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 Boston Marathon: 2-wave start, minor course change

Cambridge, MA
Joined: 08 Dec 2004
Posts: 46

Boston Marathon: 2-wave start, minor course change Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:31 am



This Year’s B.A.A. Boston Marathon To Implement Wave Start

Improvement will have positive effects on participants and residents in the town of Hopkinton; entire race will be more efficient.

Also, a minor change in course near race’s finish will allow pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Massachusetts Avenue to pass above while race is in progress.

BOSTON – 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.

In employing the change, all participants will be staged and begin on a single commercial street (Main Street, also known as Route 135) in two waves of approximately 10,000 athletes in each wave. No longer will runners wait to begin the race while lined-up on residential streets. Hundreds of volunteers will escort runners from an expanded Athletes’ Village at Hopkinton High School to their starting corrals, preventing them from stopping on or in front of private (residential or commercial) or public property. Approximately half of the anticipated field of 20,000 official entrants will begin in the first wave, and the remaining half of the field will begin one-half hour later in the second wave.

The starting time for the first wave of runners will be Noon, and the second wave will begin at 12:30 p.m. Remaining the same as in each of the last two years (since 2004), a few mobility-impaired participants will begin at 10:00 a.m., several dozen wheelchair division competitors will begin at 11:25 a.m., and approximately 50-70 of the race’s fastest women will begin in a separate Elite Women’s Start at 11:31 a.m. The exact starting line itself, adjacent to the Hopkinton Town Green, remains unchanged.

“This improvement will result in a vastly more efficient race,” said Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Race Director. “This change is all positive and will benefit everything about the Boston Marathon, including our transportation plan and our accommodation of runners in the hours leading up to the race. The effects of this plan will be extensive: we are sensitive to our impact within Hopkinton, and this operational innovation addresses the concerns of town residents and officials.”

Another of the benefits of the wave start is that it will reduce the amount of time that it takes for runners to cross the starting line. Last year, with approximately 20,000 official entrants, the last official participant crossed the starting line approximately 30 minutes after the starting gun was fired. Although the B.A.A.’s timing and scoring system records participants’ net times, in the past it may have taken runners until several miles down the course before they could begin to run freely and without obstruction due to the density of runners during the race’s early stages.

“Whereas it took the last official runners 30 minutes to cross the starting line last year, this year it will take fewer than 10 minutes for each wave to cross,” said McGillivray. “It is important to note that the anticipated net difference in this method versus previous years’ ‘one gun, one start’ is only about 10 minutes, meaning the last runner will be crossing the starting line this year at 12:40 p.m. as compared to 12:30 p.m. last year. We get the benefit of a wave start without any significant delay in anyone’s starting time. Runners will continue to be seeded and started according to their qualifying time, which means that – in theory – no one from the second wave will ever catch anyone from the first wave. In practice, of course, due to a number of variables, some runners from the second wave will mix with the last runners of the first wave far down the course. However, by that time, the race will have thinned itself enough so that no issue will arise for runners who are passing other runners, getting the fluid replacement that they need, or other race services.”

Another change will be that runners will be scored and ranked by their net time, which means that – although they will be starting 30 minutes later than those in the first wave – runners from the second wave will be timed and scored from the time they cross the starting line until the time they cross the finish line. Prize money winners will continue to be awarded by gun time (not net time).

Because the second wave will begin at 12:30 p.m., the finish line timing and scoring operation will remain open until 6:30 p.m. Since 1997, the Boston Marathon finish line has stayed up and running until just after 6:00 p.m., recording all official participants who run within the six hour time limit.

“These changes represent a major step forward for the Boston Marathon and its runners,” said the B.A.A.s’ Executive Director Guy Morse. “Everyone wins with this plan. Wave starts have been implemented and received with overwhelming and widespread success in road racing, as well as in other sports. There is no anticipated down-side with our plan.”

Benefits of the B.A.A.’s plan to begin the 2006 Boston Marathon in a wave start, consisting of two sections of 10,000 participants each:

-An expanded Athletes’ Village will be used to implement the plan, resulting in more space and greater comfort for athletes prior to the race; each wave will have its own designated section of the Athletes’ Village;
-Athletes will be staged for a shorter time in downtown Hopkinton;
-Athletes will be staged on a smaller geographical footprint in Hopkinton, and they will occupy less real estate in Hopkinton, minimizing impact on town property;
-The last runners of each wave will cross the starting line 20 minutes sooner than recent past years;
-Once crossing the starting line, runners will be able to run free sooner;
-Runners can be transported to Hopkinton later, decreasing the time they will need to be accommodated while in Hopkinton waiting for the race to begin;
-On the course, between Hopkinton and Boston, the wave start will reduce the density of runners on the route, enabling systems such as fluid replacement and emergency facilities to stay ahead of the needs of the participants and spectators with the services they are providing;
-Runners – except for prize money winners – will be timed, scored and receive age division awards according to their net time;
-The finish line in Boston will remain open to time and score official participants until 6:30 p.m.

Start timeline for the 110th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 17, 2006
10:00 a.m. Mobility-impaired athletes
11:25 a.m. Wheelchair division competitors
11:31 a.m. Elite Women
Noon Elite Men and first wave of approximately 10,000 entrants
12:30 p.m. Second wave of approximately 10,000 entrants

Unrelated to the wave start, the B.A.A. and the City of Boston will make a minor course change within the last mile of the route. In the 25th mile not far after the runners pass through Kenmore Square, participants will go under Massachusetts Avenue as they make their way along Commonwealth Avenue. In the past, the course has taken runners across Massachusetts Avenue on Commonwealth Avenue. The change allows for pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Massachusetts Avenue while the race is in progress, providing an outlet in the Back Bay on a major roadway which previously did not exist. The course has been re-measured and the course change does not necessitate any alteration of either the starting line or the finish line. The exact distance from the existing starting line on Main Street in Hopkinton to the existing finish line on Boylston Street in Boston is 26 miles, 385 yards.

This year’s marathon will be held on Monday, April 17; it is the 110th edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon. The Boston Marathon has started in Hopkinton, Massachusetts since 1924. From the race’s inception in 1897 until 1923, the Boston Marathon began in neighboring Ashland, Mass.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Boston Marathon: 2-wave start, minor course change Posted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:52 pm 

Interesting. Those starting area changes sound like a reasonable approach to reducing crowding and congestion, but it's also kind of a bummer to have to split the race up into waves. For whoever's in the second wave, I imagine they may feel as if they're no longer in the "real race". Not that any of those people would have expected to be competing for top finishing spots, now they may feel like they're in some B-league backup event, and lose the excitement of being in the same crowd as the world's best runners. Or maybe it's just that two waves seems like a very stark division in my mind: either you're in the A league or you aren't. Six waves of 3000 runners each might have accomplished the same congestion relief,while still maintaining more the sense of a single race. Of course this is all just mind games, and I'm probably the only one who worries about this sort of thing!

The only time I ever watched the Boston Marathon, it was at the very intersection near the finish that's being re-routed (Mass Ave and Commonwealth). The new route will take runners down and up the slope of a large underpass, essentially adding a small hill to the last mile. I doubt it'll affect anyone's times, but I bet exhausted runners will be cursing it just the same when they have one more uphill to conquer in the final minutes of the race.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Boston Marathon: 2-wave start, minor course change Posted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 3:31 pm 

I noticed yesterday that the website has an extensive FAQ section about the two wave start.

They seemed concerned that people would react exactly as I did, and feel that the second wave wasn't part of the "real" race. The FAQ does a good job of address those kinds of concerns. At noon, the poeple in the second wave will still be standing more or less where they would have been under the old system, and they'll be able to hear the national anthem and the starting gun. But they'll be getting into position, with time for one last potty visit, rather than queued up in corrals and then standing still for 30 minutes before they can even move.

The estimated cut-off time between wave 1 and wave 2 is roughly a 3:30 qualifying time.

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