Hope your recovery after the marathon was quick and you’re all back at 100% for your summer training and all the fun races out there. Here in the RunVermont office we’re in the process of reviewing the hundreds of feedback responses you all sent in on our survey. I read the technical sections…course issues, start area, finish area, etc…and every year a few items keep coming up in what you’ve written, so I thought I’d take a minute to let you know our thoughts on one issue that I’ve now seen comments from a bunch of you on – and that is the mix of marathoners and relay runners at the start and on the course. It’s funny, when I read the comments from Marathoners, what you ask for to alleviate crowding at the start is to start all the marathoners first then all the relay runners later, and when I read the comments from Relay Runners of course it is the opposite. The crux of the problem is that we have some fast marathon runners and we have some fast relay runners. If you look at this year’s results, 77 of 2611 marathon starters broke 3 hours, 2.95%, and 38 of 1687 relay starters broke 3 hours, 2.25%. I would also suspect, although we do not have the data to prove it, that we have a number of 5-Person relay teams who have a fast first leg runner but the other 4 runners on the team are a little slower which causes the team to finish in 3 hours or more. So in total, the data tells me that in total we have a similar percentage of marathon and relay teams who can be expected to finish in under 3 hours. Our slowest marathoners tend to run about 15:00 miles, perhaps just a little slower, and our slowest relay teams are right around 14:00/mile.
Knowing that, let’s say we decided to start all the marathoners first, and let’s say we started all the relay teams 15 minutes later. In that case we would reduce the time it takes all marathoners to cross the start line, down from 5:25 this year to probably about 3:30. That would be a good thing, all marathoners are on the course quicker, but then about 1.5 miles into the course the fastest relay teams would start to catch the slowest marathoners and would be faced with the challenge of trying to battle their way through 3000+/- marathon starters. That does not sound like fun for anybody!
On the other hand, start the relay runners first and the marathoners 15 minutes later and the process is the same as above for the top marathon runners. Because of these challenges we’ve always combined all runners at the start, and this issue was one of the deciding factors when we added the Preferred Start Corral a few years ago. Our feeling is that if you properly seed yourself in the start corrals, no matter if you’re a marathoner or a relay runner, your best race comes from starting in the right spot. Look for the pace signs, the Pace Leaders, and put yourself in a position to run your best race whether you are doing all 26.2 miles or you’re running the first leg for a 5-Person team.
Here at the RunVermont office we’re always open to your suggestions so if you read what I write above and have an idea about how we can improve the process – or a compelling reason why the marathoners or relay runners should start first – we’d love to hear what you have to say!
Joe Connelly – RVT Technical Coordinator