USATF Road Running Technical Council
Road Race and Finish Line Management

[Contents] [Next]


WARNING! Don't try to digest this manual in its entirety in one reading. It is PACKED with ideas. Some you already know; some are common-sense. Some will help you do a better job; some may show you things you have been doing wrong. NOBODY does everything right, not even the "experts" that contributed to this manual. All members of the working group learned a lot; you can, too.

Runners are becoming more selective in the races they choose to run. They have become "educated" consumers and look for QUALITY in return for their entry fees. Races that offer quality continue to attract runners; races that don't offer value for the entry dollar are shrinking. Don't think it is just a few "elite" runners that are interested in their times. Returns from a recent running club survey contained comments from roughly half the respondents, criticizing the QUALITY of the local races.

This manual deals with only ONE aspect of a road race, i.e., getting the runner's time CORRECT. It sounds simple, yet it is the one thing most often missed. Obtaining a known time over a known distance is the basic reason for entering a race for most people. If you give the runner an incorrect time, it gives a poor impression of your entire race.

If a national record is set in your race, you would want that mark to be recognized. Open and age-group records are officially ratified by The Athletics Congress which defines the standards by which such marks are judged. This manual not only tells you what the rules are (see Appendix A), it gives you procedures to follow so that marks set in your race may receive due recognition in the event that a national record is established.

Races come in all sizes. The problems encountered in a 20 person race are quite different from the problems encountered in a 20,000 person race. The available equipment and personnel (not to mention money) also may be quite different. It doesn't do you much good to read about the latest high-tech finish line system if you only have two stop watches and a clip board.

Race finish systems are "do-it-yourself" systems. This manual will show you how to design your own system with the equipment and personnel you have available for your races. This manual will NOT tout one particular system as the BEST system. Although ideas developed by a particular race or finish line company may be referenced, we will NOT profile one or more race finish systems. Not only would such profiles probably not fit your needs, such profiles would not be fair to the many excellent race finish systems that space limitations would prohibit from being profiled.

Check the Table of Contents for sections of interest to you. When you encounter terms that are unfamiliar, check the glossary in Appendix B. We found a wide variety of terms being used to describe the same things. Standardizing terminology was one of the first steps in writing this manual. Hopefully a uniform set of terms to describe things will improve the exchange of ideas on finish systems.

Chapter II deals with the THEORY of finish line systems. You don't have to know the theory to understand and use the rest of the manual. The theory is presented so you can examine the REASONS why certain procedures are recommended or proscribed. When we state that no single finish line should handle more than 120 runners per minute, we have good solid reasons for this statement, founded in theory but backed up by observation of real finish lines when more than 120 runners per minute were finishing.

Chapter III deals with the "nuts-and-bolts" of the finish system, i.e., those details that hold the entire system together. If you have experience in handling race finish systems, you may wish to compare your experiences with particular sub-systems with other people's experiences. You may find some useful ideas to improve your system OR you may find a better system!

If you are a novice race director, you should start with Chapter IV which describes the overall design of a finish line system. Once you see the overall structure of the finish line system, you are in a position to design a system for your own purposes and can refer to the examples for races of various sizes. Once you have designed your system, THEN refer to Chapter III for the details of the subsystems you may wish to use.

Chapters V, VI, and VII deal with pre-race and post-race problems. A well thought-out system for registering runners can save time and prevent headaches later. The awards search after the race often depends on how well the registration system was designed BEFORE the race. PLAN AHEAD!

Chapter VIII is new in this online version of the book, and deals with using computers to score a race, as well as transponder timing systems. Since this technology is constantly evolving, this section may be updated from time to time. Be sure to check back for new information.

This manual is a compilation of methods and ideas developed by many experienced technical co-ordinators for road races. This experience is derived from thousands of races and from trying hundreds of ideas. We trust that even the most experienced race director will find new and useful ideas to help make his/her race even better.

Many professional finish line operators sent descriptions of how their particular system works. We wish to express appreciation for these sources as well.

Go to Next Section: The Start
Back to: Table of Contents