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Parallel Relay Race

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In a relay race, a team of runners take turns running around a track, passing a baton between them to keep track of whose turn it currently is. This is very much a serial operation and could be improved from a performance perspective if all members of the team ran at once, subject to the track providing enough throughput to support the traffic.

A baton collection/receptacle mechanism could await at the finish line to serve as means of measuring start and end times, which would be summed and compared team-wise to determine the winners.

Assuming a normal relay race contains 4 participants, average run times should be reduced threefold (or is it fourfold? How do you report time-savings as a ratio?) saving everyone valuable time in the process.

Once rolled out, such a system might be further deployed for other trivially parallellisable sporting operations such as darts, golf and football. Whilst some of these might require some work to work out the details, certainly the prospect of more compressed sporting events is something we could all rally around.

Obviously this isn't applicable to cricket, the somewhat recursive object of which is to play cricket for as long as is comfortably possible, subject to indelible time-boundaries defined by lunch, tea, and dinner.

zen_tom, Jun 10 2021


       Just have one step timed, and extrapolate.
pocmloc, Jun 10 2021

       I note that the sport of synchronised swimming is leading the way in this and showing other sports how to parallelise activities to give efficiency gains.
hippo, Jun 10 2021

       Perhaps a rope and pulley mechanism, with one end of a rope attached to the baton, by which three runners can accelerate the 4th runner to enormous speed? And possibly momentum transfer as the baton is transferred
sninctown, Jun 10 2021

       [a1] wins the star prize btw.
zen_tom, Jun 10 2021

       Yes. So have a teammate on each end to pass the baton to and to accept it from, and to place it in the receptacle.
Voice, Jun 11 2021

       I see the great benefit in reducing the running time for these races [+], but as described, you change the dynamics of the baton handoff, and you also loose the effect of having the last runners seeing their position relative to each other as they approach the finish line.   

       So, runner 1 starts like normal. Runner 2 is waiting 40 meters ahead to receive the baton. Runner 3 is at 80 meters and runner 4 is at 120. So this starts out looking kind of like a very short relay. The difference is that all of the runners keep running after the handoff. The traditional order should be changed so that the first runner is slowest, working up to the fastest being last so that the members of the team don't need to pass each other. The progress of the 4 runners is tracked and conveyor belts in the track, adjust the position of the teams forward or back based on how fast the team members are going relative to the competition. Once the first 3 runners have finished, no more adjustment is needed, so the final bit of the race is just like normal.   

       There would of course be problems if any of the team members can beat the next slowest team member by more than 40 meters. The initial spacing could be adjusted longer for longer races to reduce this problem.   

       Note that traditionally in longer races runners would all move to the inside track so the starting spacing would not have to be so different. Obviously that can't work here because the conveyor belt needs to adjust each team separately, but since we've installed conveyor belts in the track, we don't have to worry about that at all. All teams can now start together at the starting line, and the outer tracks just moves forward while going around the curve to make the running distances equivalent. Fans might be used to balance the wind resistance advantage between inner and outer lanes.
scad mientist, Jun 11 2021

       The baton handing over part was where the collection/receptacle mechanism came in, I was envisigioning a kind of robot arm arrangement from which a baton could be taken and returned at the start/end of the race - it could be on a kind of rail system for a moving handover to please the purists.   

       a1 I think each participant in your 8-person team example would only each run 1/8 of the course - In total, they'd cover a full unit, but only in aggregate, which would be the same if the race had been run serially. I'm largely basing this on circular stadia-tracks where the course remains invariant. For straight-line races this would have the added advantage of reducing the overall course length along with the duration.
zen_tom, Jun 11 2021

       This suggests something which I think I should post as a separate idea...
hippo, Jun 11 2021

       Couldn't you just send a pic of the baton to the finish line?   

       That could create a new line of racing: Digital vs. sneakernet. Hmm... idea strikes.
RayfordSteele, Jun 11 2021


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