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  • reaction times

    i was watching drag racing on espn2 since i was really bored and noticed that their reaction times are routinely under .1 seconds. that seems to be because anticipation is part of the game. they have a standardized starting system and it is the same each time unlike starters in track that are inconsistant and hold people of different lengths of time.
    how long have we had the .1 second rule?
    what does everyone think of the rule?
    of course, changing it now would make it easier to set new records, but it does seem kind of silly

  • #2
    Re: reaction times

    are routinely under .1 seconds.
    >they have a standardized starting system and it
    >is the same each time unlike starters in track
    >that are inconsistant and hold people of
    >different lengths of time.
    how long have we
    >had the .1 second rule?
    what does everyone
    >think of the rule?
    of course, changing it now
    >would make it easier to set new records, but it
    >does seem kind of silly

    funny you mention this...we are looking into it...yeah...anyone over .1 in drag racing might as well hang it up!
    we want the blocks set to 0.00...


    • #3
      Re: reaction times

      Why don't they just make a metal gate like race horses use. That way if you false start all you'll get is a headache from smashing your forehead into the gate.


      • #4
        Re: reaction times

        All this sounds like really good ideas. I don't think anticipating the start is a bad thing, so long as you get it right and not break. Taking the starter out and having some sort of countdown (they do this in track cycling) would seem like a logical idea. Everything is standardised and everyone has the saem chance and no excuses.complaints if someone breaks.

        As far as meaning that comparing old records versus the new ones that may be set, well advances in tracks and other technology have always meant that there will be some sort of improvement other then human. The introduction of electronic timing saw differences.

        I say keep running with this idea nad concept.

        (Oh and love the idea of drop gates, brings back the animal component - yerrrrr!)


        • #5
          Re: reaction times

          There may be something to the suggestion that we use a standard countdown, or starting gates, or something similar.

          But let's understand two things. First, this is not what the rules of the sport have always contemplated. Whether Louise T, John Drummond, or anyone else likes it or not, the idea has always been that you react to the gun, you don't try to anticipate it. That's why the .1 delay is in the rules--based on lots of data showing that anything faster involves some anticipation factor. And that's why high school and college sprinters in the US are now taught not to even think about trying to anticipate.

          This is not to say that there isn't some merit to re-thinking the basic principle. Just let's recognize that it would be a different event.

          Another aspect of some of these proposals is that if it's too high tech, it will be workable only at the highest levels of the sport--the kind of meets that now use things like blocks with false start detection mechanisms. But unlike those blocks, which are designed to facilitate officiating, devices like starting gates, or electronic count-down devices, would necessarily change the nature of the event. And that would mean that sprinting at 99% of the meets of the world would be essentially different from what it is at major international events. Having such a difference in an important element of the competition at different levels is generally not a good idea.


          • #6
            Re: reaction times

            >why the .1 delay is in the rules--based on lots
            >of data showing that anything faster involves
            >some anticipation factor.

            where's the lots of data...someone else on another thread was going to produce it...but has yet to do so...


            • #7
              Re: reaction times

              I don't know about whatever research the IAAF (or whomever) used to come up w/ the 0.100 threshhold, but in looking just at Paris results, strikes me they were very GENEROUS.

              Reaction times in the men's 100 final:
              0.148, 0.152, 0.112, 0.145, 0.140, 0.133, 0.132, 0.164

              Semi I:
              0.142, 0.197, 0.172, 0.227, 0.116, 0.168, 0.104, 0.172

              Semi II:
              0.147, 0.154, 0.158, 0.152, 0.156, 0.157, 0.168, 0.129, 0.230


              • #8
                Re: reaction times


                we're not talking "generous"...produce the scientific testing..maybe there is some that we are not aware of...


                • #9
                  Re: reaction times

                  Since when is overwhelming empirical evidence insufficient to calibrate the baseline. If someone reacts faster than .1, then something anomalous occurred. There may be a 1 in a 1000 chance a reaction is legitimately under .1, but that's why the IAAF has wisely gone to the 'second fs' rule, unlike the HS and NCAA's one and you're out.


                  • #10
                    Re: reaction times

                    >the lots of data...someone else on another thread
                    >was going to produce it...but has yet to do so...

                    Louise - I haven't forgotten the task. It's been frustrating, but illuminating. It's taking us far earlier than the 90's and will probably take us to Germany. My inquiries to the IAAF have not been answered, probably because I'm just Joe Blow to them, and they may be suspicious of my intentions. I'll let you know. Thanks


                    • #11
                      Re: reaction times

                      C'mon, folks... who is kiddding whom? Does anyone on earth think that sprinters at any level DO NOT anticipate the gun or that they could be trained not to do so? To think that 8 people would get into a set position without at least a sub-conscious mental set that anticipates the start is absurd. Just the act of coming up to the set position puts runners into an anticipatory emotional situation and into a physical posture that cannot be maintained for very long. How many times have we all seen meets with lots of false starts and blamed a starter who was either erratic or held the runners too long? "Bad starter," we all have said. People never blame the runners who are held too long.

                      If we want to eliminate anticipation then every race starter ought to hold runners at the set position for a completely random period of time. Does a runner who breaks at .1001 sec simply have great reactions while a runner who leaves at .0999 sec is a cheater? Anticipation is a skill, an art, a knack that succcessful sprinters (and athletes in just about every other sport master) and the IAAF will never be able to manufacture a set of rules that change human nature.

                      If we want to take away that element of the sport then nevermind starting gates or disqualifications, the answer is present in the data we already collect: just subtract the reaction time from the runner's finish time and award the win to the runner who travels the distance fastest from his or her individual start to the finish line. Thus, the numbers tell the winner rather than the finish order. We have that technical capability (just like we could now measure horizontal jumps from take off point to landing and eliminate all that worry about hitting the board and making a mark on the plasticine, which, by the way, I think is a much better idea) but in the sprints, at least, relying on the actual elapsed time rather than the finish order would take all the fun out of it, think what a disaster it would be for competitors and specatators if the first place finisher were relegated to, say, fifth place after subtracting reaction times!!!

                      In drag racing, stats are kept on both car's elapsed times and, often, the second place car travels faster than the first if reaction time is discounted, but the car that reaches the finish line first is still the winner, period. Seems to me that a similar policy is best for human sprinting... just DQ people who leave before the gun. The reaction time rules are a fight against the anticipatory realities of human nature.


                      • #12
                        Re: reaction times

                        While I can't cite chapter and verse, I'm confident in my recall that the IAAF engaged in (or commissioned) some real research before setting the 0.1 limit.

                        I would also note that for more empirical evidence on the subject, the original study on hand vs. auto in the early '70s led to the conclusion that timers with handheld stopwatches had, on average, an 0.14 reaction time. So 0.10 would indeed appear to be "generous," as a previous poster posited.

                        And before you say that timers aren't athletes, I would cite a an article I once read about the old Soviet sports machine, and reaction-testing was one of the things they did for everybody. Wanna guess who consistenly showed the best reactions? Chess players! This leads me to believe it's not something that's directly related to athletic ability, and no amount of training is going to change it.

                        One last thing: when the concept of false-start blocks first came out, wasn't the limit set at 0.12? Strikes me that it was, and wasn't creating any particular rash of false starts, but the IAAF took the precaution of cutting off a couple more 100ths, just to be sure that any outliers weren't unfairly nabbed.


                        • #13
                          Re: reaction times


                          >the lots of data...someone else
                          >e on another thread
                          >was going to produce
                          >it...but has yet to do so...

                          My inquiries to the IAAF have not
                          >been answered,

                          to whom are you writing?


                          • #14
                            Re: reaction times

                            >we're not talking "generous"...produce the >scientific testing..maybe there is some that we >are not aware of...


                            Physiological and psychological studies have consistently shown that auditory reaction times (for college-aged humans) are between 0.14-0.16s. This is the peak -- they are slower for younger ages, and they get slower as age progresses. As GH has suggested, there is only evidence to suggest that 0.10s is generous.

                            The onus is not on science (or the IAAF) to presume a < 0.10s reaction is acceptable because the particular sample space of the population has not been explicitly tested.

                            Until someone can show (conclusively!) otherwise, and give statistical/quantitative evidence to support the claim, then a 0.100s reaction time is *more* than generous, and anything faster is pure anticipation. Cause/effect can't possibly be justified.


                            • #15
                              Re: reaction times

                              I tracked down these references from

                              Farrow, D and Kemp, J. 2003. Run like you stole something - The Science behind the score line. Allen and Unwin: Sydney (

                              I've copied them as written in the bibliography:

                              Bruggemann, GP and Glad, B 1988, 'Biomechanics of sprint events - Reaction time'. Scientific Research Project at the games of the XXVIVth Olympiad - Seoul 1988. Final Report - Time Analysis of the Sprint and Hurdle events, pp 26-27. International Athletic Foundation.

                              Jongsma, DM, Elliott, D & Lee, TD 1987, 'Experience and set in the running sprint start', Perceptual and Motor Skills, 64, 547-550