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(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. Eeker 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.
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Some pics of the cones and the best wholesale deals I have found:

12" cones at $12 a dozen, 4 dozen to the box from : Memphis Net and Twine I recomend a minimum order of at least 96. (8 dozen) We only use orange in the large size. We use them to mark corners on the races, both inner and outer depending on need. Good for guiding runner direction.

Or from Sator at $1.25 each from : Sator Soccer

The diffrence between the large 12" and the small 7" disks does not sound much on paper, but they are very diffrent in size, bulk and visibility.

The large 12" ones will stay put on a road when the wind blows. The small ones are light and a car passing at speed will blow them away.

The small 7" ones are good for marking the sides of the course, turnings not to take, marking a centerline between incoming and outgoing runners, but only on the stright bits. You want to use the big 12" ones on a corner, and use them frequently, every few feet.

I have used the small yellow ones like bread crums, marking the way for cross country runners to follow, they show up well, and stay put on grass. We sometimes use the small yellow ones to reinforce the guidance of the orange cones, filling in between the bigger orange cones. The alternating pattern of orange and yellow is visually striking and clearly marks the boundary between the course and out of bounds.

Small 7" cones: I have seen the small ones sold for as much as 1.50 each, but you can get them for 30c each in quantitys of 400 from: Sator Soccer

Get some of the deployment straps at the same time.

(We modify the deployment strap to make it work better. We make a loop that goes over the body, and the other end is held in one hand, while the other hand deploys or picks up.)
Last edited by jamesm
The mini-disk cones are a great idea. We use them on our cross country courses at Franklin Park in Boston. One idea that we have not implemented (yet) is using different colored cones to keep the runners on the course. Red and yellow cones might substitute the red and yellow flags to indicate left and right turns. Of course, we would need to educate the runners (and officials) what the colors meant, but then again, it's the smart cross country runner that wins the race.

Here's the USA Track & Field rule on using the colored flags to mark cross country courses:

from USATF Competition Rules
Rule 251 Course (page 136)

2. The course must be clearly marked, preferably with red flags to indicate a left turn, yellow flags to indicate a right turn and blue flags to indicate continuing straight ahead. All flags must be visible from the point where the runner passes the previous flag, with a maximum interval of 50m. A white chalk line should be marked on the ground the entire route for the athletes to follow. Each kilometer point should be clearly recognizable. The course should be laid out so that there are no sharp turns at the beginning of the course and so that it is not less than 9m (approximately 10 yds.) wide at any point.

Thank you. -- Justin
We have used cones (usually the more tradition 9 inch soccer style) for marking courses, but in the past few years have substituted survey flags, the kind that are used to mark underground pipes and wires, when marking XC courses on natural surfaces.

The upside is they are cheap (a couple bucks for a bundle of 100), fairly easily seen (many bright colors available) and it's easy to carry 3 or 4 dozen in your hand if you're jogging the course to mark it.

The downside is that the wire staff tends to get bent (not a big deal, since they're so cheap) and they rust, leaving you with orange hands after carrying them for a mile or so.

I've seen some that use plastic staffs and will look into pricing.
I enjoyed reading about the use of mini-disk cones in marking courses and I think I'll give that a try next fall. We've been lugging standard cones (various sizes but huge relative to disk cones!) to critical spots. What are folks using for course-restricting markers or barriers? When I started getting into this they were using what seemed like miles and miles of flagging ribbon. Looked pretty but jeez does it get tangled up. I've used caution tape.
Get the BIG 12" field cones, not the small 7 or 8" ones.

The disks are best used to mark turns or curves. We often string them across the road going around the outside of a turn to make sure the runners see the turn and don't go straight on.

They are not good for trying to keep cars or other things off your course, you need big cones for that. These best used to guide runners around corners.
I wonder if anyone is keeping up with good places to get disc cones for marking courses. I checked the site that JamesM recommended for 12" disc cones (Memphis Net and Twine)-- now instead of $12 per dozen the price is $19 apiece!
I found other places where price is listed as $2.59 or something but they are out of stock. I'm still looking but if anyone is keeping track . . .
Justin, there are several problems with using colored flags to indicate direction (we used to do this, and have encountered each on one occasion or another).
1. HS & USATF/IAAF rules vary on the colors and what they indicate (no surprise there!).
2. On some courses runners run through an intersection from different directions during different portions of the race, so a flag/cone indicating right turn the first time might be wrong when approached from the opposite direction.
3. Colorblind runners (no lie!)

We use lots of those small flags that are used to indicate underground wiring or water lines. You can get a bundle of 100 at Home Depot cheap. We put one in every 10-20m, more closely at turns. It demarcates the course very clearly.

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