Goal Setting in Running – Key is Nett time Posted on September 17, 2018

By Rameshon


Picture 1 – Running brings joy to one who gets a personal best time

In Loughborough University, in 1992, I was asked to run in League One Cross Country races. I know of few Singapore students who joined the athletics team there and gave up, in time, citing weather, as it was cold. There were many of us from Loughborough University who took part in the cross country race, and there were many clubs/groups running. I came in 66th position in the first race. My friend, Tony Bignell, came in 16th for the cross country run, which was about 10km. Tony Bignell was a 3min 44sec 1500m runner. If the race was in Singapore, I would have been first, with a time of sub-33min. I realised that the standard was very high. Nearly all 100 odd runners who ran were of sub – 33/sub-34min kind standard for 10km.

There were League 2 as well, and in that league, the runners were pretty slower than League One, but they were running sub-40min 10km, nearly all. Each week, there is Athletics Week magazine to check the results.  In this magazine, one can find other races in England and also the results of other distances races taking place in the country. In any race we do, the results are reflected in the magazine, and it was detailed. I was able to get my timing there.

Hence, where I am coming at is for runners to get correct pacing and the organisers could do that by grouping athletes according to their pace and ensure that one should be able to give the nett time to the runner and it must be accurate so that one can keep improving. When I was studying in England, in year 1992-1994, I always got my time for races ranging between 5km to the marathon, and it was accurate. I ran and did 2hr 29min for the London Marathon in year April, 1993, before doing 2hr 28min for Berlin Marathon, Sept, 1993, before doing 2hr 24min 22sec in Chiangmai SEA Games 1995. All the races, were in overseas, and I could get the nett time correct easily.

When one knows the nett time, it easy to chart out one’s progress and it leads to short-term, and mid-term goal setting, and eventually long-term goals. Gross time is helpful for only the top runners, as it is usually for prize giving. If one starts a race and the runner is late, may be by 10min, and does 31min 20sec, for 10km, for the nett time, it also means that the gross time becomes 41min 20sec. One should know that knowing ones nett time is enough, that’s all. In fact, for me, getting the gross time, as an end all and be all, is meaningless. Therefore, an organiser will do a favour to runners by getting the nett time correct. Once a nett time is wrong for an individual, and if the runner is in top 10, and there is a position shift, that means that the race is messed up for nearly everyone, especially the general public. If there is more mistakes for some runners, then, in fact, actually, it becomes a mass run, instead. Mark my words!

Most of the organisers only allow gross time and the importance is they can know who the  top 10 winners are, as to who could win the prize. However, if you ask me, the real winner comes from nett time, which is the ultimate truth. That is why the importance of nett time comes in. Hence, it is important for top runners to stand right in front of the running crowd. The announcer must do their part by calling potential 10 winners to come right in front so that if a top runner is behind, as he or she is late, the crowd will be compassionate to allow the grace one to get a fair race.

In the recent 2 XU race, where I came with time of 1hr 28min, the announcer spoke out for top runners who think they can come in top 3 to come to the front, just before the race. This was an extra mile effort by the organisers, as, if the top runner is right behind, 100m away, they may not come in even top 10, as one needs to zig-zag their way of the crowd, during the race, and this fatigues a runner before he or she can actually compete in the race. Also, this makes the race inaccurate. Some races are run in Singapore like that. If a person is behind, in fact, the organiser can ask the top 10 to come to the front, as only very few will go to the front. If it is a few   handful ones to go to the front, the crowd usually are kind to allow one to move forward and this is a selfless act. It also shows respect and honour of fellow runners that ultimately all the competitors are friends. My frank opinion is people are usually honest about this. If they are slower runner, when announced to move to the front, the runner stays put. In 2XU about 2 -3 people came to the front due to this announcement to move to the front and correct winner of the race was seen. 

In POSB race and Cold Storage, year in, year out, I have not seen an announcer informing the top 10, potential winners to come to the front and also to invite faster runners to run in phase one, if possible. So, that it becomes League One, League Two and League Three. It is important for the kids to get a good time by organising properly and for the organisers to put a little more effort by calling the potential top winners to daringly come to the front. They can say this a number of times as kids are usually to come to the front. I have seen that rarely kids take advantage of this. Many races I have run, only a very few will raise their hand and go to the front. If this happens, it will be a feather in the cap of the organisers of POSB Run to get the correct winner. If a top runner runs in 3rd phase, they will need to zig-zag all the way by overtaking the phase 1 and phase 2 tail end runners, which gets the parents angry that the son got tired at the last stretch of the race, as the son is supposed to go for it and sprint at the last stretch of the 80 to 150 metres of the race. If a top runner in phase 3 run and keep overtaking the tail runners of other phase, the sole purpose to get the actual winner may not be even known. Why? It is because may be the potential winner is in phase 3 but the act of weaving during the run, could cause to slow down at the last stretch of the race. The potential winner may not even get top 3 of the overall race. 

For people who want to get a good time, for young and old, it is advisable to run in group having your similar pace, during registration of he race. It is good to ask by the organisers for expected time of finish of the race and give the number tags according to pace that they could run. Right now, we have one of the best IT in Singapore but application of the IT to group people according to the pace is not done properly, except for very few races. There is inaction in this.

Besides runners who are pacers, before the race, with balloons attached, it is good, for the organisers to put different entrance for runners with their respective expected time or pace that they want to go. This is important as it makes races safer as there will be no pushing and jostling and runners will have a low possibility of falling to the floor, because of difference in running pace time.

For people who want to do a good time, it is advisable not to stand in front of the crowd if one’s time is 1hr 20min for 10km and the athlete is running in 10km race. There will be people who are between 32min and 40min standing in front and they can push the pace and the slower runner may go out too fast and struggle and do 1hr 25min or 1hr 30min instead. That is how people end up stopping 2 to 4 times, or even more in a race, and get a much slower time or they may get an improvement in timing but it may be a marginal one. 

If one has 40min 00sec for 10km, it is advisable to come more in front, and not stand behind, as one has to snake one’s way to the front and a lot of energy can be wasted.

Once a person gets the nett time, one should aim to do a faster time, in future, and one has to set goals to achieve a new personal best time. Hence, it is imperative for the organisers to be compassionate to the runners who have sacrificed their time, money and effort, to let them get their personal best time, for their money worth also, as the race fees are getting very expensive and it is increasing over time.

For this to happen, passionate organisers are important, not just for profit making and getting a wrong time, at the end of the day. Organisers could study why in overseas the races are run in a very structured manner. Hence, travelling to countries and observing and also asking overseas officials questions on how to organise properly is important. There MUST be a survey form for one to fill up after a race so that the next race can be done properly, and organisers must me open to learning, and accepting feedback, irregardless whether it is positive or negative.

The government should also enforce on organisers to organise race properly and call only the successful organisers to come forward and do again next time. If it is a failure, one should not ask the organiser who have caused chaos, to do again, but find for successful organisers or vendor, who is willing to say that they don’t mind refunding money back to runners if there is a  foul up in timing of the race.

Wishing the readers a new personal best for your races!

Edited By Tan Mariviv