When I was a kid, there was a race I ran annually in my home town. It became my favorite race mainly because it was one of the few that we had, and I really enjoyed it. Back then, we did not wear race numbers. You simply filled out a card at the finish and they matched your card number with the time they recorded as you crossed the finish line. Simple, yet effective. But the race I ran the most, the Great Southern Runaway, was special in many ways, one of them being that the newspaper that covered the race would blowout the coverage, so you'd always get your name in the paper by simply being in the race. If you were an age group winner, you might have your photo too. It was exciting to say the least.
One year at the Great Southern Runaway, they printed a history of the race, and I found myself looking for myself from the years I had run the race. But I came across an article titled, “How To Spot A Pigeon”. The article was well written and covered running terms that were simply unfamiliar to the kid reading it. But the core part of the story was addressing runners who wear their race number on the back of the shirt. I had no experience with race numbers at that time since the races I had run didn't use them, but the story stuck with me over the years and as I started traveling to larger events, I would see people with numbers on their back. I would always snicker to myself as if someone was wearing a sign that said kick me, but didn't know it. Beyond that I never gave it much thought..
However when I started race timing, I quickly came to understand two things. One was numbers on the back are a bad thing....always. And the person that wrote the article I had read as a child was likely a race timer.
I know what you're thinking, it's not that big of a deal...right? But hear me out. It is a big deal. You see when we race timers are sitting at the finish of a race, we are focused on seeing your number to lock it in with your time. We can capture your time without the number, but if you stop in the chute to turn and show your number, it disrupts the flow of the race end. You could cause the chute to bottleneck and next thing you know, people are out of order. We see this issue come up with folks who wear their race number under a jacket also. Try as we might, announce as we do, it never fails, someone will become the pigeon for that race. Many times we find several.
next time you put that race number on, remember to put it on the
front of your body, and use at least 3 pins. We're not going to call
anyone a pigeon, but you doing it right will be much appreciated.
See you at the races! Tim
In : Race Days