During our last holidays in Scotland, we attended to the Markinch Highland Games. Apart from weight throw games, pipe demonstrations and traditional dancing contests, one thing especially caught our attention: the application of handicapping to athletics races.
Runners of different ages (or simply speed) were competing together starting at different points to compensate for their different skill. Let me show you an example. Take a look at the roster of participants in a 800 metres race below.
The number at the left of the names is the bib number, while the number at the right side of each name indicates the handicap. Even though this was a nominally 800 m race, no runner completed 800 m. The fittest runners started 35m ahead of the 800 m starting line, while the least fit started 190 m ahead. That is, some ran 765 m while others completed 610 m.
This clearly makes the race more attractive to spectators, what I am not so sure is the opinion of the fastest in case he or she cannot recover the 155 m lead of the slowest during the race…