BAA Marathon FAQ
For the first time in its illustrious 110-year history, the Boston Marathon will be instituting a wave start this year. This has led to a lot of questions in the Cool Running community. Race director Dave McGillivray addresses many of those questions in the following question and answer session.
Posted Tuesday, 31 January, 2006
- WHY ARE YOU CHANGING TO A 2-WAVE START THIS YEAR?
In a change designed to provide a better experience at the beginning of
the race both for participants and residents, the Boston Athletic Association
in cooperation with the Town of Hopkinton will implement a wave start for
this year's Boston Marathon. It's all a "space" issue. There just is not enough
street space in Hopkinton to continue with a one gun, one start format. The
intent is to take the stress off the residential community, free up more space
for public safety vehicles and at the same time to enhance the overall experience
of each and every runner. The fact that it now takes 30-minutes for the last
runner to cross the starting line after the gun fires is unacceptable. Most
races of this size have hundred's of feet of width at their starting line
to work with, we have a whopping 30 feet!
- WOULDN'T IT HAVE BEEN MUCH EASIER FOR RACE MANAGEMENT JUST TO LEAVE IT
AS IS - ONE GUN, ONE START?
Absolutely! Take out the eraser, change the date and do the same old, same
old. However, if nothing is done, the issues mentioned above will remain unresolved
and that is not acceptable either. It's all about balancing the needs of the
communities, the residents, the vehicular traffic and, of course, the participants.
On the management side, we need to always be sensitive to the big picture,
not just one specific constituency.
- WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DOWNSIDE TO DOING A 2-WAVE START WILL BE?
Perception is the only downside. Most people jump to conclusions without
knowing all the facts. After truly reviewing all the facts, it is difficult
to imagine why anyone would think that this plan is either flawed or does
not favor the runners. Again, everyone needs to keep in mind that we need
to balance the needs of the runners with needs of the communities which the
race is held in.
- WHAT WILL BE THE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL 2-WAVE START?
a.) Communication and understanding of the information and the plan:
b.) Runner cooperation…PERIOD. If runners try to beat the system, we all lose.
- ARE YOU CHANGING THE BUSING TIMES FROM BOSTON TO HOPKINTON AND HOW WILL
THIS AFFFECT THE AMOUNT OF WAITING TIME IN HOPKINTON BEFORE THE START?
Yes, we will be loading buses in Boston much faster than in the past because
we can now unload much faster in Hopkinton given that we now have two sections
of the Village. As such, we will begin to gradually cut back on the amount
of time runners will need to spend waiting in Hopkinton before the gun fires.
- WILL BUSES BE ASSIGNED BASED ON WHAT SECTION OF THE VILLAGE I HAVE BEEN
ASSIGNED TO? CAN I TRAVEL ON A BUS WITH A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND IF WE ARE
ASSIGNED TO DIFFERENT SECTIONS?
Runners assigned to Wave 1 will have blue numbers and go to Section 1 and
runners assigned to Wave 2 will have red numbers and go to Section 2. As such,
we need to load buses in a similar fashion. However, we will be somewhat flexible
when we can as to who goes on what bus. The closer we follow this system,
the smoother the plan will come together.
- THERE WILL BE TWO SECTIONS THIS YEAR…IF I AM ASSIGNED TO ONE SECTION,
CAN I GO INTO THE OTHER SECTION AND WILL ANYONE BUT OFFICIAL ENTRANTS BE ALLOWED
IN EITHER SECTION?
In order for this system to work, we are asking every runner to work with
us in adhering to these guidelines and to go to the section they have been
assigned to. However, similar to the transportation question, we will be flexible
when we can.
- WILL EACH SECTION BE EXACTLY THE SAME AND WHAT TIME WILL RUNNERS BE INSTRUCTED
TO LEAVE THEIR SECTION?
Our intention is to make them mirror images of each other. Section 1 will
be instructed to leave at 11:10AM to make their way to the start which is
about 7/10 mile away. Section 2 will be instructed to leave at 11:45AM and
travel the same 7/10 mile to the start. There is no need to rush as we will
be scoring using net time this year, not gun time (see below).
- IS IT MANDATORY THAT I GO TO THE VILLAGE?
Yes. In order for this program to work, we need every official participant
to assemble at the Village.
- WHAT TIME WILL ALL THE RACES START?
The Elite Women Start is at 11:31AM. Wave 1 starts at 12:00PM, and -- new
for this year -- Wave 2 will start at 12:30 p.m. After careful review of this
year's wave start program and given the recent experience of warm weather
race days, the BAA will give consideration for earlier starting times of all
races next year.
- HOW MANY RUNNERS WILL BE ASSIGNED TO EACH WAVE?
Presently, we are estimating an even split of approximately 10,000 runners
assigned to each wave.
- WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE CUT OFF TIME WILL BE BETWEEN BEING ASSIGNED
TO WAVE 1 OR WAVE 2?
Based on last year's qualifying times, it looks like it will be around
3 hours and 30-minutes, give or take 5-minutes.
- CAN I MOVE FROM ONE WAVE TO ANOTHER WAVE?
No. This is where we have to draw the line. You must start in the wave
you have been assigned to.
- WILL I GET DISQUALIFIED IF I START IN THE WRONG WAVE?
We don't want to have to disqualify anyone. However, if it can be verified
that you started in the wrong wave you are subject to disqualification. It's
pretty simple - you are assigned to either wave 1 or wave 2. There should
be no confusion.
- CAN I MOVE FROM ONE CORRAL TO ANOTHER CORRAL WITHIN MY ASSIGNED WAVE?
You may move BACK to a higher corral, but you can not more forward to a
lower corral. Again, the idea is to keep this kind of movement to a minimum
given the amount of space allocated to each corral.
- HOW LONG WILL IT NOW TAKE ME TO CROSS THE STARTING LINE AFTER THE GUN
Last year, it took 30-minutes for all 20,000 official runners to cross
the starting line. This year, we anticipate it taking no longer than 10-minutes
for the last runner of each wave to cross the starting line.
- IF I AM ASSIGNED TO WAVE 2, AM I REALLY BEING ASKED TO WAIT 30-MINUTES
LONGER THAN PREVIOUS YEARS BEFORE I ACTUALLY CROSS THE STARTING LINE?
Let's say last year you were assigned to corral 15 which would be in the
second wave this year. The last person in corral 15 crossed the starting line
at 12:18 last year. This year the last person to cross the starting line in
15 (which would be corral 5 in wave 2) is estimated at 12:33. In other words,
in last year's race it took 17 minutes to cross and this year it will take
3 minutes to cross. So the difference in time is not 30-minutes but more like
15-minutes. And that gap gets narrower and narrower the further back you go.
And, once that person crosses the starting line, they will be able to run
much more freely down course than ever before.
- IF I AM ASSIGNED TO WAVE 2, WILL I FEEL "DISCONNECTED" FROM THE NOONTIME
START OF THE FIRST WAVE?
Not at all. Wave 2 runners will be on Grove Street making their way to
Main Street when the gun fires for the first wave. Last year, these same people
would have just been standing like sardines in corrals on Grove Street waiting
15-minutes or more after the gun fires just to move an inch. What we are doing
here is effectively eliminating this long, standing wait in corrals for almost
10,000 runners! You will still be able to see the flyover, hear the announcements
and hear the National Anthem as in the past.
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BEING IN WAVE 2?
No long wait standing in corrals, less lines at port-o-johns prior to leaving
the Village as Wave 1 would have already left, quicker time to get to the
starting line after the gun sounds, more free room to run after you cross
the starting line, easier to get fluids along the course as the water station
volunteers would have had time between waves to reload allowing them to keep
up with the heavy density of runners.
- ARE YOU SCORING BY GUN TIME OR NET TIME?
Because of the 2-wave start, we believe we have no choice but to time and
score by net time, the time from when you cross the starting line until you
cross the finish line. This is a HUGE benefit for every runner beyond even
the very first corral!! Prize money will be awarded by gun time but all the
elites are up front anyway so their gun and net times are usually the same.
Age group awards beginning at 50 years and older will be scored by net time.
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A 2-WAVE START TO ME AS A RUNNER? WILL ANYONE
BE PUT AT A DISADVANTAGE OVER PREVIOUS YEARS?
We can't think of any real disadvantage for any runner over previous years.
To recap - less time needed to be in Hopkinton, better access to port-o-john
units, less time needing to be standing in line at the start, less time to
cross the starting line once the gun fires, scoring by net time.
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A 2-WAVE START TO THE TOWN OF HOPKINTON?
It is common knowledge that some runners have been using private property
to relieve themselves before the race start. Whereas we understand that runners
have to go right before the start of the race, using private property for
this purpose just cannot continue. By taking the runner line up off of the
residential street and away from private property, it is our hope that this
problem goes away. We have expanded the Village, added many more port-o-johns,
minimized the time runners need to be standing in line and made numerous other
adjustments to help curb this problem. The answer is not to threaten disqualification
but to provide more access and opportunity for runners to efficiently use
the units which we do provide. Restricting the line up to Main Street will
also provide freer access for emergency vehicle to move around the town which
is critical. Finally, some have asked why not just line up all 20,000 runners
on Main Street and fire the gun. That won't work either as it will paralyze
a critical intersection and block in both the Hopkinton fire station and police
station. The 2-way start is the only solution.
- DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT RUNNERS IN WAVE 2 WILL CATCH RUNNERS IN WAVE 1?
IF SO, WHERE AND WHEN?
The last runner in wave 1 will cross the starting line at 12:10PM. The
first runner in wave 2 will cross at 12:30PM, thus, a 20-minute gap. Everyone
can do the math on their own but if the race is seeded properly, those having
a real good day in wave 2 will eventually catch those not having such a good
day from wave 1, but it is unlikely this will happen much before the halfway
point and should not cause any problems for either wave.
- WHAT IF THE 2-WAVE START DOESN'T WORK OR DOESN'T MEET UP WITH EVERYONE'S
We fully expect it to work, however, we are not so naïve to not think that
things could happen that could derail the entire program. If it doesn't work,
we'll just have to determine why and try to fix for next year. The bottom
line is we are not sitting back ignoring the problem. We are being pro-active
and trying our best to create the best possible experience for all involved
in this historic race.