Staggered Race Start Shakes Things up a Bit

BY NEAL RIEMENSCHNEIDER

MILLWOOD, VA—The Shenandoah Valley Road Runners put a new twist in one of its winter series races: a staggered start. Karsten Brown rented some time on the NASA supercomputers and calculated an age/gender handicap time (based on stats from World Masters Athletics), so anyone in the race had the chance to cross the finish line first. The first wave went out at 9:30am, and runners were sent out in waves based on age and sex. For instance, as a 55-59 year old male, my group went out 20 minutes after the first runners (who were in the 85-89 age group) and 5 minutes ahead of the last group (men ages 20-29).

The race, held on January 11, was held at the Long Branch Mansion in Millwood and was run on the grounds, and did a loop out in the country, utilizing a 4-mile course. The route, which was loaded with hills, covered lightly traveled roads, and all turns were manned and marked.

Kevin Shirk, age 34, started 24 minutes after that first wave and passed everyone in front of him as he finished first in the event. When his actual time was computed, Shirk’s time was 20:27, which computes to 5:07 per mile pace, which is stunning considering the course. Then again, he did have the added incentive of constantly passing some 160 + runners…

Using this staggered start saw some traffic jams in the chutes with so many runners finishing at the same time, but the chute personnel kept things moving. When the dust settled, there were 195 finishers on a cold and damp morning. Afterwards all finishers feasted on bagels (with peanut butter!), cookies, and various other snacks, while getting warm inside the mansion. The mansion has stables on the grounds, and as participants were in the last .1 of a mile, horses could be seen right next to them, galloping and prancing, and no doubt wondering what all these humans were up to on such a dreary day…