Why We Limit the Number of Runners (Updated)

(This was created in 2010 when we sent runners in one wave. We now do chip timing and use multiple waves. But this is how race directors attempt to calculate trail capacity so that runners can run instead of shuffle through a crowd.)

Though we closed the race just days ago, we’re still getting requests. And we’ll get many more. This is why we can’t honor them (unless you’re an elite runner that can show a recent 1/2 marathon of 1:40 or faster or marathon of 3:30 or faster):

At the 3/4M mark you hit the Leatherstocking  Trail. The trail is narrow, as most trails are. If we allow too many people on it, we get a bottleneck. Bottlenecks suck in races.

We measured capacity in two ways: First, even though I was injured last year, I ran the first two miles in order to gauge the capacity of this section, from the view of the middle of the pack. We had 191 runners last year, and by my eyeball it looked like we could double our field.

Then I got a post race email from racer Martin Freidrichs, who crunched numbers and came up with the same result. His analysis, for those that like math, went like this:

My assumption is the worst section is exactly 1 mile into race when it first becomes single track (a 1/10 of mile into LS). After that it will ease up as runner spread more and more due to running at different paces.

I fully agree with where you started for many reasons , so that needs to stay.

The very fast and very slow runners are not an issue so in my analysis I only consider the center core 3/4 of your runners, which was those from number 21 to 168 or 147 runners individuals who ran form a paces off 7:45 to 11:00 (I use a simplifying assumption everyone runs the same pace for the entire race)

This means after 1 mile these middle core 147 runners had 3:15 (11:00-7:45) or 195 seconds to cross the same point.

Since in this time range a runner runs about 10 feet a second it means on average at the this worst point (1 mile into the race) each runner had  about 13 feet of space (this is calculated by 195 seconds divided by 147 runners times 10 feet a second)

(now as this is just average some will be more bunched)

I would say a runner needs at least 6 feet of space on single track so that means you could at most have double the number of runners or 400, but due to bunching some will have much less then 6 feet – but 400 is the max under the current format.

Now we have seen some improvements in the Leatherstocking the last few weeks, courtesy of an Eagle Scout project. So my feeling was that we could push the number up a little higher toward 400, and in fact, we have registered over 400 for the race. But we have prepared for no more than that, as we line up sponsors, goody bags, shirts, medals, volunteers and a thousand other details we must attend to.

The actual number of folks that will show up will be dependent largely on the weather. But accounting for no-shows, and adding some more for the elites, should put us right in the zone of what I think the trail can handle.

Next year, hopefully, we’ll have electronic timing and see if we can start in two waves of 350-400 each.

I apologize to those that want to run but got shut out. We hope you understand that we’d rather have a great event for 350-400 runners than a crummy one for 600-700. It doesn’t make me feel good to say no to people who just want to have a good time racing down dirt trails with their friends.

If you got shut out, I suggest joining our email list so that you get advance notice (contact Matt Lewis, whose email on the home page) or join our Facebook group so that you also get early notice.

In the meantime, we could always use some extra volunteers. We have zero paid staff, and this thing doesn’t go off by itself. (Which is why we also don’t allow number transfers or refunds, you can see our explanation at that link. We’re trying hard to keep this race simple in its administrative details.) If you can help, please contact Greg Stern, whose email is also on the home page.

Updated, March 2012: Our little race introduced chip timing last year. Runners will be going out in waves in order to avoid creating bottlenecks on the trail.

5 thoughts on “Why We Limit the Number of Runners (Updated)”

  1. Looking for others to run with on the leatherstocking and Colonial Greenway weekly. Any takers? I start from Pinebrook or Murray avenue…

  2. Will an email be sent out when registration opens? I did this race for the first time this past year and I thought the trail was excellent and do not want to miss it this year.



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