Finish line cutoffs are something I’ve never understood. Most races have them, including Western States at 30 hours (11:00am). At Waldo this past weekend we had 98 runners finish before 9pm to earn their Sporthill Waldo finisher hat. A record number. The choice this year for most people was a black rain hat, a white summer running hat, or a black beanie. Finish at 9:00:00pm or later and you didn’t get a hat. We have the complication of an early start (3:00am) and a regular start (5:00am). Regardless of which start a runner takes, the finish hat is given to runners finishing before 9pm – either 16 or 18 hours. Yeah, a little different, but we want to give the slower runners a chance to get a hat, too. Deciding which start to take is a gamble for some, sure. Nine runners came in after 9:00pm and did not get a hat this year. One of those nine crossed the line and thought he wasn’t a finisher because at other ultras he wouldn’t have been. But, he did finish the race – he ran the full 62.5 miles – and is listed in the finish results as he should be.
I understand why there are intermediate cutoffs. We have three cutoffs at 32, 37, and 44 miles. We all want to go home at some point. It isn’t fair to the volunteers to have to stay out indefinitely. I understand that. We have the carrot of the 9pm finisher hat to encourage people to finish. But, if a runner has passed the last intermediate cutoff (for us the Twins) the finish line folks don’t get to go home. The RDs are still going to account for that runner. They hopefully will have food, a cold drink, and cheering for that runner when they do cross the line. Perhaps the finish clock could be taken down and that could be an expense for big races that pay a timing company. But for a small old school race, we aren’t going anywhere.
So the runner finishes at 9:30pm and they don’t get the finisher award. I totally understand that. But why would they not be credited with a finish time and be listed as an official finisher?