By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
The date of June 24 is to many Central New York runners what April 15 is to taxpayers - a dreaded deadline. For many years, June 24 has been the entry deadline for the Cazenovia Fourth of July road races. There is no race day registration, no favors, no excuses, no exceptions.
Evelyn White has been the volunteer race director for the July 4 races for most of the race's quarter century. Under her watchful eye, the July 4 races have become the area's only races with an entry deadline, ensuring in the process a unique racing experience.
The July 4 races are among few area races that submit complete results to the USATF for national rankings and records. The accuracy relies in great part on the integrity of the runner database.
To understand an early registration cut-off, we will follow a July 4 entry form on its fateful journey. That journey may start a year early, when White compiles a list of out-of-town runners, typically visiting friends and relatives for the holiday. Early in the spring, White mails a blank race entry inviting back these runners.
Local runners have many opportunities to get entry forms from the club's newsletter, many village newspapers, athletic shops, track meets and road races.
When a completed entry form reaches White, she records vital information in her notebook, including a runner's name, sex and age.
This notebook gives White a feel for the composition of the race, and serves as a database back up in the event of a catastrophic computer failure.
As White records information in her notebook, she verifies that the entry is complete, and ensures that the age and date of birth concur.
Many times, she checks a phone book or calls a runner to verify name spelling or complete missing information. Then, she separates the entries by race distance and by sex, and sends them in batches to the result coordinator.
The result coordinator assigns race numbers based on the distance of the race and the sex of the runner, then enters the runners into a computer database for race timing and result generation. The information on a returning runner is compared to a historical database, reducing the risk of typing errors. Duplicate entries are flagged.
Advance time helps
The early entry deadline of 10 days before the race gives the result coordinator and the race director enough time to proof the runner database. Once the number of entries in the database concurs with White's notebook, several listings are printed. Each entry contains a runner's name, sex, age, race distance and town. One listing sorts the runners alphabetically. Another listing separates them by race distance and sex. A third listing divides them by age group. Both the race director and the result coordinator scan the lists for obvious errors.
On race day, these listings are posted for the runners' benefit. Since road racing provides age group competition, runners can easily identify their competition in the age group listing.
During the race, as runners cross the finish line and their bib numbers are matched to their times, the integrity of the runner database becomes critical to accurate race results. Finally, after the race, a good database permits good result listings.
Besides the integrity of the database, early registration provides the race director with the buffer necessary to ensure the safety and the comfort of racers. The number of runners dictates the number of water stops, cups, volunteers, race numbers, race bibs, ribbons, shirts, chutes, spindles, juice bottles, bagels, and garbage bags.
Last, but not least, early registration gives White some peace of mind, without the worry of a registration stampede on race morning.
Every year, dozens of runners call White after June 24 pleading for a chance to enter late. Every year, White turns back several entries that arrive after the deadline. So, if you have not mailed your entry yet, you may have just enough time to make it to the post office.
Kamal Jabbour has already mailed in his entry for the Caz 10-miler. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.