How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?


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How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby bijanc » Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:17 pm

During the first leg, how can one determine which athlete is leading a staggered relay such as a televised 4 x 100 or 4 x 400 m. relay? Camera shot at that point is always so long, understandably to include all participants.
Last edited by bijanc on Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby Marlow » Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:22 pm

Just takes a little experience and looking for the stagger lines (zone markings) on the track.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby gh » Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:14 pm

unfortunately, stagger lines are more often than not when watching TV (which was bijan's reference) not visible. At least at the 100 and 200

but as Marlow says, "experience" is the best guide (until you get to the 300 and/or the final relay-zone striping).

All of which goes to why I think the 400, to be properly fan-friendly, should be a break-for-the-pole race after the first 100 (maybe with only 6 entrants ina big final). No matter how experienced you are, you're just guessing too much of the time.

Even worse on TV is the parallax problem with the camera mounted up high, past the finish on the outside. Surely everyone has noticed that in any straightaway race that the people in lanes 5-6-7-8 always have a way better secod half of the race than those in 1-2-3-4. Optical illusion of course.

I once lobbied the IAAF to cater to its prime audience and put down stripes at 25/50/75m so you could see relative distance behind, even if only in the replays. It was poo-pooed as "cluttering the track." Morons.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby bijanc » Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:39 pm

I thank you both.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby eldanielfire » Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:34 pm

I slightly disagree with gh on the markings. Half the fun of the early part of a relay or a race is that element of not knowing exactly who is in front until near the end of the final bend. I don't think it is that unfriendly, for the most part people know who is winning when it matters.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby nicest person ever » Thu Apr 18, 2013 1:03 am

Hey guys,

First off, I apologize for my comments about Lolo. Obv I am not exactly her biggest fan, but, I def went way out of line/overboard with my rant about her, and will refrain from bashing her or any other athletes like that in the future. And I'm not just saying this cuz I got banned, and feel bad now cuz of that or anything. I'm saying it cuz I actually do care a lot about this forum, as I consider it to be the best forum for Track & Field that exists as of so far, and considering how under-represented the sport is in general in terms of having places like this to be able to discuss the sport, I agree with you guys that it is important to protect the quality of the forum from those who are making posts that are detrimental to it. So yea, just glad to be back, and will try not to do anything like that in the future. :oops:

Anyways, as for the pinstripe markers at 25m, 50m, and 75m that gh was talking about, I think he was referring to the 100m dash about that, not the 400m. Like, he's saying when we watch the 100m on TV, even though it isn't a staggered race, the optical illusion caused by the camera location can actually make it difficult to tell who is in the lead sometimes, and also can skew people's vision of the race into making it look like the people in the outer lanes (the ones closer to the camera) are getting off to slower starts than they actually are, and are finishing at a higher speed relative to the overall field than they actually are. I have noticed this too, and agree that it would be nice to have pinstripes at 25, 50, and 75m of the 100m dash straight. Even just very subtle ones that are quite faint compared to the lane lines would already be good enough, they don't need to be painted thick/heavy or anything, just a lil something to give the brain a reference point to overcome the optical illusion of the camera angle.

I remember discussing some race Usain Bolt was in a while back on here, and first we were examining the vid with the regular diagonal finish line camera angle, and then afterwards a straight-overhead birds eye view camera angle vid was posted, and it was just stunning how utterly different the race looked from that angle. Like, where we had thought Bolt hadn't taken a lead in the race until quite far into the race, once we watched it from straight above, we were able to see how much earlier on in the race he had already taken the lead. The difference between the two view angles was dramatic
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby measurer » Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:07 am

Sprints?
Last time I checked there are over 160 exactly measured HH marks on a track between the start of the 100m and the finish lines not including the IH marks, steeple start, mile (some tracks), beginning of 4 x 4 relay zone. Do the math. Sure, they are hard to see but so would any other line unless it has a strong contrasting color (white, black, red)
I actually do think it would be a good idea to have a thin line but I don't think it would be approved.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby lonewolf » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:55 am

Is determining who is leading a 100m race that difficult... or important? :?
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby gh » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:20 am

Clearly (from a TV point of view, which is what we're talking about here) it sometimes IS difficult to know who's leading, or more importantly, who's in the other medal positions. How many times have you heard a (competent) announcer say, "and look at X come up on the outside" when in reality he is doing no such thing? We can do better than being in the optical illusion business.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby James Fields » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:24 am

It could help those in TV audience that short-distance events are replayed -- often more than once.

(Some may recall a TV announcer exclaiming about a dozen steps into a straightaway race,
"She's already made up the stagger!")
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby nicest person ever » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:20 am

James Fields wrote:(Some may recall a TV announcer exclaiming about a dozen steps into a straightaway race,
"She's already made up the stagger!")


looooooooooool

Do you remember which race or meet this happened in? If it's on youtube or the net somewhere I wanna see this so bad.

Did the announcer realize his/her mistake quickly afterwards and correct herself (or his/her co-announcer?) or just go on announcing like nothing weird had been said? I can't even imagine how it would've gone down lol

Or was it being said sarcastically about some sprinter who was notoriously slow out of the blocks?
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby lonewolf » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:25 am

James Fields wrote:It could help those in TV audience that short-distance events are replayed -- often more than once. :) (Some may recall a TV announcer exclaiming about a dozen steps into a straightaway race,
"She's already made up the stagger!")

I did not hear that but am not surprised. :)
My point was, it is all going to be over in 10 seconds. You don't have time to agonize, gloat or call call your bookie.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby Wmbgskip » Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:40 am

It's somewhat mystifying to me that they haven't programed this into the broadcast computers already.

- You have the startpoints that you can plot out on a line that curves down the track from outside in.
- I'm sure you can calculate the rate of progression for each part of the curve so that, assuming everyone ran the same time, it would flatten to a line as it enters the final straightaway.
- Then, just project that over the broadcast image and folks can more easily judge how far ahead or behind "pace" each lane is.

You can do the same thing in pretty much every race - take the men's 100m, Olympic final say. Based on statistical analysis, you should be able to figure out what the expected pace should be. Or, assign a color to each lane, and let the computer figure out if that color is in front, and make it brighter if so (though, that still doesn't help us colorblind folks).
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby gktrack » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:01 am

What's still tough for me is the first leg of a 4x4 using a 3-turn stagger... when those runners are on the homestretch for the first leg, an equally run race should find the runners, about 3.5-4.0 meters apart I believe?, which is tough to gauge, and sometimes I gotta wait til the first handoff for confirmation of who's in the lead.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby unclezadok » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:33 am

It took network commetators about 20 years to figure out that the person reaching the finish line first after the first leg of the relay was not necessarily the leader.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby iain » Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:18 pm

unclezadok wrote:It took network commetators about 20 years to figure out that the person reaching the finish line first after the first leg of the relay was not necessarily the leader.


The first leg of the 4x400m infuriates me; whatever coverage you watch they talk about 'blah leading / going well' when they are doing no such thing. Sometimes its as though they just pick an athlete out of a hat.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby 26mi235 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:51 pm

No, they are picking an athlete in an outside lane that is also a a pretty good team (typically 7 or even 6 will be leading because they might be 0.5 seconds ahead of lane 8 so that giving up 3.3 or 6.6m in stagger left so that they are visually ahead. Of course, no matter what lane Felix is in, she is in the lead by the backstretch rumble for the inside. :wink:
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby bijanc » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:50 pm

There is something announcers can see from there vantage points or monitors. By analogy, I had to learn that the way baseball announcers know (not just former players, but the play-by-play men) that a big league hurler has just thrown a slider, or split-fingered fastball, or screwball, instantaneously enough to tell viewers, is they observe the pitcher's grip/release.

Must be a similar tell tale way of determining "the Bahamas has already made up the stagger." The comment that it took T & F announcers 20 yrs. to learn that person at "finish line" first, is not necessarily leading, is interesting.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby 26mi235 » Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:52 pm

It did not 'take that long', but some announcers would get it wrong, and some do even today. I will bet that one of the guys wearing an Hawaiian shirt does not and has not get it wrong.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby iain » Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:17 am

26mi235 wrote:No, they are picking an athlete in an outside lane that is also a a pretty good team (typically 7 or even 6 will be leading because they might be 0.5 seconds ahead of lane 8 so that giving up 3.3 or 6.6m in stagger left so that they are visually ahead. Of course, no matter what lane Felix is in, she is in the lead by the backstretch rumble for the inside. :wink:


No sometimes not even in an outside lane. They choose an athlete they think is good and say they're leading even when they clearly aren't.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby gh » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:54 am

measurer wrote:Sprints?
Last time I checked there are over 160 exactly measured HH marks on a track between the start of the 100m and the finish lines not including the IH marks, steeple start, mile (some tracks), beginning of 4 x 4 relay zone. Do the math. Sure, they are hard to see but so would any other line unless it has a strong contrasting color (white, black, red)
I actually do think it would be a good idea to have a thin line but I don't think it would be approved.


The number of marks already on the track is irrelevant. Most of them are readily viewable only to personnel on the track. We're talking about what those sitting far (and far-far, not to mention far-far-far) away. And that includes TV/jumbotron viewers. All those little guidelines are in no way obtrusive or confusing to the fans, and they're the ones that matter.

Glad you think a "thin line" would be a good idea, but screw that. I'm talking a thick line. At least a couple of inches wide. You'd never dream of holding a big-leagues long-throw competition without striping the field (although how poorly that is frequently done is a subject for another day). So why treat the sprints (infinitely more popular) in any lesser fashion?

It doesn't even have to be a permanent line painted on the track. Nor does it require to-the-millimeter accuracy. If you must, before the start of any of the races that finish in lanes, have somebody run out to the track with a roll of adhesive tape and scribe three lines across the track. After the race sequence is over, remove them if necessary. But nobody's going to trip on them. They'll do nothing but good, and no bad.

This is soooo bloody simple.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby bijanc » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:59 am

This techhology would obscure the view in televised T & F, but pro football broadcasts employ a digitized image of how far the offensive team must advance for a first down, and baseball telecasts often display a virtual strike zone.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby 26mi235 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:53 am

gh wrote:This is soooo bloody simple.

And you can have tiny little marks down before so that someone would only have to hit those points with the line that they put down and it can be a straight line through the midpoint of each lane.

If I recall correctly, those First Down lines go 'under' the players, not over them. Since in this case the lines are static and now always moving it should be easy for TV to do.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby measurer » Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:04 am

I think it's a good idea but
simple?
I have spent the last 35+ years laying tape on tracks and I can tell you that it is not as simple as you may think. Only a few types of tape will hold well enough as to not come up during the race + the type of surface is a major factor. The tape will always leave some type of mark - more so if the runners spikes hit it. Owners of the top tracks don't want to see any tape unless it's absolutely necessary
So what do we do for a wet track?
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby Conor Dary » Mon Apr 22, 2013 8:39 am

Just get rid of the staggers. One turn and everyone breaks for the inside. It should have been done years ago in the 400. Even in the 4x100. Think of how exciting those last 2 handoffs would be.

PS. The 400H might be a problem. But then just use steeplechase barriers for the last 200. Problem solved! Next!
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby mal » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:28 am

There are a lot more challenges for T&F than concern about whether a TV commentator can read a track in a race.
re: 400. Leave them in lanes. Mass starts and merging is for the indoor circuit and relays.

As for commentary about who'is leading, its largely irrelvent 25 % into the race, and evens out pretty quickly.

Commentary seems to be uneducated, and unnecessary at that stage. Its always the same stuff. So and So got away well. So and So is running a great back straight. Blah blah. Most of it canned, prepared before the race by the experts.

If you want everyone to fight over lane one in a sprint, the sport will spin faster down the drain. Clockwise in the southern hemisphere and anti clockwise in the northern ... or is it the other way around?
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby 26mi235 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:48 am

The 400h race does have markers, they are called hurdles, and it makes it easier to see who is ahead and who is gaining/losing ground.
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Re: How Can U Tell Who is Leading a Staggered Race?

Postby nicest person ever » Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:50 pm

I like bijanc's idea the most by far.

Just use those CGI lines like they use for the line of scrimmage and 1st down lines on televised football games. That way you don't have to even deal with running out onto the track to physically lay down strips of adhesive tape across the track or any of that.

And even better still, for the 400, you could have "moving" lines that were set to move at, let's say world record 43.18 pace (or Stadium Record pace, or 44.0 pace or whatever you wish), with a separate little digital line moving along in each lane, so you could see how far back (or in front, if they went out really fast) everyone was relative to the line, so that way you would easily be able to tell who was in the lead in the race and who was in what place in the race during the first few turns pretty easily just by looking at how far in front or behind or whatever they were to their wr-pace moving-lines in their respective lanes. This would take the guesswork out of figuring out who was leading in staggered 400m races.

That also gives an interesting idea for the 100m, of putting in a moving WR-line, or O.R.-line, or National Record-line (for U.S. Champs etc), or what have you, in, say, the 100m dash, so you could see whether guys like Bolt or Gay or Blake were threatening a WR, AS the race was unfolding, during big races. Just like how in swimming during the Olympics the frequently put up a moving-WR or moving-O.R. line in the pool if any of the swimmers are threatening the WR or O.R. during their swim. etc
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