The Back Of The Pack
The Racing Corrals
By Gary Pulver
The concept of corrals for cows seems to have adapted well to the term corrals for runners. My first experience with a corral was at my second race at the Toronto Zoo. Since them I have experienced them only at the biggest races I have entered. Some races have true corrals where runners are not let out until their time comes. The interval of time between corral release is usually from one to three minutes. Other corrals are only for lining up purposes. Slower runners are told to assemble in a loosely labeled corral at the end of the line and the faster runners are told to assemble in the first corral at the beginning of the line. Once the race begins, the runners just move on up until they reach the starting line and then start running.
Gary corraled but ready for running
I enjoy the corral experience. I enjoy meeting new runners a lot and I almost always make friends with whoever I am waiting next to. It is certainly a lot more fun telling someone that is about my pace all about my running goals than it is trying to relate this info to someone capable of a 5 minute mile!!! And, this former guidance counselor has used his skills to help a nervous runner feel a little more at ease. My running companions do not get scheduled into the same corral as I do, they are all faster than me!!!! However, many of them are true friends that value our friendship a lot and many times they are willing to go back to my corral to keep me company before the start. While waiting in the corral or starting line, I get my runkeeper ready to start and line up the music I have chosen for the race. I also take a few prerace photos with my cell phone. I say my goodbyes to any friends and my "good luck's" to everyone around me because in most cases I will not be seeing them during the race.
My favorite memories of corrals always goes back to my first one in Toronto and all of the Cowtown races I have done. I was definitely nervous in Toronto as this was my first big race but I remember talking to runners in my corral and this certainly calmed me down. I was just back in Toronto a few weeks ago and related to friends I had made in that city when I was there for that race as to how much fun it was running at their zoo. As some of you know, one of my goals is to run a race in the morning, see the Rangers play a game in the afternoon, and see the Moody Blues that evening. I have really come close but have just done two of the three in the same day several times. This trip I saw the Moody Blues twice and saw the Astros play the Blue Jays but could not find a race as it was during the week.
The Cowtown corrals are truly a lot of fun for me. I love to edge up close to the where the runners in all of the earlier corrals will run by me. I try to spot friends but that can be hard as the runners are always bunched up. The starters can make the experience fun also. They will say such things as "my, you are the best looking corral I have seen this morning" or "that last group looked a little slow, I'll bet you will be passing all of them". Corrals are really a very smart way to run big races. I would hate to be in the eventual winner's way at the start and have to have him or her weave around a bunch of slower runners. However, I experienced a great idea for a big marathon in Wichita recently. I was booked at the hotel that was only steps away from the start line and in full view out my window. I was only running a 5K that started well after the marathon start but I woke up early to the sound of some runners taking off an hour before the marathon start time. They were being allowed to start one hour early if they chose to and if their time per mile was 12 minutes or slower. Should they reach the five mile point before an hour, they would not be allowed to proceed past that point until the hour was up. The race has a 7 hour time limit but this is an opportunity for runners like me to have an extra hour and also for them to not have to finish at the very end of the pack. Here is a photo of me at one of my favorite races right after my corral passed the starting line. I'm the one in the Santa Suit!