Formation running is a thrilling new track event which calls for athletes
to run as a team, while physically connected by elastic shock cords
attached to their waists. The skill is being able to run in near perfect
time with each other. Poor synchronization, especially when the team
accelerates, means not only failing to achieve optimum speed, but also
increasing the risk of a high speed spill.
Formation running is pure drama. When you have eight teams, each with four
runners, all racing round the track at the same time, the sheer number of
bodies fused into tight-knit packs of pounding sinew and muscle, surging
forward in unison, creates a dynamic power and a synergy unequaled by any
other track event. But not only is it one of the most dramatic events, it
is also one of the most satisfying. Like rowing, it demands a high degree
of team cohesion and it is this, coupled with the excitement it affords
both participants and spectators alike, which makes formation running such
a unifying experience. Perhaps most exciting of all, formation running
enables blind athletes to be included in a team and compete alongside
sighted ones and it is hoped that this will happen for the first time at
the Fringe Games in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Because race tactics are more complex, good communication between team
members is essential, and while some will be by voice, much is intuitive;
the team building up a kind of group psyche which enables it to respond in
unison to the dictates of the race. It is primarily the greater length of
teams which make formation running more tactical.
Because passing takes much longer, it is possible for teams to put each
other under great pressure. For example, the team running on the inside of
the track can allow another team challenging for that position to get
almost clear before putting on a surge sufficient to lock it out and hold
it in the outer lane.
Though many types of formation are possible, initial formation running
teams will be made up of twos and fours in line, and threes in a V
formation. Consideration is also being given to including mixed sex teams.
The elastic shock cords which link the runners at a waist belt are of a
defined strength, and a length determined by the aggregate height of the
team. The taller the team members, the longer the cords may be to allow
for greater stride length. Formation running will be held over a variety of
distances and a progressive formation running relay, where the race starts
with one runner and picks up another at each stage, ending with four, is
likely to be a 4 x 400m. Qualifying times for the first Fringe Games in
Christchurch, New Zealand will be posted shortly, along with rules
governing lane swinging and full details of cord lengths and strengths.