Captain’s Blog: Leg by Leg Rankings

Planning an RTB team begins the second you register, if not before. But let’s be honest: After that, there’s a lot of thinking, speculating, and guessing about how things will turn out. Until you can start assigning names to legs, it just doesn’t feel 100-percent real. Well, this year’s maps are out. It’s time to get started.

Making out your lineup is more art than science. Still, I like to start out with some simple math to break down the legs by perceived level of difficulty, then finesse as needed. Once I’ve got a ranking, then I’ll begin penciling in names for each, while also canvassing my team to get their thoughts. Some people might like being early in the rotation, others might like (or, more likely, dislike) hills. A variety of personal preferences can help you iron out a final lineup.

But right now we’re still at step 1. After a first pass at the maps, I ranked them 1 through 36 (1 being the hardest). Then I tallied the scores for each of the 12 sets. Below is the chart I ended up with. As you can see, the result is almost—but not quite—the same as you’d get by simply sorting the legs by mileage.

Here’s what I took into account:

  1. Length of leg
  2. Topography
  3. Which rotation leg is in

A flat 6 miler in the third rotation ranks as harder than 6 miles at the beginning of the race, for example. In many cases, these legs are quite close to each other in level of difficulty, and that’s where your teammates’ personal preferences can come into play.

I did make one tweak after calculating the rankings: Runner’s 6 and 7 have very similar sets of legs, with #7 ranking as slightly harder. But by virtue of Runner 6’s final leg being more difficult, I moved it up a notch.

I’d be curious to know whether all of you agree or disagree with this breakdown.

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4 Responses to Captain’s Blog: Leg by Leg Rankings

  1. Steve says:

    Now this is fun! How are you weighing the hills ? Leg one has the most vertical climb per mile (228ft per mile) yet you ranked runner 1 as the easiest (Legs 1, 13, 25).

    I was ‘not’ thinking of runner one being my slowest, but now you got me thinking.


    • mchalu4 says:

      That’s a great question, Steve. The elevation profiles are always a challenge for me to read since it’s often 5 or 6 miles compressed into just a few inches on the printed page. Everything looks mountainous in that format, however if you read the actual elevation figures, they tend to be pretty modest (though I recall some of the hills from last year feeling anything but modest). So, generally speaking, as I ranked the legs, I didn’t find that the hills played a huge roll.

      Now, for leg 1 specifically, you’re right. That one stands out given the amount of climbing. However a few factors are significant here. First, it’s a short leg, so it’ll be over pretty quickly for any runner, with minimal time added to your average pace. Second, it’s the first leg, so the runner is going to be fresh. If this was being run during the third rotation, it’s a different story. And third—and most important, I think—your #1 runner only had to cover 10 miles, total, in the race. That, more than the hills in the first couple miles, should probably dictate who you put in that spot. This, of course, assumes you have a full squad of 12. If you don’t, then my chart would have to be adjusted. If you’ve got 11 runners, then #1, #2, and #3 all get to run a fourth leg, and that would lead to a very different set of rankings.

  2. Steve says:

    Yes, I think you’re right. Generally the faster the runner, the more miles you give ‘um.

    Good incite!


  3. Pingback: Captain’s Blog: Get Your Act Together | New Balance Reach the Beach Running Relay Race Series | 24 Hour Running Relay Race

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