An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Guns and bandits

My wife and I timed another event this morning -- the Seattle AIDS Walk and Run 5K. As events go, it went pretty smoothly. There were TONS of volunteers, and they wanted to do everything off of gun time.

I'm a big proponent of this. Chip timing may be of great interest to people who line up well back of the start line, and may take a couple minutes (or more) to cross that start line. For those at the pointy end of the pack, it's actually a sticky issue. Imagine this -- some one starts 5 seconds behind you, sprints up (well, they wouldn't even have to sprint) to your shoulder just after the start and stays just ehind you for the rest of the race. By chip time, they'd be 4 seconds ahead of you, even if they finished behind you.

This is why, when we start events, I always call anyone who considers themelf fast to come to the front, any one who is vying for an overall or AG placing. Because I kind of think it's cowardly to win on chip time. Hey, if you wanna run with the big dogs, have the balls to get up there that at the start. No sneaking in the back door.

But back to this morning's event... The start and finish were at different locations, though they were within loud-speaker reach of each other across the park. We had three watches coordinated to exactly the same time. Well, as exact as you can get with "hand" coordination. One of those watches was at the start line, with the instructions, "If you can't start right at 10:00, then do it at a whole minute, like 10:01 or 10:02." With the gun time results, there was no need for us to be at the start line.

Well, as we're finalizing everything at the finish, I hear a countdown start... "Five... Four... Three..." I glance at my watch and see 9:52. What's going on? "Two... One..." then the blast of a horn. I look at my wife, and she has the same puzzled look. I head over to the main area, and ask some one... "I think that was the start."

So they started the even early. Later we heard from a few people who were still out warming up when the race started...

Once the runners start coming in, my job generally is to use a 10-key system and input the runners' numbers as they cross the line. It's not too difficult IF people follow the simple guidelines to put their number on the FRONT and VISIBLE. But it's amazing the number of people for whom these clear instrustions are too complex. Numbers are pinned to their backs, to their shorts (usually on the wrong side so I can't see it), under a coat or other T-shirt...

Granted, the file I build is a back-up system. Actually, it's a second back-up. So if I miss one or two along the way, chances are the chip system got them. But what amazed me is the number of people who bandited the race. No number at all. Nada. Nowhere.

Now I know bandits happen. People will come to run a course for which theyh know the exact distance. And I don't have too much of a problem with that, IF they don't go through the finish line. If they DO, though, what they're doing is taking my attention away to try to get their number, and possibly missing some one who DOES have a number in the process. It's disrespectful.

And in an event like the one today, which was a freakin' BENEFIT event for AIDS support... Well, I just have one question: If you go to an event like this in support of a cause, but don't pay for your participation, how are you really supporting it?

If that's you, stay home next time.

Okay, rant off. Time to sleep for the early risin' in the morning to time another race.

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