Starting line strategy

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  ParagonCD 14 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #4188


    In a few weeks, I will be running 1 mile and 800m races on the track. For this event, they rarely break the runners into multiple heats. Last year they had about 45 runners in my age group, this year, the number of runners scheduled appears to have doubled. Hopefully they break it into at least two heats. Abilities vary greatly. This is a corporate challenge event and many of the runners will be there just to score participation points for their company. A lot of runners, get out quickly and then settle into their race pace after the first 100-200m. The race has a waterfall start. My question is, if you consider yourself a contender in such a race, where/how would you start to give yourself your best chance for success?

    Last year I started on the inside, I was nearly boxed in early in the race. I am considering starting on the outside this year. From there, I think I can have a more relaxed start without a fear of being boxed. I generally do not get away from the line quickly. I seem to lose a step when the gun goes off. It rarely matters, but this seems like an instance where it could make a difference.

    Once the corporate challenge races get started, they usually run pretty smoothly. The announcer prompts slower runners to move out one or two lanes as the leaders begin to lap people. It is a fun race, but the number of bodies involved make the start interesting to say the least.

  • #18581


    Wow, that many people on a track? I’ve been in some crowded races but that goes beyond belief.

    As for starting, if you expect to be among the top 10-15 or so depending on the size of the track, I would say definitely fight for position on the line. As for where on the line to get, in something that crowded, I’d probably want to be at least 2/3 of the way out (outside of lane 6 on a 9 lane track, for example) in order to avoid getting boxed in. While this may lead to spending some time running in lane 2 or, in a race of that size, 3 or 4 for a while, that’s better than getting boxed in, especially with that many people.

    Also of note, don’t be afraid to get physical. In a race of that size, elbows will fly and people will be pushed. Don’t be afraid to defend your space. Sometimes, a simple tap on someone’s elbow to let them know you are there will prevent them from cutting you off or maybe even give you space to move by. Sometimes, you have to do a bit of pushing or you may end up getting squeezed so tight that you end up face down on the track. That’s not something you want to do with that many people behind you, especially if any of them are wearing spikes.

  • #18582


    Fortunately, despite the number of people, there is less jostling than in a competitive collegiate race. (I haven’t ran in many, but I wasn’t ready for the pushing in the conference 1000m my freshman year so long ago.) I think that the varying abilities and the fact that relatively few runners are truly racing makes it a more amicable event. Still, that is another reason to stay to the outside. I am certain that they’ve had falls. They’ve been doing this since the 80’s.

    I expect to be in the top 2 of the mile and the top 5 of the 800m based upon past performance. The 800m is the most competitive with some fast guys stepping up from the 400m. I should have a good idea of where I stand among the milers after the corporate challenge 5K this weekend.

    To give you an idea of the scope of this event, corporate challenge lasts about a month. It started last weekend with golf, trap shooting, and the fishing tournament. They also have various team sports, triathlon, cycling, duathlon, tennis, darts, pool, bowling, ping pong, and swimming. I am certain that I’ve missed some. Companies also have to provide volunteers for one event. They get points for volunteers and they are penalized if they do not provide enough volunteers.

    It is fun and there are no entry fees for participants since the companies pay the participation fees. Profits go to charity.

  • #18583

    Like Ryan says don’t be afraid to start outside. If you have to run 800 meters in lane 3 so be it. With that many runners on the track you will have to run for place not time. If you expect to finish near the top don’t be afraid to get out hard and start with the top runners. That way you will hopefully stay clear of the pack and keep yourself out of a situation of being boxed in.

  • #18584

    I have run corporate challenge races on the track before (15 years or so ago), and there were btwn 75-100 people running the mile – idiotic, IMO. If you think you are going to be top 5, then get yourself out quickly, near the front runners, and stay in lane 2 or so until it thins out. Good luck!

    My son ran an 800 last night, and there were 18 runners. They did a waterfall start, and it was a mess for the 1st 200. He was in the middle of the pack b/c he was a bit worn out from running the 1600 earlier (where he finished 3rd and had no problems b/c it thinned out very quickly). I felt sorry for him b/c it really was a mess. Plus these were 7th and 8th graders who didn’t have that great a handle on what the proper pace was. I suspect you may see some of that in your races, as people who try to run a pace that they did 20-25 years ago!

  • #18585

    Good insights above. Its so frustrating to have to spend half a race “swimiming” through competitors you know aren’t going to place anywhere near you. To top it off they always go out WAY faster than they finish so you have even longer to deal with them. Stay out of the crowd and stay within your limits and 1/3 to 1/2 way into the race 90% of them will have dropped off and then your fine. Totally agree about staying out a ways since most of these guys who are off pace are also gonna want to be really close to the inside. Running your proper pace is definitely worth adding a little distance for 1-2 laps.

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