Etiquette is a funny thing when it comes to triathlon, because, for as raw and dirty and gritty as our sport can be, there are times when, honestly, manners matter. Not that you should start saying, “Pardon me, please,” as you pass people, and I’m not asking you to move to the back of the pack so others have a better position than you at the start line. Don’t be crazy.

 Nun on Bicycle

 You can be polite and still hammer the hills

But, for instance, on the swim – it’s generally good form to not actively try to shove your competitors underwater.

On the bike, keep to the right unless you’re passing – especially when you’re coming out of transition. And on the run, well, you’ll have a lot more friends in the beer tent after the race if you count your kills silently instead of shouting them aloud as you pass yet another runner.

Post Race Party

Your well-earned reward for being polite

Oh, and thank the volunteers – if you have the breath and wherewithal to do it. That’s good juju.

But there are also quite a few things that are perfectly acceptable in a triathlon that definitely are not in real life. Let’s have a quick look at a few examples.

Kicking a little extra hard when you feel someone on your feet in the swim. During a race, this is a totally acceptable way to let the person behind you know that you realize they’re there … and that you’d prefer they go around you, not climb over you, if they really want to pass. (It’s also generally an indication that you aren’t planning to slow down to make it easier for them, and that’s fair – this is a race, after all!) During lap swim at the public pool, though? It might not be specifically addressed alongside mandatory circle swimming and the whole “shower before entering” list of rules, but kicking at the person behind you as you’re both knocking out 3000m is not exactly the way to make a new swim buddy. Be nice, and stick your ego in your Speedo if you’re sharing a lane with someone a little faster than you.

Peeing on your bike. This one is tougher, because, let’s be honest – even in a race, it’s not everyone’s jam. Personally, I remain on Team Never Peed, and intend to stay there (#NoJudgment). But it’s far from uncommon in the triathlon world, particularly in the longer distances, so, you know, you do you until you cross that finish line. Relieving yourself on your beach cruiser while riding to the tiki hut to grab a daiquiri with your friends, though? That’s a surefire way to make sure you don’t get an invite to next week’s Sunday Funday group cruise.

Shooting snot rockets. Ideally, you’ll make sure nobody is directly behind (or beside) you, but otherwise … well, everybody does it. Hell, when I first started doing group rides, my super bikey (technical term) friends made me learn a few skills before we took off – how to draft safely, proper hand signals, and the right way to snot rocket – and it’s been a gamechanger both on the bike and on a number of trail runs. But that doesn’t mean it’s fine to do it as you’re walking down the street. Finable, probably, but certainly not acceptable.

Snot Rocket

Lift off!

Reaching into your top or shorts to adjust yourself or apply some sort of anti-chafe product. I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t do this during a race? Pretty much the last thing I’m worried about on race day is whether someone sees me moving a boob into a more comfortable position as I exit T2. But do this at work in front of your colleagues, and you might be looking at a different kind of transition – one that HR will ask you to make because your coworkers have accused you of making lewd gestures. I know, sometimes boobs need wrangling – but keep it to the ladies’ room, would ya?

Grabbing a water cup and dumping it over your head. On a hot race day, this isn’t just acceptable – it’s smart! In a nice restaurant, however, it’s more like the kind of move that makes you famous … in that you get your picture on the wall next to the one of the guy who kept stealing flatware and isn’t allowed back in that particular establishment. Not recommended.

Now, there are plenty of other examples of actions that are far more respectable in the race space than in just about any other environment. Traveling with your own TP, asking loved ones to get up insanely early and sit around for a few hours in order to catch glimpses of you for moments at a time, setting your watch to remind you to eat … for most of us, these are not the norm unless we’re kitted out and ready to compete (or, at least, complete a race).

But I know there are loads more examples, too, so let’s hear it! What’s something that’s totally unremarkable on race day, but would be weird as heck in any other part of your life?

About the Author

Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.

Kristen Seymour


Reginald Holden