#1 19-10-2010 15:08:44

Graeme
Administrator
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 278

5k series

Following a meeting last week I thought I'd let everyone know what is happening & my current thoughts.

Some good ideas came out of the meeting that will be tested before next years series.

* 5 small boxes printed on people numbers so start times can be written in
* Large clock for start so folks can see (Seiko ST306)
* Publicise signon opening & closing times
* Dictaphone for finish & race number recall (to be tested soon)


The big issue is still the finish & talks commenced about altering the course slightly so the finish was on the wider part of the prom. personally I dont think this makes any difference as we still need a funnel & it will still have the same issues.

As I see it the issue with the finish is the handing out of discs & moving of runners along a funnel, at it's peak the 5k can have nearly 4 runners per second finishing & this can last for 10 seconds or more when we have fields of the size experianced in 2010

A lengthly discussion on hardware / software & chip timing purchase.
I think chip timing is out of scope & requires a seperate investigation that I'm happy to be involved in if the members of the committe / club will be involved in the purchase. My preferred system that can cope with finish of a 5k is manufactuerd by http://www.rfidtiming.com/ and distributed in the UK by stu web.

The use of a simple RFID handheld device was mentioned to aid registering runners who have previously run & it's something I've researched in the past but with the idea of using it at the finish.
Unfortunatly research last week shows that the price has changed very little since I investigated such a device 2 years or so ago.
The type of device I'm interested in is like those used by courier companies / library / royal mail special del etc.
A tag would be stuck to the back of a runners number & scanned as they come over the finish. The device would then be uploaded to the results system. This would also remove the need for the (pressured) entry of runners numbers that takes place to process the results & the hounding of runners (CHAC) to get the tags back.

The cost of such a unit seems to start around £500. Quite a bit for an untested idea.
A PDA with an SD card reader can be adapted to perform a simular function - new these appear to be several hundred for a PDA + around £100 for the adapter... however a second hand PDA can be picked up on ebay for £50, so for £150ish something could be made up to test the idea. (costs won't stop there as tags need to be purchased.)
I need to contact suppliers to find out estimated read rates etc to see if this is a possible solution.

If anyone has any contacts or thoughts on the above please get in contact / add them here!

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#2 20-10-2010 10:27:39

Ben Hammond
Harwich Runner
Registered: 30-09-2010
Posts: 17

Re: 5k series

Hi Graeme,

Probably been considered already but, I have seen races where the finish is videoed to allow finishing places and times to be established shortly after the event.
One con I can think of is that the camera's view of a runner's number could be blocked by another runner in front, but it may be possible to overcome this by clever positioning of the camera relative to the finishers.

Cheers

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#3 10-11-2010 11:14:36

Graeme
Administrator
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 278

Re: 5k series

Thanks for the suggestion Ben. It will certainly be considered, I imagine we would need 2 or 3 cameras & even then some folks numbers are folded over & not visable with low light of the first race.


Update:-
I've found the tag solution I like made by 3m & currently used throughout the UK's library system, the cost works out to be under 40p per tag.

The reader I've found several that appear to do the job but I've no experiance of any of them but in order to work with the tag they need the following spec - High Frequency (13.56Mhz)  ISO18000.3 or ISO15693.3 RFID reader / writer.
Something like this

If someone in the club has an electrical engineering background? the component parts (ariel, transmitter, circuitboards etc) are readily available to build a system.

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#4 10-11-2010 11:18:50

Tim Warner
Harwich Runner
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 41

Re: 5k series

The first race of the series usually finishes in faded light (at best). Is this going to interfere with capturing numbers using either a camera or people barking into a dictaphone?

Could either of these methods of recording finishers slow the publishing of the results, which has always been impressively fast?

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#5 10-11-2010 12:14:33

Ben Hammond
Harwich Runner
Registered: 30-09-2010
Posts: 17

Re: 5k series

Hi Graeme,

A work colleague of mine does have an RFID reader at home and is going to check whether it matches the spec above.  Is it critical for it to be 13.56MHz or could you cope with a different frequency if it turns out to be different e.g. 125kHz?
There are also some RFID reader kits I found on eBay at various prices ranging from £8 to £50 which might be worth looking at.

One other thing I was wondering, how do you plan to get the timing information off the RFID chip when you read it on the finish line - does the RFID chip itself have a clock, or will the reader have a clock synchronised to the main race clock at the start of the race?

I'll let you know what he says about his RFID reader.

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#6 10-11-2010 12:32:57

Becky McCorquodale
Harwich Runner
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 235

Re: 5k series

It definitely sounds like this tag reader would be the way forward, if you can get one that works well for the right price. As someone who has handed out the finishers discs in the past, I can confirm it is a real "oh sh1t" moment when you see a huge bunch of runners all finishing together hurtling towards you and you've got the fun and games of trying to physically hand out the discs as fast as possible to tired, dazed runners and hurry them along!

Diverging slightly from the main problem here, but I think Ben could be onto something with the photography idea. How about photographing runners as they start? One problem I've noticed with the series in the past has been runners going off on the wrong start, which has delayed the results as people have had to try and work out who left on what start to get the times correct. A simple photograph of each start wave would surely help eliminate this in future, as most cameras can display the time the picture was taken?

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#7 10-11-2010 13:00:18

Graeme
Administrator
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 278

Re: 5k series

Ben - thats excellent news. For the tags I've selected 13.56Mhz is required. The choice of tag seems considerably less for 125khz (low frequency) and the size (thickness) appears greater as does the cost. If the same or simular tag could be found in LF then I see no reason (with my limited knowledge) why not.

Becky - Like the idea of photo start, should be easy to do, but requires another bod to take then crosscheck / review before result printing. I'm also hopefull that Carol Cordwells idea of start time boxes on numbers (see 1st post) and large clock will in part help prevent those issues

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#8 10-11-2010 13:10:50

Graeme
Administrator
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 278

Re: 5k series

Ben, sorry forgot to answer your other questions.
I'm not trying to create a chip timing system, what I'm trying to do is create a very fast easy way of recording finish order that can be data dumped into the results sys. So neither the chip nor the device does any of the timing.

Why? because like becky says you have a large group of runners finishing very close together at a peak its just under 4 per second & whilst Peter can record that within a few 100ths accuracy my understanding is that a chip timing system may take issue with that density. The system I mention in the 1st post is capable.

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#9 10-11-2010 17:12:30

Miranda Rayner
Harwich Runner
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 85

Re: 5k series

Please don't bite my head off but I am about to propose a radical idea that came to me on my run today when I was trying to get my low-tech brain around the 5K problem.
If none of the ideas mentioned so far prove viable then maybe we should look at whether it is still appropriate to make the races handicapped.
While it would be regrettable to have to take that decision it might be preferable to having to do away with them altogether.
This would obviously change the character of the thing and would be a massive shame but I am sure wouldn't have to be a disaster.
For many people, the attraction is having the opportunity to run an entry-level distance series that can ease them into racing and gives them a training goal in the spring.
For the faster end of the field there is still the attraction of comparing times over a short series.
M (don't beat me up for thinking outside the box)xxxx

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#10 10-11-2010 17:21:08

Peter Gooding
Committee member
Registered: 04-11-2008
Posts: 448

Re: 5k series

Graeme, are you thinking of taking these reading once runners are in the funnel ?
If you are you still have the biggest problem, which is getting them into the funnel in the correct order at the peak time. Unless you are going with the suggestion of reducing the number of accepted starters.
I was also of the understanding that we had dropped the idea of using a dictaphone after the problems trying to record the numbers at the Wix 5. Those working at the finish that day realised it was not possible at that rate of finisher per minute, (at the Wix run), let alone at the rate we get them at a 5k.
There was of course a number of other suggestions made at the meeting which are not shown here, maybe we should have taken minutes, I think we ought to at the next meeting.

Last edited by Peter Gooding (10-11-2010 17:30:48)

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#11 10-11-2010 17:29:32

Peter Gooding
Committee member
Registered: 04-11-2008
Posts: 448

Re: 5k series

Miranda, that was discussed as as a possible solution, but it was soon realised that the course we use could not be used as a non handicap race. You would not get all the starters through the gate at the start or up Barrack Lane or round that first corner onto the seafront. It was also talked about running it in reverse or doing a loop of the park first, but each suggestion had it own problems. As I said in my last post it is a pity there was no minutes taken. There was a lot talked about, which people that did not attend do not know about. Thanks for the suggestion.

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#12 10-11-2010 17:36:25

Miranda Rayner
Harwich Runner
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 85

Re: 5k series

Thanks Peter,
I will keep my thinking cap on then.
M :-)

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#13 10-11-2010 18:20:52

Peter Gooding
Committee member
Registered: 04-11-2008
Posts: 448

Re: 5k series

Just had a long telephone conversation with Ashley, like Miranda he went for a run today and spent most of the time thinking about the 5k's.
Some of his ideas we have covered, but a couple he has asked me to post here. One, run two clocks, one as a backup, could be useful we have had watch failures in other events in the past. His second was no results on the night, takes the pressure off those doing the results. Just give out first three which are known straight away. Rest of the runners record their finish in the usual way and go home. The guys on the laptops work out the results in the quiet of a empty hall and put them on the web - sorted. I realise this would not work for the last race and does not solve the main problem of getting runners over the finish line, but has some advantages in my opinion.

Last edited by Peter Gooding (10-11-2010 18:22:25)

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#14 11-11-2010 02:18:11

Louise Papworth
Harwich Runner
Registered: 29-06-2009
Posts: 11

Re: 5k series

I am not really supplying a solution more of an idea. Why not pitch this as a project or idea to a school, College or University.  We have Essex University and Colchester Institute down the road, some may study Sports Science, Electrical Engineering etc. If any prove to be viable at an appropriate cost perhaps we could trial purely within the club and involve the School or University in trialing its success as a handicap race.

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#15 11-11-2010 06:35:45

Peter Gooding
Committee member
Registered: 04-11-2008
Posts: 448

Re: 5k series

Received the following from Jeff who is not on the forum

Like everyone I have had my thinking cap on.

Things which spring to mind :-

1. A girl / boy finish tunnel like the cross country.

2. Group starters according to expected race time and space the groups (each
group a letter A,B,C etc.) so that everyone doesn't finish together.  You
would still get a good race and have people to catch. I know this rather
defeats the handicap with everyone finishing together but that is now
unmanageable.

3. Possibly unworkable but set up part of the race as per 2.

I suspect a lot of people pretty much do a similar time each race and
actually get slower times because of the mass finish. These runners might
appreciate being a race within a race.

I rather fear a technological solution without suitable manual back up could
be problematic.


Hopefully constructive but possibly unworkable!

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#16 11-11-2010 10:39:37

Miranda Rayner
Harwich Runner
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 85

Re: 5k series

This has now spread, even Gerald is trying to think of solutions for us.
He has suggested a double funnel which is gated so you fill one up and hand out their numbers while the next one is filling. He seems to think they did this at Kirton 5 so Felixstowe RR may be able to give advice on how they got on with it.

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#17 11-11-2010 10:44:41

Bob Rowles
Harwich Runner
Registered: 10-11-2009
Posts: 2

Re: 5k series

A few thoughts from my end:
With the growing popularity of the 5K series, we have reached the point where the existing arrangements at the finish simply cannot cope. If the handicapping worked perfectly, we would have the entire field chanelled into single line at the finish. This is obviously the formula for a bottleneck. To alleviate the bottleneck, we have 3 options:
a) Move the single line of runners through the funnel faster. I think we have done enough in the past (Kate Thomas in particular!) to show that this doesn't work. You only need one runner to slow suddenly to bring the line to a halt, and besides, even in an ideal world, the speed of the line is dictated by the slowest runner.
b) Increase the number of lines. I think there is some mileage in Jeff's idea about using separate finishes for men & women. Assuming that there is a 50/50 split in numbers, this should cut the problem in half, and if we need a cheap fix, this is probably it. The only down sides are that we would need separate sets of discs for men & women, enough people around to hand out both, and we would end up with separate race positions for men and women, as per the cross country (all of which we could probably live with).
c) Avoid funneling the runners into lines altogether. This will not work with the existing system of handing out discs.
Ben and Becky have made suggestions based on using video, and in fact I tried this a couple of years ago using the "continuous" mode on my digital camera. I reckon this would work, and if runners are photographed at the start, it would also help to sort out the finish order too: even if a runner's number were obscured, it would be possible to match them by their appearance (esp. kit colours) to a start number. However, as Graeme indicates, you then need to have people available to review the video and compile the finishing order. Tedious! There is probably mileage in this as a backup system but I think we need something better.
So, that leaves us with the tagging systems that Graeme is looking into, which should be the ideal solution, and if costs are in the £500 ballpark that sounds pretty cheap to me! A few questions:
Could we see such a system in operation? (i.e. go watch a race finish where they are using it)
Could we borrow one to try it out?
Could we approach existing customers of the system to get their opinions of it?
The main worry seems to be the "tag collision" problem, but I imagine that setting the system up indoors (i.e. sales rep's premises) and running a few simple tests would show whether or not that would be a problem in practice.
Assuming we did get such a system:
Don't forget that we would need to check that all the tags worked before each race. One duff tag would mess up the results!
How much are the tags worth? If they were expensive and required a deposit from each runner, this may be a deterrent to casual runners entering the 5K series.
That apart, let's go for it!

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#18 11-11-2010 11:25:45

Mark Rutter
Harwich Runner
Registered: 05-11-2008
Posts: 40

Re: 5k series

Given the problems with timers failing at this year’s sprint tri and at a couple of recent handicap runs, I think investment in some form electronic technology has to be the way forward. 

Probably not the most popular suggestion, but what about increasing entry fees to £3 (still a bargain compared with other races) to generate a bit of cash to put towards this?

A more cynical person might also see this as a way of solving some of the overcrowding problems by reducing the numbers of people entering, without losing revenue.

Failing this, I think a simple solution that might help would be to have a longer funnel (but after finishing not before as suggested above).  Obviously, would mean less chance of people in the funnel backing up over othe side of finishing line.

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#19 11-11-2010 22:00:09

Terry Smith
Guest

Re: 5k series

I think the idea of separate finish zones for Male/Female is a good one but does increase the amount of "disc " helpers also one runner in the wrong section could cause problems.
One possible solution is to split the race into 2 parts with a 2 min break between Race A and Race B this gives time for the timekeepers etc to catch their breath and reduces the number of finishers at any one point,however you would have 2 winners and 2 handicap leagues.The cut off point could be around the mid-point of the last race.

Last edited by Terry Smith (11-11-2010 22:00:33)

 

#20 12-11-2010 11:37:22

Becky McCorquodale
Harwich Runner
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 235

Re: 5k series

Just another thought (and yes, I'm perfectly well aware that my quota for the week has now been used up tongue)....has anyone previously considered looking at other handicap races that handle numbers of 150+ and mailed the race director(s) to ask how they cope/what systems they use? I'm not aware of many other handicap races around tbh, but if I get chance over the coming weekend, I can get onto Runners World and Fetcheveryone to investigate further...

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#21 12-11-2010 16:56:55

Jo Higgon
Harwich Runner
Registered: 21-11-2008
Posts: 16

Re: 5k series

A couple of ideas - not sure if they have already been suggested.
1. Similar to what Jeff has suggested having two funnels at the end, but instead of boy/girl finishes when one fills up then move a rope across to open up other funnel and vice versa.  I saw this at one of the Friday 5 races - Kirton? - and it seemed to work well there.
2.  To limit the number of entries, don't have entries on the night - only have online entries or club night entries, giving the closing date for each 5k the Tuesday before.  I am sure that people wouldn't mind paying £10 up front for all five even though they may not run all of them -  the 5k series is a bargain.

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#22 13-11-2010 23:02:13

Jason Meachen
Harwich Runner
Registered: 07-11-2008
Posts: 17

Re: 5k series

One idea I’ve had.

Start the race as normal, handicapped as usual. Slotted in-between in small groups approx 5 to15 runners per group (similar abilities within a minute of their PB’s or current pace) start at various intervals, eg after 2 minutes runners of approx 27+ minute ability, then after 4 minutes approx 25 mins ability,  6 mins 23 minute ability, 8 mins 21 minute ability, 10 mins 19 minute ability, 12 mins 17 minute ability.

Everyone has a handicap (although those starting in the 5-15 groups will be starting well ahead of their normal handicap times) and everyone takes a disk at the finish.   It’s then down to the computer guys to “re-adjust” the final handicap positions. I think the calculations side of things would work (?)

For an example - with 160 runners you’d have approx 60 runners (6 groups of 10ish starting at 2 minute intervals described as above) finish about 5 minutes or so ahead of their “normal” 5K positions and the other 100 “normal 5K runners” 

This way you’d have in effect 2 peak finishes rather than 1 huge peak finish, giving the finish guys time to get people timed and through the funnel.

The event would still only need 1 start and 1 finish funnel.

Small groups shouldn’t cause too much of a bottleneck turning sharp right onto the seafront and hopefully disbursed a bit by the stone pier.

The times I’ve given in the first paragraph could be jigged about a bit to alleviate any potential bottle necks in the first 800 metres. After the stone pier shouldn’t be a problem.

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#23 16-11-2010 17:33:44

Peter Gooding
Committee member
Registered: 04-11-2008
Posts: 448

Re: 5k series

As you know we have another meeting arranged, hopefully to finalise this issue and decide what happens next year.
I have made a note of everything listed here to take to the meeting. Thank you to everyone who has contributed here plus those who have emailed me. I am sorry no one has replied to your questions, (unless this has been done off forum), but all the above will be considered. Some of what is listed has already been discussed at the earlier meeting and considered not workable because of problems you may not be aware of, but it is still appreciated that you have given the matter some thought.
Everyone is of course welcome to attend the meeting, contact me for details of the venue and time.
Thanks again for your ideas.

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#24 16-11-2010 17:39:13

Graeme
Administrator
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 278

Re: 5k series

Many thanks to all for the ideas.

Both Ellie & Ben have come up trumps with some RFID stuff (only part of the solution) that I hope to look at shortly.

Peter - Yes in some shape or form a funnel will be required. To move the results to after the event would aleviate part of the pressure but it feels like a step in the wrong direction & doesn't really solve what was identified as the major issue (finish line).

Louise - Like the idea, and once I have more of an idea on specifications this sounds like a good option... do you have any contacts?

Jeff - Have you fogotten your password as I see you are registered on the forum. The split funnel I like the idea of & is used in many 'normal' races.

Lisa - thanks for the idea, but not workable as the difference in speed at the point narrowing would occur would be too great & people would get held up.

Jo - Claire G suggested the same £10 upfront all or nothing entry & I quite like it as it would produce a 'better' handicap winner in my opinion. However it would also possibly create more of a finish density issue & prevent daytrippers / holiday makers from just turning up.

Barry - I looked at barcode ages ago when the topic of conversation at PC was always 5kseries. I like the simplicity of the technology that allows us to print the code onto the number. However the speed of the reader is the issue - think tesco checkout.

See you all Wednesday?

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#25 17-11-2010 09:23:37

Graeme
Administrator
Registered: 03-11-2008
Posts: 278

Re: 5k series

Ben demonstrated a simple RFID setup to me last night at club & has lent it to me to show everyone this evening. (And a book - RFID for Dummies).

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