What is a “wave start”?


“What wave!?”

This is a big question at larger races.

If you’ve never attended an event with thousands of participants, this is something you may have never experienced.

Wave Starts – What

This is when athletes line up behind the starting line according to their goal or predicted pace.

Wave Starts – Why

This is done so people will generally start and run most of the event near people of their own abilities and speeds.

If you to start too far forward ahead of faster runners, you’ll be in their way when they catch up to you. If you start in a farther back and slower corral than you should, the slower people ahead of you will be getting in your way and you’ll be doing a lot of weaving around other runners, slower your end time.

Wave Starts – How

When a race has a wave start, depending on its size, this is done in a couple ways.
1) There will be pace signs along the starting area, with the fastest up front and slower paces going backwards. You simply find your spot near your goal pace sign.
2) When you register, you input a previous race finish and they give you a predicted time or you put in a predicted finishing time, and they issue you a corral that you must start in. Again, fastest predicted or goal paces go up front near the start.

It is important to note that if you don’t start at the front of a large event, it could take you 10-60+ minutes to actually start the race. Be sure you dress accordingly for the weather and this time standing around!

The Lilac Bloomsday 12k in Spokane, WA has over 40,000 participants. Based on everyones predicted pace, they are given a certain colored bib. This color corresponds to their assigned corral. You’ll notice that the Lilac group may start a full hour after the elites! They also recommend you get to the starting area a half our early, to ensure you find your place. Participants will often wear extra layers of throwaway clothing and toss them off to the side of the starting area right before the gun goes off. The large events like Bloomsday will then collects the gloves, caps, pants, and sweaters to donate to local charities and groups.

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