Trail running etiquette

Trail running is a good way to exercise while enjoying the outdoors. It is a novelty to a majority of us who are confined to running on pavements, parks and developed spaces. There are certain rules that you would have already known, but in the trails, it comes with an entirely different set of rules to follow!

Running along pavements in Singapore is relatively safe and easy due to well-lit streets in the night coupled with there being wide enough spaces for people to go both ways. Rubbish bins are readily available, and you have workers sweeping and keeping the streets clean round the clock. In the trails however, its just you (other people too), the trails, nature and your will.

This article is written to provide you with the education of a set of rules you should adhere to while trail running in places like Macritchie Reservoir. Some of them are common sense and some concern environmental protection - but hopefully they serve as useful suggestions if you are new to trail running!

Stay on the trail (markings, posting)

I know, you like to make things exciting, be adventurous and go off the beaten track to forge paths on your own. In the trails however, it is recommended you keep to the markings and postings.

In a safety standpoint: Majority of the nature reserves in Singapore are located where the SAF conduct live firing drills and military exercises. These places would be obviously out of bound to the public, and entrances to them would be barricaded with signboards stating 'DANGER: NO TRESPASSING' in all four official languages of Singapore. Additionally, some government installations like the waterworks at Chestnut Avenue would be fenced off because duh - to protect from unauthorized intrusions due to sensitive equipment that concerns the public.

In an environmental standpoint: it helps protect natural surroundings, plants, widlife and most importantly, prvent soil erosion from continuous impact which compromises the integrity of the trail. This is NATURE'S home, so respect goes a long way. You wouldn't want to be disturbing a bird's nest, or step on some snake eggs would you?

Stay on the left, pass on the right

There is no need for explanations here, but I will do it anyway.

Keeping to the left makes sure you don't hog the whole trail to yourself. There are other people - hikers, mountain bikers and runners coming both ways, and you don't want to be the one earning death stares from them for being a hazard and obstruction. If you are running behind walkers and are about to pass them, make your presence and intentions known by shouting politely: 'On your right!'. Not doing so startles the other user and they might not have time to react, thus causing a potential collision with you. 

On another note, keep your phones in your bag, and the music away. Pay attention to your surroundings, and don't be a 'Pokemon GO' zombie, or rather, a smartphone zombie. I have encountered so many users putting themselves and others at risk having their eyes glued to their phones just because they want to be the next 'Pokemon Master', or just to stay connected on Facebook or Instagram. It's really annoying to have to swerve at the last minute just to avoid them as they don't see where they are walking, stop suddenly and sometimes, leave rubbish on the trails (I will get to this in the next point). 


Tell me, after your business in the toilet, you do clean yourself up right? Same concept here. Dont be a A-hole. Strong language is used here because many a times I have encountered rubbish on the trail - from drink packets, to bottles and plastic bags - one of many examples. They are an eyesore to the natural beauty of the trails and just so you know, rangers and if you are lucky, volunteers trudge through these trails only a few times a month to make sure everything is in order - which includes picking up trash. 

In our primary school trips to nature reserves, we were always reminded by our teachers to 'Leave only footprints behind'. Apply what you have learnt, and leave absolutely no trace. Majority of trash is plastic - which is non-biodegradable and you have seen how harmful and hazardous it is to wildlife if not properly disposed. So please, I repeat, don't be an A-hole.

Respect wildlife

Continuing from the point above; be a nice human being. You might encounter the occasional wild boar, snake, monitor lizard and if you're lucky, a pangolin. The most important thing here? Respect them and leave them - they are harmless unless provoked. They are works of nature and they are just doing what they were created to do - live freely, hunt for food and live to fight another day. Trails are just another outlet for human physical activity, and you are in THEIR home afterall. You don't go to your friend's house and start thrashing things around and chasing him right?

Safety first

There are ample signboards and notices to entrances of nature reserves that tell you what to or not to do. Follow them, and you will make your next trail experience a good one. If you don't see any, this article is a basic summary of those guidelines - so put it to good use and keep yourself and everyone else safe. Skip the 'Pokemon GO', your earphones, respect others and be kind. Most important, don't be damn selfish - you're after all in public.


We hope these tips serve as a good guideline to your next trail run - be it your first or hundredth time. Respecting the trail itself and surroundings will help protect it for future use and enjoyment.


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Chang Teck
Chang Teck

Your average lifestyle and leisure runner seeking to learn and grow from every experience - good or bad.

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