New Pulse Start System Has Successful Debut

Runners break the starting line in this year's Falmouth Road Race.
RICH MACLONE/ENTERPRISE - Runners break the starting line in this year's Falmouth Road Race.

The Falmouth Road Race Committee hoped that its implementation of the new “pulse start” system would be a hit with the field of nearly 13,000 runners, and it appears to have been just that. Co-director Matt Auger said he knows that there is no way to please each person that participates in the race, but the overwhelming response he has heard from runners has been a positive one.

The pulse start eliminated large corrals of runners at the start of the race, which was the previous way that the race was started. That system worked well in the past, but was no longer a necessary way to go with new technologies that allow each runner to have a digital start and finish with chips built into the runners’ bibs.

Runners were allowed to determine their own starting spots in the race, using an honor system to choose what pace they believed that they would run for the event. Faster runners were urged to line up in spots in the front, and slower ones toward the back of the field. The runners were then released in “pulses,” staggering the start for the field in brief intervals. The intention of the new system was to alleviate course congestion.

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Auger believes that year one of the pulse system went over very well. A few complaints about the new way of doing things were logged, but most runners seemed to like being able to line up with friends and family members if they chose to. The race organizers speculated that they would need 10 or 11 pulses at the start of the race. That number actually was 16, but the start of the race still went very quickly. Auger said that by 9:40 AM, traffic into Woods Hole was reopened to the general public. “That’s the fastest we’ve ever done that in the era of more than 8,000 runners,” he said. “That’s what happens when you space things out properly.”

Each pulse of runners was approximately 700 runners. Once they cleared through the start, and began to turn onto Church Street, the next group was allowed to go.

Janet Smith, who has run more than 20 Falmouth Road Races, said that she “loved” the new system. The veteran runner, who lives both in Syracuse, New York, and Falmouth Heights, said that she found the start to be much easier overall.

“I though it was wonderful because instead of trying to avoid tripping over people, it felt like we were at the start of a race,” she said. “We were in the front of our pulse, and it allowed me to start with my family and we could all move easily.

“We started with a clear field ahead of us,” she said. “It filled in immediately, but we weren’t crowded. It didn’t feel like we were going to trip over people, or get pushed. I thought it was a great way to start it.”

Some runners did voice concerns about groups of runners that were starting together using up too much of the road, from side to side, making them difficult to pass. Auger said that in the future runners that wish to run together as a group may be asked to toggle their groups, but he was excited that those people had the opportunity to run together.

“Those people had a lot of fun doing that,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want our runners to have an enjoyable experience. It’s supposed to be fun.”

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