Irish Mountain
Running Association

Early starters

Mick HanneyJul 1 2021, 6:27pmLots of new runners in the IMRA races post-Covid.
While it is great to see new faces, many people may not be generally aware of the guidelines for early starts. The early start is at the discretion of the race director. It is intended for runners who would normally be at the slower end of the race field (had they ran the main race) e.g. if you are slower than 160% of a normal race time winning time.
Early starts are not intended as a convenience so people can get started and away home early :-)
Fast runners who start early can expect to get their time adjusted to 160% and early starters are generally not in the running for any race prizes
On the other hand, if you are consistently at the slow end of a race, you could consider an early start. The race director and volunteers that have to wait for runners crossing the line will appreciate these considerations.

And, if you do take an early start, please advise the volunteers at the finish line that you were an early starter, to avoid any confusion in the results.
Michael BligheJul 1 2021, 10:21pmHi all,

Would be good to clarify if this is the approach for future race.

I was asked if I would consider taking an early start at Belmont, to help spread the field out and aid social distancing, and was very happy to do so as I was ready to race.

Since then, it has been offered at all the other races, so I've taken it on the same basis.

I assumed we would return to the rules as described when a bit more normality returns, but happy to take direction either way.
Richard NunanJul 1 2021, 10:40pmHi Michael,

Yes we made an exception for Belmut.

Going forward from Monday with races moving to 200 people per race. Going forward we would like for people who are 160% to take the early start.

Thanks for accommodating us at the earlier races.
Laura FlynnJul 1 2021, 10:47pmThe early start option is for slower runners who are expected to be finish in a time that is 160% or more of the winning time. Mick has explained the reasoning behind it very well in his post so I won’t repeat it here.
As restrictions for outdoor events are easing post July 5th we can increase numbers in our races and we no longer have the concerns we had at the first few races back.
We would ask runners therefore to ensure they are properly taking the early start option. If you take the early start option and your time is less that 160% of the winning time you will be recorded as a dnf.
David PowerJul 2 2021, 8:03amAgree early start is to ensure safe race for all, by allowing entire event finish up earlier, getting volunteers off mountain quicker and allowing everyone go home safely. I do note many new people may not be aware of 160% guidance - I've noticed lots of people at Scarr going early just because it seemed better than waiting around.
Interestingly, here are stats of % of runners ABOVE the 160% finish time:
Brockagh - 46 runners or 37% above 160%
Scarr - 23 runners (17%)
Sorrell - 19 runners (19%)
So from next week with 200 starters, there should be 30-50 early start runners (it varies per race)
Brendan LawlorJul 2 2021, 8:27amAh, the Early Starter debate, how I've missed you .. the pandemic might be coming to an end after all.

@David -The % of runners above the 160% finish time can also be affected by the finishing time of the winner. Ruairi Long won at Brockagh by a clear two minutes (well done Ruairi) , pushing the % of finishers above the 160% up in the process.

People need to apply a bit of common sense, and take the early start if you think you will be slow, and avoid it otherwise.

Also for longer races, people should consider doing the Short Course if they feel they will be very slow or are coming back from injury etc .
Miriam MaherJul 2 2021, 8:38amI'm with Brendan - it's like the good old days again when there's a thread about early starters.

Forget about the first few races, from now on - normal service resumes. If you're like me, take pity on the volunteers and take the early start. If you're in better shape and able to race in a meaningful manner, take the regular start.

Speedyheads like Ruairi skew the figures for the borderline cases. But we all know our own form.

For anyone new to the IMRA races, your first race will give you an idea of where you fit on the above, next race - take the start time that applies best.

The normality of this thread is fantastic!
Jeff SwordsJul 2 2021, 1:58pmThe only sensible solution is to take the horse riding approach and force the top 5 from the previous week to carry some lead weights, it'll balance the field a bit better and make more sense of the 160%.

We could even get the bum bags strapped to their backs sponsored.
Alan AylingJul 2 2021, 2:17pmAn eminently sensible suggestion Jeff.
Of course the weights would have to be validated post-race, a-la the weigh room in horse racing. Possibly the finish mat could be adapted to this purpose - weighing the runner as they finish. Allowing for a level of sweat/drool loss during the race. Possible GDPR issue though - having a record of runners' weights? Some people get fierce sensitive about that sort of thing.
Mick HanneyJul 2 2021, 2:23pmWhat we need is a good old fashioned handicap race like old times. If we take brockagh as an example we can start Gordon first and then all the way back to Ruairi last (sorry Ruairi but you are too fast).
Stuart ScottJul 2 2021, 2:27pmI think the best solution is to assign the 100% time to an actual horse, and preferably the same horse each week. And if the race winner beats the horse, then they just score less than 100%.
Hazel stapletonJul 10 2021, 12:40pmI read with interest the thread on early starts. I would like to share a few comments from the personal perspective of a +160%-er whilst acknowledging the many hours put in by volunteers and the fact that the thread relates largely to COVID measures.
Down Munster way we have a small but very active cohort of fit runners in the over 70yrs categories. I do not consider myself to be slow runner, just an OLD runner. I usually finish towards the end of the field, and do not attempt races that I know would render me struggling.
On one occasion only have I taken the option of an early start and found it to be a wholly unsatisfactory experience as the following account will explain. First, it was impossible to have an awareness of my position it the race and I found this disconcerting. Then, I found I was constantly listening with apprehension for the thunder of Mudclaws, Speedgoats, Speedcrosses, etc., bearing down on me from behind and, when they did arrive en masse, I found myself looking for lay-byes in the briars and ferns of a narrow single-track section to allow them to pass me. As this was a stream of fast runners it was constant every few metres for quite a while, making me even slower. I was careful not to impede their pace and this was graciously acknowledged by all as they passed me. I can only imagine how irritating it would be if they found a narrow track ahead clogged by a string of +160%-ers.
Overall, my point is do not to fix what is not broken; leave things as they are, optional for those +160%-ers who wish to avail of an early start where it is provided. Whilst it may be desirable to get runners off the hills in a timely fashion, and if this is a problem, surely the option of cut times at appropriate points could be considered.
Mick HanneyJul 10 2021, 5:23pmI can appreciate that.

At weekend races, sure, there is a bit more flexibility for cut-off times.

For weekday evening races there is less flexibility. With races starting at 7.30 (normal start) there is fading light, demarking and getting all the volunteers off the hill to be considered.
Stuart ScottJul 12 2021, 4:02pmThere are a lot of excellent points in this thread (which gets repeated every year!) but I think the key thing is RD discretion. Daylight, the type of route and winning time all play a part.

For most races, with the odd exception the entire field is generally back within 200% of the winning time. Most Wednesday races have a winning time of around 50 minutes. This gives a range from 160% to 200% of only 20 minutes. Until the evenings start drawing in, do we really need an early start? It increases the admin and record keeping at the race and makes the RD's job and the results more difficult. And from a purely selfish point of view, I'm now finding myself on my own at the back of the field with no-one to 'encourage' me to run as they've all done the early start!

On the other hand, the finishing window at weekend races is far greater so I'd actively encourage an early start for these. And when the evenings start to draw in, then that extra 20 minutes could make a big difference. So all in all, I'd avoid hard and fast rules (and penalties) and leave it to each RD to decide on the day.