The Wampanoags, Hopkinton, NC Pacers and some other runners got together tonight for a good run on the Crackerbarrel course with some food and refreshments at Tom's Tavern in Wrentham.
At least 50 runners set off in a stagger start based upon their predicted finish times. Some had not yet done this method of running and it does have some advantages over the common mass start. With the mass start (everyone goes at once), you need to find someone running your pace. It can be hit or miss. With the predictive finish and staggered start, those attempting to run the same pace are theoretically already with you. There is still some variation but it should be easier.
It seemed to work well tonight. About 7 of us were in the 8 minute per mile pace category, although 3-4 were actually trying to go just faster at 7:40 or so. They split from the rest of us right at the start. The remainder stayed pretty much together. I ended up finishing about 20 seconds faster than the 24:00 predicted finish. I probably could have picked it up a little more at the end but wanted to see how close I could come and held the pace.
The other benefit, it tends to reduce the time gap between the first finisher and the last. The wait is instead seen on the front of the race as the slower runners get the head start and the fastest runners start last. If it worked perfectly, all would (by running their predicted times) create a mass finish. it usually does not work out that way, some one has an off day and some go a little faster than expected, but the overall gap between first and last finisher is less.
The Crackerbarrel course is a good one especially for 5K. It seems like you are always on a slight down grade until the last turn and you go up a bit before flattening out to the finish. How it works that way on a loop course is interesting. It does produce some fast times.