Is it okay to spit during a race?

When I did the Venice Marathon last year, they were pretty hot on the rule of not wearing headphones. It’s a rule I don’t really like. Sure, I understand it. I get that they want you to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy all the effort the crowds are putting into cheering. I understand that there are loads of live music put on for the enjoyment of the runners, and I fully grasp the safety aspects involved. When you’re used to running with music it can be pretty tough to run 26 miles without it though.

And sure, it was boring. Mind-numbingly in fact. But the lack of headphones caused a much more painful reality during the race; people spit loads. When you’re blaring out 90s Trance songs you can zone out to all of the sounds around you. You can pretty much ignore everyone else, unless they run into you or just stop dead right in front (people do that a lot). But without them you can hear everything, probably more so as you’re super sensitive to everything happening.

So yeah, without the blissful protection of my headphones I spent the vast majority of the race listening to people around me hocking up spit and casually letting it splatter on the road in front, like it was completely normally. As a runner I don’t think I’ve ever actually needed to spit during a race over the course of eight years. I can’t actually see why you’d need to.

Hey, I’m having a tough time here man, I’m allowed to spit.

I’ve seen it in football matches a fair bit. Spitting seems to be a completely viable and understood activity through the 90 minutes. I’d just never realised that runners were so keen on it though. There seems to be an unwritten rule that, because people are tired and sweaty, that spitting suddenly becomes a completely justified thing to do. A couple of years ago I was doing a race in Regent’s Park, it was a fairly windy day. I was making my way up a straight and a man in front of me spat into the air, the result of which meant that the wind blew it straight into me. The man, tired and sweaty, looked at me and said nothing, his expression saying “hey, I’m having a tough time here man, I’m allowed to spit.”

So is it ever actually okay to spit? No, of course not. It’s horrible. Just because you’re tired doesn’t give you free rein to do what you like. You chose to do the race, doesn’t mean you’re £20 gives you license to spread germs. I’ve never seen anyone spit during Wimbledon. If they did I imagine Sue Barker would be pretty damn appalled.

I mean, spitting shouldn’t be necessary in public any time, but don’t do it during a running event just because you think it’s okay. In fact, next time you see someone spit in a race, turn to them and tell them it’s disgusting. I don’t care how tired they are.

Got your own thoughts on the matter? Let us know in the comments below.

Picture credits: Pond5