Fastest course in the west.

CIM Trends: Gangs, Gear, Gadgets and Goodies

Story #6 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM’s 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.

Gangs at the CIM?
“Gang” is the title’s alliterative synonym for running clubs. They have been a presence at the CIM since its inception, vying for team points and bragging rights, inspiring runners with camaraderie and competition. Over the years some have disappeared and some have grown and many new clubs have surfaced as the popularity of running has increased. The Capital City Flyers, the Buffalo Chips Running Club and Fleet Feet Racing were the clubs who helped to found the CIM. The Chips and Fleet Feet are still with us, and the number of running clubs has increased dramatically over the years, regionally and nationally. Currently more than 40 distance running clubs are registered with the Pacific Association USATF, and many of these compete in the PA’s annual Northern California/ Northern Nevada Road Racing Grand Prix, of which the CIM has been a long time venue. Along with interclub competition, the CIM provides these clubs’ athletes with an excellent marathon developmental opportunity for their elite and sub-elite members. If you are looking for company, coaching, team running opportunities, visit pausatf.org to find a running club in Northern California/Northern Nevada, or usatf.org to find one in your area.

Shoes
In 1983 at the first CIM, the 2,000 starters’ feet sported about five different brands of running shoes. Can you guess how many different brands and styles will be counted at the CIM’s 25th Anniversary? There are now about 30 brands of running shoes each with a wide assortment of styles, and the 2006 sales totaled 2.269 billion dollars (SGMA data). Now running shoe reviews require a running shoe term glossary to explain the lingo used for shoe descriptions. Shoe technology is light years from Bill Bowerman’s waffle iron; Nike’s air midsole cushioning was introduced in the early 1980s and and foam, gel and silicon cushioning systems soon followed. Stability features have been added and nylon uppers now usually include mesh, reflective details, and innovative lacing systems. The latest controversy in shoe technology rages around Spira’s WaveSpring (a coil system embedded in the shoe sole). The WaveSpring was recently banned by USATF and the IAAF. Spira countered first by a “Banned in Boston” campaign, offering $1 million to any person winning the Boston Marathon in their shoes. Didn’t happen, but the publicity couldn’t hurt and Spira has since filed an anti-trust lawsuit against these governing bodies.

Clothes
Socks, shirts, shorts, tights, jackets, hats, gloves: we’ve gone from plain old cotton and skimpy nylon to a plethora of light weight, moisture wicking, water repellant, wind resistant, lint-free, non-fading, quick-drying, sun-blocking synthetic fabrics, trying to provide us with more comfortable running through chemistry. Waterproof and breathable, too? The running clothing industry would like you to think so, but on a rainy day, no matter what you are wearing, you will be wet inside and out within the first few miles of your run, thanks to the 100% humidity created by the combination of sweat and rain. Tights? Pretty racy item back in 1983 when they were “borrowed” from the jazzercise world, and now the norm for cold weather running apparel. Running shorts have followed the basketball trend, trading in “short shorts” for the more trendy “baggies,” although the elites continue to go with “less is more” – women in bun huggers and jogbras or shimmels; men in traditonal singlets and those same old “short shorts.” Recent developments: for women, how about the rising popularity of “skorts?”

Belts, Fanny Packs, Hydration Systems
A 24-time CIM finisher, Denis Zilaff said that when he was training for the first CIM, he was told flat out NOT to drink water or eat anything during training or the marathon because doing so would cause cramping. CIM co-founder John Mansoor said he never took water during his races circa 1980 – but since his marathon time ranged around 2:18 range he probably didn’t have time to get thirsty. Now we see runners chugging their way to the Capitol with bandoliers of sports gel packets, fanny packs loaded with sports bars and candy, and bottle carriers or hydration backpacks loaded with water and/or elctrolyte replacement fluids.

Gadgets

Internet
The CIM launched its Web site RunCIM.org in 1998, and like organizations and businesses everywhere wonder topday how we got along without it. Event information and on-line registration are its two primary purposes. The numbers of runners registering online has since steadily increased, and in 2006, 90% of the runners entered online. Under consideration for 2008 is “online entry only,” an entry system many events have already instigated.

Race Timing
In the Dark Ages of road racing a person at the finish recorded the finish time of each runner. Then there were popsicle sticks and hangers. In smaller races, a runner was handed a wooden popsicle stick with the finish place written on it. The runner would then take it to a board where the name was recorded and later matched up with the recorded time. In larger events, times were recorded the same way, but bib numbers with pull tags with runner name and info were used. CIM finish line volunteer Chris Hadley reported in CIM Story #3 that volunteers carried “hangers-full” of pull tags to the results room, where the numbers and runner names were typed into a database and later matched up to the times clicked off at the finish. A quantum leap in efficiency occrred a few years later with the use of bar codes, so the runner data did not have to be manually entered. Still, as volunteer Chris Graser described in story #3, there was the tedious task of eyeballing the results to find age division winners. Until 1996, the CIM race timing was done primarily by volunteers – timing company businesses were few and far between. The CIM hired its first timing company in 1996, but race results continued to be manually entered into a database system until 2004.

Chip Timing
Chip timing, amed for the microchip transponder that records the time as a runner crosses an electronic mat, was introduced in the U.S. in 1998 and caught on quickly around the road racing world, but it wasn’t until 2004 that the CIM switched to using a Chip timing system. Indeed, since 1999, the CIM was hounded by our entrants asking for Chip timing and wondering why on earth we didn’t use it — what was WRONG with us?!

CIM and the State of the Chip
The CIM Board waited until 2004 to use Chip timing for several very practical and generally not very publicized reasons. A list of these reasons were distributed by broadcast email and posted on the CIM Web site in an article titled “CIM and the State of the Chip.” In 2004, the CIM Board “caved” to their runners for a couple of reasons – 1) general runner perception that using the Chip meant a higher quality event, and 2) Chip timing methodology was expected to continue to improve, so it was time to change over. Technology on the drawing board includes chips embedded into the bib number and satellite tracking technology.

Chip Timing Background
For those of you who might not know about Chip timing, it is a timing system that uses a transponder microchip attached to one shoe of each runner combined with receiver mats placed at the start and, at a minimum, at the finish. As the runner steps on the start mat a runner-specific signal is sent to the timing computers. This signal is sent again when the runner crosses the mat at the finish line. The runners race time (called “chip time”) is recorded, regardless of when the official start time (called “gun time”) of the race occurred. The primary purpose of a Chip timing system is to allow runners at very large events that have a long delay in getting all the runners across the start line to know their “net time” (start line to finish line). The “gun time” would be the runner’s time from when the official race start occurred to when the runner crossed the finish line. USA Track & Field, the governing body for the sport and official record keeper, recognizes only “gun times” for offical placings and record keeping purposes; it does not accept Ship times.

Chip Timing Facts
The CIM Board of Directors and Staff have been following the Chip timing systems carefully ever since they first appeared as a timing option. There are several very practical and basic reasons for us NOT to use this system.

The claim that Chip timing offers more accurate, faster results is simply not true. Problems include: runners trading Chips, the transponder mat not recording a chip signal, chip failure, improper wearing of the chip, and computer breakdowns.
The start at CIM is blessed with a very wide street (about 65 feet). Ever since CIM began in 1983, the last runner has crossed the start line within a minute of the firing of the starting gun.
Mats to cover the 65-foot width of the CIM Start are prohibitively expensive and are difficult to obtain. Using the standard 17-foot wide start mats would negatively impact the smooth, wide start we have at CIM. Also, since only “gun times” are recognized for records, many potential age division record setters would be negatively impacted with the slower start.
The Boston Marathon has a special rule for people who are running a non-Chip timed marathon to get their qualifying time: their finish time may be up to a minute slower than the official qualifying time. Since our last runner crossed the start line within a minute, Chip timing offers no advantage to people trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon at CIM.
CIM has always had separate finish lines for men and for women. This began with the first CIM when cofounder Sally Edwards was pioneering equal rights for women competitors. Maintaining the separate finish lines with Chip timing will incur even more expense.
Chip timing at the CIM would double the cost for basic start to finish timing (17-foot mats). If mats were placed at an additional two places on the course the cost would be tripled.
Due to these reasons, the CIM Board and Staff have agreed that we cannot justify the additional expense and would rather use this money to provide other runner enhancements.

How The CIM Was Timed Without Chips
CIM is timed and runner’s results scored using the same process that we’ve used for the last 20 years. Each runner wears a race number with a tear off tag at the bottom of that number. When you cross the finish line a volunteer will take your tag and keep it in the order you finished. These tags are recorded into a computer in that order. When you cross the finish line a time was recorded corresponding to the place you finished. These times are fed into the computer in the same order the tags are. Times and tags are matched up, and this is your finish time.

Goodies

Hark back to the CIM good old days – start the race, drink some water at one of the eight aid stations (unless you were told to not drink water like Denis Zilaff – or thought you didn’t need to like John Mansoor), and finish. (interesting note: eight aid stations – and ONLY eight aid stations, serving only water – continue to be the required number for international competitions like the World Games and the Olympics, under the rules of the IAAF.) Split timers have always been a part of the CIM, as have the separate finish lines for men and women. When you picked up your bib number you got a t-shirt and a small bag with a few sponsor items in it. No gels, no pace teams, no organized course entertainment, no finisher’s medal (although finishers received a small enameled pin and women also each received a long stemmed red rose). Refreshments at the finish consisted of more water and the famous Campbell’s Tomato Soup. No one complained.

Now each year the Board has a budget debate about how much good stuff can we get to the runners. Why the change? Why not keep it simple? The answer lies primarily in the CIM Board’s goal to provide their entrants the best marathon experience possible, be they front-, mid- or back of the packers. This does not mean turning it into a 26.2-Mile street party, but rather keeping it a “real runners” event. Here are some of the enhancements that have been added over the years and that the Board continues to improve:

  • Aid stations increased to 18
  • Electrolyte fluids and gels added
  • More course monitors
  • Transponder chip timing
  • Course entertainment (after all, real runners love music, too)
  • Colorful, unique finisher medallions
  • Colorful, highly visible banners marking each mile
  • More and better finish line refreshments
  • Space blankets at the finish:
  • Pace teams
  • Extended course closure time (to six hours, a 13:44 pace)
  • Web site and Broadcast emails for better communication and on-line entries.

The CIM plans to continue with this trend. Giving back to our runners is the underlying theme for the 25th Anniversary CIM. You won’t want to miss what we have in store for you there!