Staggered starts in relay races

I was watching the 4x100 relay race tonight, and a thought occured. The athletes use a staggered start to make up for the outer lanes being longer. After one lap, they’re allowed to move to the inner lane. But because it’s a relay, they have to pass the baton to the next guy, who is waiting in his team’s lane. This means, if you start way out in lane eight, your guys are constantly moving in and out as the baton is passed. Doesn’t this translate into a huge advantage for whoever gets the inner lanes?

Oops. I meant “4x400.” In the 4x100 they stay in lanes.

I agree with you, but can you imagine the confusion if they didn’t have to pass off in their own lane? Hell they have trouble enough as it is, as the U.S. proved a couple of times, tonight. :wink:

But why not change the staggering so the distance is correct over the full 1600 meters, and make everyone stay in their lane?

They don’t run in lanes the whole way for the 4 X 400 because once you finish one lap, everyone has run almost the same distance. If you wanted the runners to be in lanes the whole way, the first runner in the outermost lane would have to start way out ahead of everybody.

4 X 200 relays are done all in lanes, but those aren’t held too often.

Offhand, I’d say the difference between the inner lane and the outer lane would be… wait for it… staggering. Maybe even an entire (inner) lap, and it could get difficult. There are already a zillion lines on the track. IANA track expert, etc.

Well, that’s what I’m saying. Wouldn’t that be fairer than having the outer lane guys running back and forth to make the exchange?

In the 4 X 400, by the second lap, pretty much everyone has made up the stagger. The stagger for the second leg isn’t nearly as much as the first.

For the third and fourth legs, the officials line up the runners in the order that their teammates are in. So the team in first gets its runner to stand on the inside and the team second is next to that runner, and so on.

The present setup makes it a lot easier to see who is ahead for the third and fourth laps.

Also if it was such an advantage to start in lane 1, teams that run the fastest qualifying times would be placed there. But instead they are placed in one of the four center lanes (3-6) by draw.