known rules of running, yet one of the most skipped, is the strength training rule. This rule reminds runners to strength train at least once every week.
Many runners know that they should incorporate strength workouts into their training plans, but fail to do so because of lack of interest. Some runners intend to fit in a strength workout each week, but find that it is the first thing to go when things get busy.
While it’s tempting to believe that fitting in your runs and completing your mileage each week should be the top priority, remember that completing all this mileage won’t do you any good a few weeks down the road when you get injured.
Strength training is essential for runners of all ability levels. These strength workouts keep our muscles strong and help protect our bodies from many of the most common running injuries. If you find yourself tempted to skip a strength session, try adding a few bodyweight strength exercises to your cool down routine to ensure you never miss a week.
The Compete Against Yourself Rule
The running community is notorious for its supportive, all-inclusive vibe. And this vibe cannot continue unless we follow this golden rule of running: compete against yourself.
This sport provides so many opportunities to improve your own personal best. The number of runners who show up at a race with the chance of actually winning is very few, which means that the rest of us need to focus on our own personal goals and remember why we started in the first place.
Spending your time and energy worrying about how fast someone else is, how many miles your friend just ran, or the crazy challenge your Instagram friend just completed is worthless.
Compete against yourself, and yourself only. Celebrate with others when they accomplish a goal, and channel the inspiration you feel to help you achieve a new personal best. Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap.
The Running Wave Rule
Another important rule of running is the running wave rule. When running outside, you should wave (or at least nod) when passing another runner. Bonus points for going out of your way to wave at someone on the other side of the street.
One of the best parts of the running community is how it allows us to support strangers. You might not know the runner you are passing, but they are out there just like you – and you both deserve a little cheer for your efforts.
Regardless of how you might be feeling in the moment, make an effort to look up, make eye contact, and pass on a little wave of acknowledgement.
You never know how much this other person might be needing the encouragement.
The Fluid Rule
This running rule can be applied in many different contexts. The fluid rule refers to what you do with any fluid that may be leaving your body or flying away from you while on the run.
In general, you should always be courteous of the people that are around you, as well as the environment.
Snot rockets are popular among runners, and while they certainly provide an easy way to clear some unwanted mucous, they can be downright gross for those around you. Be sure to pick a time and place to clear your nose when there is no one around you who might wind up on the receiving end.
This rule applies in a similar way to spit and water you might receive at aid stations during a race. Take a look around you before dumping any fluids out of your cup or getting rid of the extra spit in your mouth. Runners around you will appreciate the attentiveness, as well as your ability to put up with a minor inconvenience until things clear up.
The No Whining Rule
One of the most unspoken rules of running is this: don’t whine. There is nothing more discouraging to hear, whether in a race or just out on a trail, than another runner whining about how they are feeling.
Remember that you are running because you want to. We choose to run – and while there certainly are moments of struggle or misery during our training, we don’t need to bring those around us down by whining about them on the run.
If you’re really struggling, take a break. Stop for a walk, grab a drink of water, or take in some fuel. Remind yourself that these moments of struggle set the stage for the biggest moments of growth.
Enjoy your time on the run, think about those around you, and be safe in your training.
Further reading: 18 Clever Running Hacks Every Runner Needs to Know