Let's Help Ourselves Out

Several times this past year, I have timed or run races where runners got lost because there was a problem with how the course was set up. This is an attempt to improve that situation.

Every time somebody gets lost at a race I am timing, they hunt me down and ask me why I let that happen. Fair enough, I am the usually the one with the experience and should have seen it coming. But how many times can we as SFTC members and experienced runners get lost, have a bad experience and not try to do something about it the next time?

In the real world, volunteers are just that. They come to help on a best effort basis. They can do NO wrong. They are a scarce commodity to be treasured. If they have a bad experience, good luck getting them back. Most do not understand that a mile into a race, runners are at an 18 out of 20 on the Perceived Exertion Scale, i.e. no more sense than a goose. To effectively communicate they must give up their dignity for about an hour. Sometimes that does not get through. They are probably thinking, "The skinny, old guy's just exaggerating about waiving your arms and yelling." No, I am not.

There are some things we can do to help ourselves out. Get a course map and study it. These are usually available through links on the SFTC web site.

Actual certification maps are usually available on the USATF web site: http://www.usatf.org/events/courses/search/. The search function works really well. Since construction will invalidate an expensive certification, races wait till a month or two before the race to have the measurement done. Frequently, the final map will not be available because of this.

Matthew Studholme and I probably measure 95% of the courses in the area. We will be glad to send you the best, most recent information on a given course we measure. Email one or both of us at sheddingcat@comcast.net or onjwagner@hotmail.com

If maybe 10% of the runners in a race KNOW the course, they can redirect lost runners or course workers…politely. Run a lot of the course warming up. If there is an issue, tell the race director. And that could be the difference in a good day and a bad day.

Oscar Wagner
June 2017