(This should be under Race Admin section but its not timing or records, so its here.)
The Grater Fort Lauderdale RR’s have, for the last few years, been experimenting with a cool cone system for guiding runners on the course. Several times people from other clubs have asked about our disks that we use for marking the turns and edges of the course, so here it is explained.
We use things called ‘soccer field markers’. They look a bit like a cross between a frisbee and a low cone. The are used for temporary marks on soccer fields for practice. I observed them some years ago while watching training session and determined to find a low cost wholesale outlet.
We have two sizes, large orange ones that are 12" in diameter and stand about 4" tall and small fluorescent yellow ones that are about 7" in diameter and 2" tall. The disks are conical but low and wide with a 2" hole in the middle.
They are not suitable for keeping cars and runners separated, or even for keeping determined runners from short cutting a course, but they are wonderful for ‘directional guidance’, and most runners stay inside the bounds of the course when we have these deployed frequently. (Every few feet on the insides of curves, sometimes as close as every 3 or 4 feet.)
In our club trailer we have about 200 of the 12" orange ones and 500 of the smaller in yellow. They are very light and easy to deploy. Runners appreciate arriving at a turn where the path is clearly marked. In the early morning light they some times look fluorescent. Some runners have compared it to running down a “lit up air port runway”.
Most of the time the larger ones define the outside of corners. The runners can see the disks curving of in one direction before they get there. It seems to decreases runner anxiety because the way is clearly marked. Often we get a gap between the leader, or lead pack, and the rest of the field. Although the leaders have disappeared around a corner the followers can still clearly see the way.
The mini-disk cones also help volunteers or others to see the way the course goes. Less probability of some one letting them go the wrong way. No, the runners don’t know where they are going.
If a road or trail divides, or there is any sort of choice, then we lay a row of them across the path not to take.
We use them to create the outside of corners, and the outside and inside of turnarounds. The actual turn-around may have a tall cone, barrel or even flag on it. But the markers laid on the inside and outside of the approach and exit, make a good ‘guide way’ to guide runners as they run in an out of the u-turn.
We also use them to show the divide on out and backs. Some times a mile or two of road has little yellow mini-disks every 20 feet, to remind runners to stay on their side of the road. We close the gap up on bends so that the disks are about every 5 feet. If we really want the runners to obey then we are using the larger ones, often supplemented or interspersed with regular cones. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to have two volunteers walking along dropping mini-disk cones than a truck dropping standard ones.
Yes, the runners can run right over them. They just sort of go squat. (Cars tend to be worse and can split the larger ones.) We have learned that if there is enough room the runners will try and obey them. But on corners we need to use the bigger ones, they just run right over the little yellow ones.
They are for runner GUIDANCE only, they cannot force a runner to be on one side, but we do get very good complyance, even on inside curves, especially when someone has taken the time to line the disks up in a soothe and even curve.
The larger ones stay put but the small ones can be blown around a bit in high winds or if a support vehicle passes at high speed.
They store in a very small space in our club trailer. The 12" ones fit exactly in a milk crate, about 60 to a milk crate. The smaller ones fit about 200 on a special man wearable webbing strap that aids in deployment and recovery. We keep them strung together in a large box.
The 12" ones cost less then a dollar each in quantity. The 7" cost less than 40 cents. I would recommend starting with the 12" first. They are more versatile. Get at least 100 to start with. Use them on your smaller club races to get an idea of what they can and can’t do. Remember they are for directional guidance only.
The other day I got a frantic call in the morning, could I figure out an emergency 5K cross country course in a local park? “Not one you already have on the road, but a 'real' off road cross country one? The start is at 4 this after noon, can you help!?” Ran some calls rides on my mountain bike and then rushed to the park. Worked out a rough 5K course. We biked the the course laying out the mini-cones deployed from the mountain bikes as we went. The finish was going to be wherever we got to when the Jones counter hit the number. Put the bike down some times to walk back and lay cones on both sides in critical points. On vast open stretches of grass we just dropped a trail of little yellow cones, like a trail of giant bread crumbs, telling them they were on the right track. Mini-disk cones saved the day. No one went off course. It was an inter school event and the teens loved it. Well they loved the course and it’s marking but.... It seems that the local coaches had been previously guessing the distances. The kids were a little surprised how long a real 5K was. Double checked the length while riding lead bike for the separate men’s and women’s events. It was very close to 5K. Apparently they had been accustom to running events that were wildly short.