USATF Road Running Technical Council
Road Race and Finish Line Management

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The keys to managing the finish line are reliability and redundancy. Murphy's Law is ALWAYS operative; if something can go wrong, it WILL go wrong.

Redundancy not only improves the overall reliability of your finish line system but can improve versatility as well. For example, manually recording bib-numbers at the exit of each finish chute can provide "on-site" results and a faster award search than the place card/pull-tag system but the latter is less subject to recording error and position shifting in

the chutes and may be preferred for final race result preparation. Before designing a finish line system, the race director needs to determine the expected number of finishers and the expected peak finishing rate. Next, the race director needs to determine the personnel and equipment available. At this point the race director may wish to hire a finish line group or contact the local TAC or RRCA club for help. If so, he/she will have learned enough to evaluate any such proposals to see if they really know what they are doing!

Finish line systems are made up of three basic types of subsystems. Each of these sub- systems is described in detail in the preceding section. Unless you have a VERY small race, you will need a time/place sub-system (usually a printing timer), a time/bib- number sub-system (select timing), and a place/bib-number subsystem (such as the pull- tag/spindle method).

The physical layout of a finish line system consists of the prefinish area (as runners approach the finish line), the finish line itself, the deceleration zone just past the finish line where the runners slow down, and the processing chutes where the runners are processed. The time/place and time/bib-number systems are located AT the finish line. The place/bib-number system is located in the processing chute zone. Judges and monitors are needed in the deceleration zone to PRESERVE FINISH ORDER as runners are channeled into the processing chutes (one processing chute per finish line at one time). Preserving order is easiest when the finishing rate on a finish line is relatively low.

Toll-Booth versus Multi-Plex Systems

There are two approaches to finish line design. One approach is the "toll-booth" approach in which a large number of separate finish lines are used, each having only a single processing chute. This is similar to a toll road with a toll-booth for each lane of traffic. The approaching runner is directed to choose the least congested finish line which "spreads" the arrivals out fairly evenly.

This form of processing runners is called "parallel" processing as contrasted to "sequential" processing in which ALL runners would be required to cross the SAME finish line.

Basic Layout of Finish Area.
Solid circles indicate stanchions; solid lines indicate fixed (non-moveable) ropes or barriers. Deceleration zone should be about 20 meters long. The finish line must be at least two meters long but not more than 10 meters long. Processing chutes chould be one meter wide.

The toll-booth method usually is carried out using a multi-channel Chronomix although the method can be carried out using several separate single or dual channel printing timers. The advantages of the method are that peak arrival rates are low for any given finish line which permits select timing a greater fraction of the runners (better error control) and reduces problems keeping the runners in order after they cross the finish line.

The multi-plex system employs fewer separate finish lines but uses several processing chutes for each finish line. A typical multiplex design for a large race may employ three finish lines with 4 or 6 processing chutes for each finish line.

The multi-plex system is usually operated with a single finish line or with separate finish lines for men and women. In this mode, a sequential finish order is readily available on race day for posting of results. The multi-plex system may be operated using any type of printing timer and does not require a multi-channel timer. The multiplex system does involve switching the flow of runners from one processing chute to another. The frequency of switching may approach three or four switches per minute.

Most multi-plex systems work with "pairs" of processing chutes (see diagrams). The smallest number of processing chutes recommended for a multi-plex system is two. If one processing chute "breaks down" for whatever reason, there is still a functioning chute and the finish line can remain open. Note that in the multi-plex system, processing chutes can process runners in PARALLEL although chutes must be filled in SEQUENCE.

With a toll-booth system, closing a single finish line is no problem. Toll-booth systems usually operate with a single finish line open until the arrival rate dictates opening more (all) finish lines. Toward the end of the race, all but one finish line will be closed. This practice simplifies the awards search.

Combining Sub-Systems

Putting together the sub-systems to create an overall finish line system is somewhat like a Chinese menu, one from group A, one from Group B and one from Group C. In this case, two groups represent the legs of the ladder and the select timing represents the rungs. By completing the ladder, the matching of runners and times can be kept synchronized so that each runner is assigned the proper time.

If you choose a "weak" sub-system, you should employ a second sub-system from that same group for redundancy and to provide a back-up in case your first choice system fails. Certain sub-systems are quite amenable to "doubling-up," e.g., using two printing timers at the finish line, each producing a list of times/places. If one fails, you still have a good time/place sequence.

The Pre-Finish Line Area

Leading into the finish line for large races, you should have crowd control barricades to prevent spectators from interfering with the runners. Cones and/or ropes are NOT EFFECTIVE for controlling spectators. Snow fencing is good. Steel riot-control fencing which comes in interlocking sections is very good. These may be obtained (borrowed) from local authorities.

If you employ separate finish lines for men and women, you will need to split the flow well ahead of the finish line. As runners approach the finish line, course monitors and signs can be used to direct women runners to one side and men runners to the other. Another 50 to 100 meters further along, use cones to separate the flow again with signs and course monitors. Cones will allow runners to cross-over to the correct side. Snow- fencing or ropes may be used within 50 meters of the finish to keep the finishers separate.

If you employ separate finish lines which do not segregate the runners, e.g., two finish lines for men, separation of the stream of finishers should occur just prior to the finish line. This may be accomplished simply by allowing incoming runners to see which finish lines are less crowded and choose the least crowded finish line.

Runners tend to "follow-the-leader" which means some finish lines will be under utilized and others will be over-crowded. A good method to reduce this problem is to use "modulating" ropes in the pre-finish area. A modulating rope is different from a "switching" rope in that a modulating rope is NOT intended to CLOSE a finish line (or chute) in normal operation.

Each barrier separating one finish line from another should have a modulating rope 10 to 20 meters in length attached. The handler for a given modulating rope should keep the rope fairly taut and nearly perpendicular to the line of the finish. If the handler sees that one of the adjacent finish lines is noticeably less utilized than the other, he/she should take one side-step TOWARD the more heavily utilized finish line. This effectively reduces the flow in the more constricted approach zone and increases it in the less constricted zone. You may wish to position a "captain" to help co-ordinate the overall flow by directing the modulating rope handlers.

An overhead display may be created using construction scaffolding which can be rented in sections and assembled as needed. Finish line banners, advertising, and/or digital display clocks may be placed over the finish line. This serves as a visual finish for approaching runners. Few things are worse than not knowing where the finish line is. Runners may get upset if they stop or slow after crossing what they thought was the finish only to have someone else pass them.

Such scaffolding at the finish line creates protected areas where timers may be stationed. Timers MUST be located AT the finish line. NOT in front of the finish line and NOT behind the finish line BUT RIGHT ON THE FINISH LINE. Elevated stair- step placement is another preferred method for seating of timers so they can view the finish line unobstructed. Your timers should be protected from crowds and other distractions. Without them, you have no times. MARK THE FINISH LINE CLEARLY ON THE GROUND.

The Finish Line

Definition of the Finish Line

The finish line MUST be clearly marked. USATF Rule 64 states that the finish line is to be a line drawn across the surface from finish post to finish post. For the purposes of aiding the judges (in the case of close finishes), a string or thread may be strung across the finish BUT this is not to be considered the finish line. The "true" finish line is the leading edge of the marked line on the ground, i.e., that part of the marked finish line first encountered by the finishing runners.

The best finish line is one that is painted on the road surface. Often local officials become perturbed by this practice. Yellow lumber crayons are excellent for making the finish line, EVEN WHEN THE ROAD IS WET! You may wish to "tape" the finish line with athletic tape or masking tape. Unless the surface is fairly clean, these may not stick too well. You may also "chalk" the finish line using the lime and marker used for marking the course.

Another alternative is "Spray Chalk" which is a chalk which sprays on like paint but can be hosed off after a race. It will stand up to hard rains so you won't lose the line for a race. Boards or masking tape can be used to define the line, spraying in between to obtain a good edge.

It is important that the finish line be well-defined. This is the line to be used for all timing and is the line to be used for judging close finishes. If the line wiggles or is poorly defined (or non-existent), judging close finishes is difficult. When $5,000 is riding on the difference between a first place finish and a second place finish, you better do it right!

The finish line MUST be at least 2 meters long and may be up to 10 meters long. If the finish line is too wide, your timers will have difficulty focusing on the finishers and it will be difficult to judge close finishes and maintain the correct finish sequence. If it is too narrow, sprinting finishers may collide with each other or with your finish line personnel.

Judging Close Finishes

The finish line marked on the ground is the guide for the finish judges. Judges should be cognizant of the rules for judging the finish (see USATF Rule 34) and placed AT the finish line, preferably judges on each end of the finish line.

If prize money is involved, setting up an Accutrack system is highly recommended. Accutrack is used in major track meets to provide fully automatic timing and relies on still photography. In road racing, the sole purpose of this system is to judge close finishes objectively. This eliminates many potential problems and is worth the extra effort.

The height and positioning of the tower required for the Accutrack camera is dictated by the site parameters and the Accutrack operator. A pole opposite the tower (at the other end of the finish line) is used to "judge" the relative position of the runners as they cross the finish line. A finish tape MAY NOT be deployed at the finish line although you may have a finish tape a one-half meter BEHIND the finish line. Officials and workers MUST be excluded from the area one-half meter on either side of the finish line while the system is being used.

The Deceleration Zone

There should be a "deceleration" zone between the finish line and the opening of the chutes. This zone is usually triangular in shape tapering down from the width of the finish line to the width of the processing chutes. In multi-plex systems, all switching occurs in the deceleration zone.

The zone is often defined by moveable ropes, particularly in the multi-plex system. These moveable ropes MUST NOT extend beyond the finish line into the pre-finish area. If this occurs, an overlap may occur in your finish order since not all runners are finishing at the same speed. If your switching rope extends into the pre-finish area, the judge of position for runners near the switch point is at the lead end of the switching rope rather than at the finish line itself. If the switching rope does not extend to the finish line, the switch is less reliable, again due to runner overlap.

The deceleration zone should be AT LEAST 10 meters long and may be as long as 30 meters. The length of the deceleration zone depends on the length of your race since the finishing speed in a 5 kilometer race will be much greater than in a marathon and a longer deceleration zone will be needed.

Processing chutes should NEVER extend to the finish line. Only the boundaries between adjacent finishing areas may extend to the finish line and it is REQUIRED that finish area boundaries DO extend to the finish line.

Single Chute Operation

When a single finish chute handles all the runners, you need to erect "buffer" zones between the chute and the spectators. This buffer zone or worker lane is to allow the various chute workers space to perform their varied functions without interference. It also discourages runners from "jumping" out of the finish chutes and leaving gaps in your finish order. Unofficial runners or "interlopers," often think they are doing you a favor by leaving before they are recorded (i.e., caught). However, they have already messed you up by crossing the finish and having their time recorded. Jumping out of the chute compounds the problem.

Multiple Chute Operation

When a given finish line feeds two or more chutes, runners must be "switched" from one chute to another as each chute fills. This is necessary in order to preserve finish order. If runners are allowed to choose a chute, i.e., runners are free to enter two or more chutes as they please, finish order is NOT preserved and the results are meaningless in terms of times and records.

Multiple chute systems are usually set up in PAIRS of chutes. This allows a systematic switching from side to side using a "switching" rope. If the peak finishing rate is less than 30 rpm, you can direct runners adequately without a switching rope; if the peak finishing rate is greater than 60 rpm, you should use a switching rope to maintain proper finish order. The switching rope MUST switch at or just after the finish line is encountered by the runners.

Two Chute Operation

Required personnel:
one chute captain who can double as the chute card director
one switching rope handler
two chute plugs
four to six deceleration zone workers/judges

Switches between the two chutes are accomplished using a switching rope which should be strong enough to withstand constant tension. Pennants or surveyor's flagging may be used to improve the rope's visibility. Thick braided rope may be too heavy for quick switching.

The switching rope should be attached to the forward stanchion so as to create two deceleration zones (right and left) leading into each chute. This design is facilitated by placing a worker lane between the two processing chutes. The worker lane may serve a variety of functions in addition to normal monitoring and processing of runners, e.g., medical, press, photographers, etc.

The worker lane tapers from a width of 1.5 meters or more to a single stanchion in the deceleration zone, half-way to the finish line. The switching rope is attached to this head stanchion which must be STURDY. This creates two fixed deceleration zones. By switching from one side to the other, time to remove a "downed" runner may be gained without interrupting the flow of finishing runners. The recommended order of operation is as follows:

(1) As the first runner approaches the finish, the switching rope is held taut (the rope should NEVER touch the ground while in operation) and to one side, completely blocking entrance on one side. This channels runners to the open processing chute.

(2) When the flow of runners at the end of the chute is about to stop, or after a pre-determined number of runners has entered the chute, the switching rope handler looks for a break in the flow of runners and makes the switch.

(3) The chute captain directs (leads) the first runner in the next "batch" to the entrance of the desired processing Chute. The captain gives the first chute open card (tag) to the chute plug who then leads the runner to the end of the chute. The chute plug hands the chute open card to the recording team and returns to the head of the chute.

The switches must be quick and decisive. You can't have runners simultaneously entering BOTH deceleration zones. The switching rope handler must carefully monitor BOTH the flow of incoming runners and the flow of runners through the processing chutes. Too infrequent switching will "stuff" your processing chutes and cause runners to stop. This MUST be avoided.

Note that the chute open cards separate batches of runners so that a new batch can be started down a processing chute WHILE the last of an earlier batch is still being recorded. The chute plug occupies a "place" in the processing chute to insure that the chute open card is recorded. If you rely on a runnerto perform this task, you may lose the separation between batches which means you WILL lose your finish order sequence.

For improved reliability when using finishers to carry chute open tags, you should also use "chute closing" tags which would be carried by the LAST runner in a batch. If both tags are reliably spindled, each batch will be separated by TWO tags, a chute closing tag followed by a chute open tag. If either is missing, the remaining one still serves the intended purpose. The likelihood that both are lost for the same switch is very small.

Example of two Chute Operation in Multi-Plex System.

Open circles represent runners. "S" is the switching rope handler; "J" identifies finish position judges/workers; "K" is the finish line captain; "P" are chute plugs; "W" are chute workers; "RC" identifies recorders or collectors. Arrows represent movement of workers.

Four Chute Operation

Required personnel:
one chute captain who can double as the chute card director
one switching rope handler
two secondary rope handlers (optional) four chute plugs
four to six deceleration zone workers/judges

The four chute operation utilizes the same basic principles as described for the two chute operation. Now there are two chutes at the end of each deceleration zone rather than one. Each chute entrance is manned by a chute plug who may serve to "close" or "open" the chute. This function may also be accomplished using secondary ropes which serve to create four possible deceleration zones, one side of each being moveable.

The recommended order of operation is as follows (refer to the four chute diagram):

(1) The lead runner is directed to Chute #2. Note that inside chutes are used first to permit a straighter path for the fastest runners. The chute captain gives the chute open card to chute plug #2 who leads the runner to the end of the chute.

(2) Workers in the deceleration zone help direct the flow of runners to the open chute as the chute captain returns to the deceleration zone and prepares for the next switch.

(3) To make the next switch, the switching rope handler calls the switch. The chute captain leads the switch runner to Chute #3 and gives the chute open card to chute plug #3.

(4) Chute plug #3 takes the chute open card from the chute captain and leads the runner to the end of the chute where the chute open card is recorded (or spindled).

(5) While runners are channeled into Chute #3, the chute captain directs the secondary rope handler between Chutes #1 and #2 to close Chute #2 thereby opening Chute #1. Note that this switch is done IN THE ABSENCE of runners finishing.

(6) On the next switch, runners are directed left to Chute #1 (since Chute #2 is closed by a secondary rope). At this time, the secondary rope handler between Chutes #3 and #4 closes off Chute #3, AGAIN in the absence of oncoming finishers.

(7) The chute sequence 2-3-1-4 is repeated as needed. Towards the end of the race, you may wish to revert back to a 2-3-2-3 switching by tying off the secondary ropes to the outside of the deceleration zone. At the very end, you should return to a single processing chute. Having a pre-established sequence for switching chutes helps guard against chute sequence mix-ups in case chute open cards are not properly recorded. This is not to say that this order must always be followed. The chute captain may see problems on one processing chute and skip that chute until the problem is solved.

Example of Four Chute Operation.

Codes as in Fig. 4 with the addition of "R" for moveable rope handlers. Note that the rope handler between chutes 1 and 2 is preparing for the next switch, chute plug 3 is leading runners down the processing chute while chute plug 2 is returning to position. Recommended chute sequence is 2-3-1-4 and repeat.

Six Chute Operation

Required personnel:
one chute captain
one chute card director
one switching rope handler
six chute plugs
four to six deceleration zone workers/judges

Now there are three processing chutes on each "side" of the central worker lane. The functions of chute captain and chute card director are now handled by two people. The chute captain makes sure the secondary rope handlers open and close the appropriate chutes and guides the lead runner in each batch to the proper chute. The chute card director should not give the chute plug a chute open card UNTIL runners have actually been directed to that chute.

The three side-by-side chutes (on each side of the worker lane) are EACH separated by a secondary rope, i.e., two secondary ropes on each half for a total of foursecondary ropes. Switching runners is STILL accomplished by the switching rope (left-right-left- right). All secondary rope changes are done in the absence of finishing runners. Secondary rope changes open chutes from the inside to the outside. The chute opening sequence is then 3-4-2-5-1-6 and repeat.

Note that most switches require only two rope movements. The switching rope ALWAYS switches. Only one secondary rope moves at a time unless changing from chute #1 back to chute #3.

Example of Six Chute Operation.

Codes as in Figs. 4 and 5. Rope handlers between chutes 2 and 3 is preparing for the next switch, closing off chute 3 which is still processing runners. Recommended chute sequence is 3-4-2-5-1-6 and repeat.

Eight Chute Operation

Required personnel:
one chute captain
two chute card directors
one switching rope handler
two secondary rope handlers
four tertiary rope handlers (2/2/2 system)
eight chute plugs
four to six deceleration zone workers/judges

There are two possible ways to design an eight chute operation. The two level system breaks in half with four chutes on each side (2/4 system). The three level system breaks in half and in half again to produce 4 sets of twin chutes at the tertiary level (2/2/2 system).

In the two level (2/4) system, the switching rope separates chutes 1-2-3-4 from 5-6-7-8. The secondary ropes A and B separate chutes 1-2- from 3-4 AND chutes 5-6 from 7-8 respectively. The adjacent chute pair opening/closing operations are accomplished with chute plugs and do not require ropes.

Utilizing all the basic chute opening, switching and closing operations discussed earlier, the recommended sequence of chute openings is as follows:

(1) Chute #4 is the first chute to be used. The switching rope blocks chutes 5-8. Secondary rope A blocks chutes 1-2; secondary rope B blocks chutes 7-8. Chute plugs block chutes 3 and 6.

(2) Chute #5 is the next chute to be used. The switching rope moves to block chutes 1-4. While chutes 1-4 are blocked, secondary rope A moves to block chutes 3-4. Chute 1 is blocked by a chute plug.

(3) Chute #2 is the next chute to be used. The switching rope moves to block chutes 5-8. While chutes 5-8 are blocked, secondary rope B moves to block chutes 5-6. Chute 8 is blocked by a chute plug.

The chute opening sequence is then 4-5-2-7-3-6-1-8 and repeat. The chute captain leads the runners to the proper chutes and directs the secondary rope handlers. Two chute card directors may be used, one for each "half" of the finish area.

In the three level (2/2/2) system, the same SEQUENCE of chute openings should be used. In this case, the tertiary level of chute pairs is opened and closed by tertiary rope switches rather than chute plugs.

Processing Chute Design and Construction

Processing Chute Dimensions

Processing chutes should be wide enough to allow runners to move forward freely and narrow enough to discourage position shifting. A width of one meter is generally considered suitable. Chutes may be slightly wider at the head of the chute to accommodate runners more easily.

Processing chutes MUST NEVER be constructed within TEN METERS of the finish line. The deceleration zone and processing chutes perform separate and non-overlapping functions. The lead stanchion of each chute should be brightly colored and padded for safety. Lead stanchions also need to be sturdy enough to accommodate switching ropes.

Processing chutes should not be longer than required for the particular place/bib-number recording system to be used. If your chutes are longer than 100 meters, your system is not optimally designed. If you wish to utilize chutes to channel runners away from the finish area, SEPARATE the processing function from the transportation function. For example, if you wish to exit the runners 250 meters from the head of the chutes and the ideal chute length (L) is 60 meters, place your recording teams at 60 meters and the REST of the chutes are now "transport" chutes which need to be monitored ONLY to keep runners moving, i.e., the finish order does not have to be "protected" past this point.

Chute Construction

Finish chutes are defined by stanchions and ropes. Stanchions consisting of a heavy base and rigidly attached one meter vertical pole may be used for paved and unpaved finish areas. Rebar pounded into the ground can suffice for dirt finish areas. Stanchions should be sturdy enough to remain upright when bumped. End stanchions should be SOLIDLY fixed. Stanchion height should be "waist-leve;" or roughly one meter. The "ropes" used to define the chutes often have brightly colored pennants attached which improve the visibility of the rope. Another alternative is to use pink surveyor's ribbon. The space between stanchions is dictated by their sturdiness. Stakes in dirt can support up to 10 meters of chute ropes while the small 30cm x 30cm metal plate base stanchions used on pavement may only support 2 to 3 meters of rope. Ropes should be looped through rings or hooks on the tops of the stanch ions and wrapped again around the top of the stanchion. If they sag, they can be wrapped around another time.

Handling Interlopers and Other Problems

A well-designed and operated finish system rarely has problems with interlopers (non- registered runners) PROVIDED one simple rule is followed. EVERY runner that crosses the finish line and is timed MUST be recorded as a finisher. If you do not observe this rule, your time/place and you place/bib-number sequences will become unsynchronized. This can be corrected by proper use of select times but it is easier if you don't have to adjust the sequences to begin with.

Some races use a finish line simply for interlopers. This is usually off to the side and no times are provided. This does require more space which may be at a premium to begin with and may be conf using to registered runners who may inadvertently finish with the interlopers. It still doesn't eliminate interlopers crossing the real finish line. In most cases, such "side" finish lines are not worth the effort and don't cure the problem anyway.

In the hand-out systems, interlopers cannot be relied on to return their place stick or place card. Such place sticks or cards should be pocketed by the handler or assistant and brought to the recording station where they can be marked "invalid" or "interloper" and inserted into the finish sequence.

In the take-from systems, you need an "interloper" tag to be spindled in place of a "real" pull-tag. A chute worker should be assigned to scan the runners waiting processing in the chutes for interlopers and registered runners who for whatever reason do not have a pull-tag. When such runners are spotted, the interloper is handed an "interloper" tag and requested to hand it in at the end of the chute. You should also consider registered runners that finish "twice" to be interlopers.

The registered runner without a pull-tag should be recorded. To prevent this occurrence from stopping your processing, a "substitute" tag should be used. This two-part, perforated tag is handed to the runner. At the end of the chute, the substitute tag is separated with the NUMBER ONLY portion being spindled and the fill-out portion to be carried by the runner to a "scorer" table where he/she is to fill out the necessary information and hand in the tag.

In the manual recording system, runners without numbers should be entered with X's. If the runner claims to be registered, send the runner to the scorer with his/her problem.

In the place card systems, interloper place cards should be "X"ed out and collected. For registered runners without a pull-tag, the runner should WRITE his/her name and age/sex on the place card. The recorder needs to have a supply of pens/pencils for this task. The best procedure for an "in-chute" recorder is to give the pencil to the runner with instructions to fill it out so the place card may be collected by the end of chute recorder. Usually, the end of chute recorder will remove the runner from the chute so processing may continue while the registered runner completes the place card.

For longer races or races held under hot and humid conditions, you should have several "substitute runners" to stand-in for casualties. If a runner collapses after crossing the finish, the substitute collects that runner's pull-tag or place card and enters the stream of runners to be processed where the casualty would have been.

If you are using a manual recording system, the substitute should have 3x5 cards and pens available to COPY the runner's number rather than attempting to remove the number. Time is of essence. This preserves your finish order and allows immediate medical attention (and identification) for your casualty. Rapid identification of a medical casualty may help alert medical personnel to be able to treat the casualty properly.

Wheel-chair finishers present a similar problem since the chairs are usually too wide for the chutes. A substitute runner should collect the necessary pull-tag, place card, or runner number (copied) and join the sequence of runners to be processed. The wheel- chair finisher may then exit through a gap provided in the deceleration zone for that purpose. Usually the number of wheelchair finishers is too small to warrant a separate finish line.

Example of Finish System Design for a Large Race

As an example, consider the hypothetical case of a 2500 person 10 kilometer race. The flow chart illustrates the sequence of decisions. First determine the estimated peak finish rate (P) from equation (1). This is 150 runners per minute.

Since the estimated peak finish rate is greaterthan 100, divide P by 100 and add one. This gives 2.5 or TWO finish lines. The flow chart is set up so you can simply drop the fractions. If you are close to 3, you might consider using three finish lines. In this case, TWO are required and two should be sufficient.

Suppose that 350/a of your field consists of women. By having separate finish lines for men and women, you can reduce your race to "two" races, one of roughly 900 women; the other of roughly 1600 men. Your most experienced people should be assigned critical jobs on the men's finish line since they will be faced with the highest finish rates (P for men 96 rpm) which will be very close to the capacity of the system.

Let's consider four different systems or options. The particular option you use will depend on your particular needs and the equipment you have available.

The first option (A) is a toll-booth system using six finish lines. The other three options employ the multi-plex system. Option B is a pull-tab/spindle system; Option C is a manual recording system; Option D is a place card/pull-tag system. The pull-tag/spindle system should permit a processing rate of 30 rpm whereas the manual recording system should allow a processing rate of 20 rpm. The place card/pull-tag system should yield a processing rate of 80rpm. The toll-booth method may employ either the place card/pull-tag system or the pull-tag/spindle system since the expected peak arrival rate for each finish line is 150 rpm divided by six finish lines or25 rpm for each finish line.

For any of the multi-plex options, IF you go with one finish chute per finish line, you could get into trouble rather quickly. The maximum chute build-up for the men's finish line (P 96 rpm) as calculated from equation 2 for the fastest processing rate (R 80 rpm) is 98 runners. Allowing two waiting runners per meter of chute, even the fastest system would require a chute of 50 meters in length.

Using the pull-tag/spindle system (R 30 rpm) the expected build-up is more than 1000 runners requiring more than 500 meters of chutes! If the runners were able to walk at a normal walking pace of 80 in/mm (3 mph), they would be in the chutes for more than six minutes!

Back to the flow chart. IF we split runners evenly between the two finish lines, the peak arrival rate for each finish line would be 150 divided by 2 or 75 rpm. Splitting unevenly (men and women), yields P 96rpm forthe men'sfinish lineand S4rpmforthewomen'sfinish line. Let's follow the flow chart using the uneven split.

For the place card/pull-tag option (D), R = 80 rpm. Since both the male and female peak arrival rates are less than twice this, i.e., 160 rpm, two finish chutes for each finish line are indicated. For the pull-tag/spindle option (B), R 30 rpm. The women's finish line can get by with two chutes since P< 2 times R or 60. The men's finish line requires four chutes, i.e., the number of chutes equals 96/30 (which is P/R) or 3.2. Since chutes are arranged in pairs, 4 chutes are needed.

For the manual recording option (C), R 20 rpm. The women's finish line requiries four chutes 54/20 = 2.7 and this is raised to the NEXT higher EVEN number or four. The men's finish line requires six chutes, 96/20 equals 4.8 which is raised to six.

Note that this method of determining the number of finish lines and finish chutes eliminates chute build-up since the overall processing rate is never less than the estimated peak arrival rate. For example, in Option C on the men's finish line requires six finish chutes. Each chute can process runners at 20 rpm. Six chutes working together can process six times that or 120 rpm. The estimated peak arrival rate is 96 rpm. Hence, runners are quickly processed through the chutes and at no time is there any significant build-up of runners waiting to be processed. Chutes should NOT be used as storage areas for runners awaiting processing.

The toll-booth system (Option A) with six finish lines reduces the peak arrival rate to 25 rpm on each finish line. Note that ANY of the sub-systems used to record runners/places in the processing chutes EXCEPT the manual recording system is capable of handling this arrival rate with a single processing chute!

Each finish line will need at least one printing timer and its operator PLUS AT LEAST one team of select timers. Each finish line requires at least two and preferably three official timers for the first finisher across that finish line in order to synchronize the primary timing system (see section on Timing Requirements) EXCEPT for Option A since the first finisher synchronizes ALL the channels for the multi-channel Chronomix. Option A is assumed to use a place card/pull-tag system for comparison although the pull-tag/spindle method could also be used.

The breakdown of personnel required for each option is given below. Note that these are MINIMUMS. More people at the right places can reduce your problems. In particular, you should have TWO select time teams per finish line rather than one.
# finish lines 6 2 2 2
# chutes (total) 6 6 10 4
(in pre-finish line zone)
sex separators
3 1 1 1
modulating rope handlers 5 0 0 0
(at finish line)
official timers
3 6 6 6
@ printing timer operators 6 2 2 2
select time teams 12 4 4 4
printing timer supervisor 1 1 1 1
@ chief timer 1 1 1 1
(in deceleration zone)
* finish "judges"
6 2 2 2
@ chute captains 0 2 2 3
@ switching rope handlers 0 2 2 2
secondary rope handlers 0 0 2 0
@ chute card directors 0 2 2 2
(at head of chutes)
* place card handlers
6 4 0 4
* time tag teams 0 4 0 0
* chute plugs 0 6 10 4
*plug supervisors
0 1 1 1
(in worker lanes)
* chute monitors
0 12 20 0
* in-chute collectors 12 0 0 8
* trouble shooters 6 6 10 4
(at end of chutes)
* recorders/collectors
6 12 20 4
recorder supervisor 1 1 1 1

The final decision as to which system to go with depends on the available personnel and equipment (how many printing timers are available?), the physical space available for finish lines and chutes, and the type of race day awards, results, etc., that are desired.

Positions indicated by"@" require well-trained people and should not be entrusted to amateurs. Positions indicated by "k" may be filled on race day by volunteers although they do need to be well- briefed on their jobs.

Example of a Short Race of Medium Size

Now consider an 800 person race at 5 kilometers distance. Although the number of runners is not excessive, they will all finish within a relatively short time span. The estimated peak arrival rate is 96 rpm according to equation (1).

Since the peak arrival rate is not greater than 100 rpm, you can get by with one finish line (Option A). You may wish to separate men and women finishers. Note that shorter races usually have a higher fraction of women runners. Here, we may expect 400/0 women. Spliting the finish line would yield estimated peak arrival rates of 58 rpm for the men and 38 rpm for the women (Option B).

For races where the total number of runners is not excessive, the place card/pull-tag system is recommended for its reliability and robustness. With a high processing rate (R = 80 rpm), single processing chutes for each finish line would be preferred to having two processing chutes for a single finish line (unless your available equipment prohibits this option). Additional workers should be assigned to the deceleration zone to keep runners in the proper order and to handle potential medical problems.

Another option using dual finish lines would be the pull- tag/spindle or the manual recording methods (Options C and D). The processing rate for the pu Il-tag/spindle method is 30 rpm. This requires a multi-plex system with two processing chutes for the women and four processing chutes for the men. The manual recording method with a processing rate of 20 rpm requires the same number of processing chutes.
# finish lines 1 2 2 2
# chutes (total) 2 2 6 6
(in pre-finish line zone)
sex separators
0 1 1 1
(at finish line)
official timers
3 6 6 6
@ printing timer operators 1 2 2 2
select time teams 2 4 4 4
printing timer supervisor 1 1 1 1
@ chief timer 1 1 1 1
(in deceleration zone)
* finish "judges"
1 2 2 2
@ chute captains 1 0 1 1
switching rope handlers 1 0 2 2
@ chute card directors 1 0 2 2
(at head of chutes)
* place card handlers
2 4 0 0
* time tag teams 0 0 4 0
* chute plugs 2 0 6 6
plug supervisors
1 0 1 1
(in worker lanes)
* chute monitors
0 0 12 12
* in-chute collectors 6 6 0 0
* trouble shooters 2 2 6 6
(at end of chutes)
* recorders/collectors
2 2 12 12
recorder supervisors 1 1 1 1

Again, the choice of options depends on available equipment. The awards search with a dual finish line is much quicker than when using a single finish line.

Example of a Small Race

Now consider a 400 person race at 15 kilometers distance. After worrying about high finishing rates, this will seem like a small race. However, this type of race is encountered MUCH more frequently than the ones previously discussed and they too can be mismanaged.

The estimated peak arrival rate is 16 rpm according to equation (1). Clearly, a single finish line is adequate. Again, for a race of this size, a place card/pull-tag system OR even a place card system where the runners "write-in" their name/age/sex on the place card before handing it in to the scorer are the systems of choice. Since the place card system processing rate is on the order of 80 rpm, you should be able to handle the peak arrival rate with no difficulty.

Note that EVEN if you use the place card/write-in method, you STILL need competitor numbers that are visible as runners approach the finish line. This race is still large enough to REQUIRE select timing since you will not be able to "select" all finishers and must rely on matching the printing timer tape and the place card order for final race results.

The personnel required include three official timers (one may be the printing timer operator if the primary timing device is also an official time), a printing timer operator, a finish judge, a place card handler and someone to collect the place cards. With a chute monitor to answer runner's questions regarding what they are supposed to do with the place card and another to help handle interlopers or other problems, the total personnel required at the finish line is ten.

Example of a Really Small Race

Now consider a 200 person marathon race. The estimated peak arrival rate is now down to less than 3 runners per minute. Due to "clustering" or "bunching" of the runners as they finish, you may have five or six finish in one minute and none the next minute, even at the peak period! This peak arrival rate is low enough that you should be able to select ALL finishers. Indeed, this is the preferred method for races of this size and finishing rate. In addition to the printing timer which gives "stopped" times for each finisher, two teams of select timers are suggested. The timer half of each select time team can take a "stopped" time on the first finisher and if the printing timer is also an "official" time, you have three official stopped times on the first finisher. Having two select time teams provides back-up and helps catch errors in transcribing runner's numbers. With finish densities this low, you have time to assign a worker to ask each finisher their name and age which may then be entered on the select time sheets. These then serve as the basis for your award search and may be copied and posted for race day results.
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