Watching last night’s Distance Night at the Pre Classic on RunnerSpace we, like everyone else, including commentators Tim Hutchings and Paul Swangard, were a little baffled by how far off the pacers were from their pre-race projections – other than in the women’s 800m, which hit the split, but was way too fast for the quality of the field. Now this morning reading LetsRun we see that a headwind on the backstretch of Hayward Field was at least partially responsible for the slowish times. So my question is, and this applies to both track and road races, why, in the name of God don’t event organizers place small flags at different intervals to let the crowd and TV audience see for themselves what the conditions are?
If Tim and Paul never mentioned the wind, and instead began supposing why the half-way split in the 10,000 meters was 13:33 instead of the requested 13:18, something as simple as a series of small flags lining the inside of the track would give everyone the instant information needed. Same should apply at road races.
How many times have I sat aboard a lead camera motorcycle and been asked, ‘How are the conditions out there?’, and not been able to tell which way the wind was blowing because I, too, was moving, thereby creating our own breeze. So unless there was a flagpole atop a nearby building, I wouldn’t be able to tell shit from Shinola – not that I generally can anyway.
Yet in 2006 when Haile Gebrselassie came to Phoenix trying to break the half-marathon world record – he did, 58:55 – our TV producer Rich Jayne had erected six-foot high sticks beside each kilometer clock with crepe paper in Ethiopian colors streaming in whichever direction the wind was blowing. So not only could Haile tell whether the wind was helping or hurting, but Ed Eyestone and I in the lead vehicle calling the race live could tell our viewers who could also see for themselves.
Come on, organizers, try helping fans (and commentators). This wouldn’t cost anything in the larger scheme of things, and yet would instantly elevate the experience. How many tracks must a man run around…