USATF Road Running Technical Council
Road Race and Finish Line Management

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The search for award winners requires both speed and reliability. The only thing worse than an award ceremony that is an hour overdue is one where the wrong runners receive the awards. It is nice if you can announce unofficial times at the award ceremony but the most important things are speed and reliability. If you are in doubt, don't announce it!

The hardest part of the awards search is taken care of during race registration. Each finish line sub-system for recording places and runners has its corresponding system for award searching. Implementation of the various systems is covered in Chapter 3. In this section, we will focus on the mechanics of how each system should work at the race to produce a list of award winners.

The only systems to produce a list of award winners directly are the computer based systems. Using direct computer entry or bar code reading, bib-numbers represent file locations. A complete set of preliminary race results may be easily generated, tentative only in the sense that assigned times may not be reliable since they may not have been checked against the select times. With a complete race finish order available with name, age and sex information to match, sorting to produce a list of award winners is straightforward.

Manual systems usually start with awards forms that identify the age/sex division and leave spaces for the names and times for each award to be given in that division, plus a couple extra to cover any errors. You may wish to have more than one age/sex division's awards on a given page but it is better to use a separate page for each. If you do group them, place the faster age groups together and the slower ones together. Otherwise if you mix them, the posting of award winners for the faster groups may wait for the slower groups to be determined.

Your awards search should take place AWAY from the finish area and PROTECTED from participants and spectators. You will need to assign workers to relay the various lists gathered at the finish area to the awards search area.

One method for simplifying the awards search is to have separate finish lines for men and for women. Even if the size of your race is such that you can get by with one finish line, often the convenience in locating women's awards winners is worth the extra effort to have separate finish lines. Your women runners will like it, too!

Manual Recording Systems

If you employ manual recording, your awards search may be augmented by using number blocking or letter-coding. In fact, if you DON'T use such a method, only small races have much chance of locating all the award winners before everyone leaves. AWARDS PRESENTATION


Flow of Information for Manual Recording Finish Line System.

Recording and select time sheets plus printing timer tapes are carried to awards search area where time tapes are matched with recording sheets using select times. The completed sheets are copied and distributed as shown. One copy is examined by the awards scanner who prepares the list of award winners.

Having several keys to your coding method taped to the work table for easy reference. Award forms should have the code or number block for that age/sex division shown with each list of award winners for easy reference. Place the chute finish order sheets in their proper sequence.

The first chute will probably give all the open awards plus mostof the 35-39, 40-44 and 16-19 age division awards. The easiest method is to place each runner in the proper award category, starting with the first finisher, then the second, and so forth, until you have completed the first chute.

For subsequent chutes, it is fasterto choose an age group that you still need award winners for, determine the number block or code for that group, and scan the entire sheet looking for one age/sex division at a time. Complete each sheet in this fashion, scanning for those age/sex divisions you still need award winners for. Finish one sheet before going to the next.

The best method for determining tentative times for the award ceremony and results posting is to match the printing timer tapes with the finish order, using the select times to keep times/runners synchronized. This will yield fairly reliable times for the award winners and is fairly quick. Copies of these sheets can be posted as available for the runners. Times should be recorded on the awards form as award winners are located.

The overall flow of information is shown in Figure 6-1. The recording sheets, printing timer tapes and select timing sheets are gathered in the "results" area where they are matched using the selected times. The completed sheets are copied and distributed to the awards search and press and posted for the runners. Copies of the completed awards list are similarly distributed.

If you don't match time/place and place/bib-number lists as above, you can use chute opening and chute closing cards that include time information, to fix the first chute finisher on the time/ place sequence from the finish line. Counting down, you can match an (unofficial) time for each award winner.

If you use a place stick method, you also will have a manually recorded list of finishers in place order. However, in this case, you should have also recorded the runner's age and sex in addition to their name. The awards search is the same as described above except no codes are involved.

Place Card Systems

Place card systems produce "batches" of unsorted place cards with pull-tags attached orwith hand-written name/age/sex information. For your awards ceremony, you don't NEED the overall order of finishers, just the award winners.

For races with less than 500 finishers, affixing the place cards to "place boards" is a convenient way to scan for awards AND post results. Place boards may be constructed of "tag board" or plywood. A 3'x4' place board may be divided into 12 rows of 9 columns each to accommodate 3"x5" place cards. Each grid is numbered sequentially; each place board can hold 108 place cards.

As place cards are collected from the processing chutes, they are affixed to the place board in their proper location with double-sided tape. As each board is completed, it may be quickly scanned for award winners. If enough trained workers are available, selecttimes can be located and written on the place cards in ink. The printing timer tapes then can quickly be checked, adjusted if necessary, and these times entered in pencil.

Once each place board has been processed, it may be posted. Once posted, it should be guarded!

For larger races, this system becomes awkward. The recommended procedure is to search for award winners by a hierarchial sort.

Award searchers should be divided into two groups. The first group sorts ALL the place cards by age/sex division. A shoe box "half", marked on ALL sides with the age/sex division should be ready for EACH age/sex division you have. If you employ two DIFFERENT finish lines, say for men and for women separately, you would use DIFFERENT color place cards for each and do a preliminary sort, separating men and women. If you employ color-coding, each box for sorting should be amply marked with the color-code for that age/sex division.

These preliminary sorts can be done at 20 to 30 sorts per minute per worker. This is generally the "rate limiting" step. Figure how long you have before your awards ceremony and divide that time in minutes into the total number of entrants in your race. Then divide that by 25 to obtain the number or workers you need to assign to preliminary sorting.

For example, in the 2500 person 10 km race previously considered, suppose you wished to have your awards ceremony commence 90 minutes after the start of the race. Say the race starts at 9 AM, and you wish to start the awards ceremony at 10:30AM. The first cards can be expected to arrive at your awards search area roughly 45 minutes after the start of the race. Leave a "safety factor" of 15 minutes gives you 30 minutes. Divide this into 2500 runners to obtain 83 cards per minute. Divide this by 25 cards per minute per workerto yield four workers (to be on the safe side).

Once the preliminary sort has started, your second group can start their awards compilation. Each worker in the second group can handle four or five age/sex divisions, provided they are balanced between large and small groups. Keep aside ONLY as many of the highest placed cards in each age/sex division as there are awards PLUS TWO more in reserve.

For example, suppose in the M40-44 division you have four awards. Keep the first six cards that are sorted into the M40-44 box. Say their overall places are 12, 24,32, 35, 41, and 68. Any subsequent cards sorted into the M40-44 box may be shunted directly into the "final results" bin if their places are higher than 68. Any subsequent cards that are found with lower places, are inserted in the proper order and the highest place card is bumped to the "final results" bin.

Once all the place cards have been sorted and the award winners culled, your awards search is completed and it is merely a matter of transcribing them. If any award winner is subsequently disqualified, you have a "reserve" to fill in with no delay. Tentative times may be taken from the overall time/place orderfor age group award winners and from the first select timing sheets for the open awards.

The award search depends on quickly gathering place cards from finishers and bringing them to the awards search area. Monitors and helpers in the "control" area beyond the end of the chutes can keep this delay to a minimum.

Pull-Tag Systems

The MOST IMPORTANT aspect here is that you should NOT take pull-tags off their spindles before the proper finish order is recorded. This means the awards search must be made while the pull-tags are still on the spindle. The award winners form should show the color code with each age/sex division for easy reference.

The first step is to get the spindles in sequence. Chute opening and closing tags and time tags are used for this purpose. Again, most of your award winners will be on the first spindle. The first spindle should be processed in order. Record the firstfinisherinthe proper award division list, then the second, and so forth until you are through the spindle. Record only the indicated number of award winners and back-ups.

The second and subsequent spindles should be scanned for specific age groups. Pick an age group, determine its color code, and scan spindles in sequence until you have located and recorded as many award winners as required.

Times for award winners need to be determined AT THE TIMEthe award winner is located. Time tags should give you a good fix on the time. Depending on the time available, you may wish to simply assume a linear distribution of times between two time tags OR you may wish to use the printing timer tapes in conjunction with the time tags to give a more accurate finish time to each award winner. Open winners may be determined directly from the select timing sheets.

Posting of results in this system is possible, provided you DON'T remove the pull-tags from the spindles. This may be achieved by carefully spreading the pull-tags while still on the spindle and then using masking tape on the reverse side to hold them in the spread out position. Once the spindle has been scanned foraward winners, it may be posted, quite literally, on one to two meter high "posts." Posted results should be guarded! (-U I


Example of Results Display for the PulI-Tag/Spindle System.

Note that the pull-tags are STILL attached to the skewer; pull-tags have been spread and taped on the reverse side. Award winners are found by scanning the color/pattern code. Approximate times may be determined from the time tags which also serve to keep spindles in order.

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