Monday, February 05, 2007

Super (cold) Sunday

Over the years the number of participants at New York Road Runner Club races has grown quite substantially -- which is terrific. However, herding thousands of racers over a ChampionChip timing mat and navigating this speeding mass around a course in Central Park can be daunting, particularly when you’ve got to share the road with elite runners, mid-packers, walkers and non-racers (cyclists, tourists and the all too frequent horse-drawn carriage!).

The NYRR held their Annual Gridiron 4 Miler at 9:00AM on Superbowl Sunday. Nearly 4,500 souls braved 14 degree temperatures and a blustery wind chill factor. Since little can be done about the horses or tourists the NYRR held their first experiment with waved starts to alleviate some of the aforementioned congestion.

The organization and execution of race directors, course marshals and volunteers was top notch. However the experiment didn’t work. Runners were corralled into groups of about 750. The first group consisted of elites and runners who have won an age group award. After that it was first come, first serve.

I was corralled into the fourth wave and had probably the best race start of my running career. Unfortunately I hit the slower runners from wave three within the first half mile. The rest of the race was an exercise in frustration as I had to cut, zig and weave around those who started ahead of me. I would find a comfortable pace but then have to slam on the breaks until a path around a gaggle of slower runners opened up. Even with the finish line in site I was still passing walkers and eleven minute milers.

My advice to the powers that be over at the NYRR Club would be to continue with the wave starts but assign all runners to a corral that corresponds to their average pace per mile. This average could be determined by their three most recent NYRR races. Runners without three races in their history should be assigned to the last corral. Out of town elites or other special cases without a NYRR race history can be handled on a case by case basis.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-George Bernard Shaw

9 comments:

JustRun said...

How odd that a corral wouldn't correspond with expected finish time. Hopefully they'll work that out and as a runner sometimes on the slower side, I can say we don't like being in the way any more than the people trying to pass us. It really serves everyone to be well-placed.

Sempre Libera said...

It seems a lot of us had the same experience. NYRR says they don't have the technology at the moment to seed runners by pace, but they're going to have to figure something out - I don't want to run a race like this one again.

Uptown Girl said...

It made my job easy as a race marshal - well except for trying to keep my fingers and toes:)

stephruns said...

I had that race in my mind...glad i didn't run it though..brrrrrrrrr!!!!!!

Are you running Al Gordon? I will! I miss "racing".

Ginger Breadman said...

What a funny experiment - it's like putting lab mice into a maze. I love that Shaw quote - made me think.

Josh said...

JustRun I agree, being well placed is key - fast or slow.

Sempre We'll they have a database of our race history. They just need to merge that data on the front end. Easier said that done I know first hand. Regardless, it is the only way these waved starts will work

Uptown Thank you for being out in the cold. That is awesome of you.

Steph I am not sure about the Al Gordon. We'll see!

Ginger Rat race is more like it. LOL. I am sure progress will be made!

Morrissey said...

really? glad that i avoided that race! yeah it really is a bitch when you have to spend so much energy weaving through the slower crowds....

Diana from Hellgate said...

Josh, did you share your bad experience with the wave system and propose your solution to NYRR? They should hear what you have to say. If NYRR reserves the right to boot a runner from a race (and future races, including the NYC Marathon) for not staying within the innermost rec lane, then they are responsible for organizing race participants properly by pace.

Just12Finish said...

First come first served for a corral system is a recipe for disaster. Actually, any corral system not based on time is a disaster. How would anyone know if they're in the "right" corral?