It’s getting close to gun time. You’re feeling just a bit nervous. Questions begin to form in your mind. Did you train hard enough? Are you ready to go the entire distance? Doubt gives way to anxiety. What can you do to hedge your bets on this race? You look towards to start and it seems like you are so far back in the pack. How will you ever be able to keep up with everyone when the gun goes off? You start to edge your way towards the front, hoping to get an advantage. STOP!!!! Let’s look at why there are corrals, and corral wave starts.
A wave start is where runners are released from each respective corral at (usually) predetermined intervals. How much time elapses between the start of each corral depends upon the number of runners, the width of the course, the number of course volunteers, and the expected pace. The purpose of the wave start is like a freeway on ramp with a traffic control signal. It allows the course to be loaded with runners at a measured rate, without clogging it up, all at once.
So isn’t a wave start unfair to the runners who are placed towards the rear? Not at all! Unless the race is small, or you are a really fast runner, it doesn’t matter where you are when the gun goes off, because you time isn’t started by the gun. Unlike other types of races, the marathon has two different timing standards. The first is gun time. That’s the clock that starts as soon as the gun goes off. If you are running for prize money, that’s the timing that you need to keep in mind. For the rest of us mere mortals, we go by chip time. Chip time starts the clock when you step over the start line. The reason that it’s called “chip” time, is that it’s controlled by a small computer chip that resides on a tag that you wear on your shoe, ankle, or race bib. The chip is the great equalizer on the marathon start line.
Now that we’ve taken the worry out of getting across the start line as soon as the gun goes off, let’s talk about the corral system and why you were assigned to a particular corral.
The corral system places the fastest runners in the front and the slower runners towards the rear. It allows the cheetahs to run with the cheetahs and the turtles to run with the turtles. I can hear some of you, once again saying, “That’s not fair!”. Remember the timing mat at the start line? It doesn’t care if you are the 1st runner to cross, or the 25,000th. The clock doesn’t start for you until you cross that mat. The only thing that cares is your ego! Now is the time to let your previous finish times dictate where you start, and here’s why. If the fastest runners start in front of you, they will run away from you, leaving you more running room. More running room means that you can run faster. If there were faster runners behind you, they would be passing you, clogging up your running lanes. That would slow you down. So be faster by staying to the rear of your corral. If you try to cheat and get into a corral that is faster than the pace that you will actually run, it will only slow you down. Be fast. Stay back!
Next time: ElliptiWHAT?