Boston Athletic Association Improves Logistics of Boston Marathon with Three-Wave Start

09 Mar 2011 12:52
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Press Release

New, third wave will create a more orderly start and implementation will not increase field size of 2011 race.

HOPKINTON, Mass. – The B.A.A. will employ a third wave for the start of the 2011 Boston Marathon, creating a more efficient and improved running experience for participants in the 115th edition of the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon. This year’s race will be held on Monday, April 18: Patriots’ Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Working in cooperation with the Town of Hopkinton and the Hopkinton Marathon Committee, the B.A.A. will institute three waves of mass participatory starters. Each wave will include approximately 9,000 official entrants, and each wave will be identified by its background bib color in a coordinated, patriotic color scheme: Wave One (red bibs), Wave Two (white bibs), and Wave Three (blue bibs).

The three-wave start will not increase the field size of the 2011 Boston Marathon.

The start times for the 2011 Boston Marathon are as follows:

  Start time Approx. No.
of Entrants
Bib Color Mobility Impaired participants 9:00 a.m. 6 Wheelchair Division 9:17 a.m. 30 Handcycles 9:22 a.m. 24 Elite Women 9:32 a.m. 50 Elite Men and Wave One 10:00 a.m. 9,000 Red Wave Two 10:20 a.m. 9,000 White Wave Three 10:40 a.m. 9,000 Blue

Next month’s Boston Marathon has a field size of approximately 27,000 official entrants, including those in the wheelchair division, visually impaired athletes and those competing in handcycles.

“The introduction of a third wave at the start of the Boston Marathon will provide a better pre-race and starting experience for our runners,” said Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Race Director. “We continue to study methods to improve the race for our participants, and we are pleased to have a partnership with the Town of Hopkinton which allows an improved staging area and start for both the participants and the Town of Hopkinton’s residents.”

In recent past years, the field of runners started in approximately two, equally-sized waves. The addition of a third wave for 2011 enables the B.A.A. to divide the field into three, smaller, equally-sized waves. The result will be a more enjoyable race for participants, many of whom gear their entire recreational lives around running the Boston Marathon. Fewer runners in each wave allows for more orderly loading and staging in the corral system pre-race, and – after the race begins – less density not only in the early miles but also throughout the entire 26.2-mile course.

On race day in 2011, no significant change in the start times will occur. In the main, mass participatory waves, Wave One (color-coded red) will begin at 10:00 a.m. as it has in recent years; Wave Two (color-coded white) will begin at 10:20 a.m.; Wave Three (color-coded blue) will begin at 10:40 a.m. Last year with two waves, the first wave started at 10:00 a.m. and the second wave began at 10:30 a.m.

This year, the final, official runner in Wave Three is expected to cross the starting line at approximately 10:50 a.m. Last year, the final, official runner in Wave Two crossed the starting line at 10:47 a.m.. Official timing and scoring in the Boston Marathon is held open for six hours after the last, official entrant crosses the starting line. Runners are timed using the net time it takes to run the course which serves as their official time. The amount of time it takes an official entrant from the starting gun until crossing the starting line does not add to their total time.

Runners in the Boston Marathon are seeded based on their qualifying time with the fastest runners starting closer to the front. For the 2011 race, runners who have qualified with a time of approximately 3:22:42 or faster will start in Wave One (red bibs) while those who have a qualifying time of approximately 3:45:56 or faster will start in Wave Two (white bibs). Runners with times greater than approximately 3:45:56 will start in Wave Three (blue bibs). Exact time breaks for the three waves will be ascertained in two weeks when bib numbering of the field occurs.

The starting procedure at the Boston Marathon has changed three times with improvements in the past ten years to better accommodate the field. In 2004, to better showcase the women’s elite field, the B.A.A. implemented a separate start for the top female runners, beginning a half hour earlier than the rest of the field. In 2006, the second wave was added to the start, with 10,000 runners beginning at 12:00 p.m. and 10,000 beginning at 12:30 p.m. In 2007, the start was moved to 10:00 a.m., giving runners a better opportunity to experience optimum race day weather conditions.

Also new for next month’s Boston Marathon, the timing and scoring device will be affixed to each official entrant’s bib. Beginning in 1996 and continuing until last year, runners in the Boston Marathon were required to affix the timing and scoring device to their footwear.

About the B.A.A.:
Established in 1887, the Boston Athletic Association is a non-profit organization with a mission of managing athletic events and promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running. Each year the Association manages a comprehensive schedule of youth-running events, distance running training programs, and large-scale races in the city of Boston. Most noteworthy is the Boston Marathon, the world’s most prestigious and oldest continually run marathon. Since the inaugural race in 1897, the Boston Marathon has been the pinnacle for distance running worldwide, a position which was reinforced in 1986 with the help of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial. In 2006, the Boston Marathon joined the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the BMW Berlin Marathon, the Virgin London Marathon, and the ING New York City Marathon to form the World Marathon Majors.