Monday, May 18, 2009

Raceology 405

Since my last post, readers have been asking for more information on the science of race numbers aka raceology aka running numerology. I admit . . . I am torn as to whether I should divulge these racing secrets to the running world or whether I should protect these secrets and share with only a few friends (or perhaps paying clients???) After years of careful analysis, these suggestions could lead almost anyone to their own PRs at any distance. Raceology tells you when to "go for it" and when to save it for another race.

We all have good days running and we have bad days. These we really can't control. Some folks suggest special diets can impact these, others develop detailed training plans to help them time a good day to coincide with a race. But mostly . . . these are bunk. Wives tales . . . long on story and short on results.

Basically good and bad days occur at random. Sometimes you'll have two good days in a row, sometimes you'll have two bad days in a row. Sometimes you'll have a string of either good or bad days. Bottomline: these just happen. The luck of the day.

But there is another factor that few realize and virtually no one has studied and that is the impact of your race number and the effect it has on your running performance. A bad day combined with a good number and you will still have a bad run. But if your having a good day and you get a good number, you are probably looking at a PR. A good day and a bad number will usually yield an average day overall so why push it on days like this. If you have a slow number, just call it a "training run" and save your best effort for another race where hopefully you'll have a better number.

Basically, it all boils down to your race number for a given event. Some numbers are faster than other numbers and the combination of numbers can have a dramatic impact on your race results.

So which number is the better number: 491 or 372? One of these numbers is significantly faster than the other. But which is the better number? Read on and learn.

Think about this . . . what do you do with your race number? Of cource you pin it on your shirt in a manner such that others can read it when they see you coming (as opposed to you being able to read the number when you look down at it yourself!). Most of us tend to lean slightly forward as we run and when you consider this fact you may realize that the top of the number actually leads the way as one run down the course.

Here comes the real insight . . . since the top of the number is leading the way, it is the part of the number encountering the apparent wind associated with your running. And if there is, in fact, a real breeze, this effect becomes even more pronounced. Basically, the top of the number creates wind resistance! So in raceology, we carefully study the shape of the tops of numbers.

Consider the possibilities: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

  • First the number "1" is clearly the most aerodynamic number and, as such, is far an away the fastest number possible. Second fastest is the number "4" as it too provides an aerodynamic silhouette compared to other integers. Conversely, there are two numbers that are equally wind resistant and thus very "slow" numbers: "5" and "7". Notice how the tops of these numbers are flat and at a right angle to the wind direction.
  • The numbers "8" and "9" are average, but slightly better than the numbers "2", "3" and "6". Notice how the numbers "2", "3" and "6" have open cavities that can trap the wind and cause turbulence.
  • And the last factor is the fewer the numbers the better!

So, the fastest possible race number is "1". Should you be surprised that most races reserve this fast number for the individual with the highest seed, thus further tipping the scale in his or her favor? This is no accident!

Without a doubt, this is only a beginners introduction into the science of raceology. Clearly there is more dealing with number balance (for instance dealing with a number like "117" and the subtleties of comparing two digit numbers with three or even four digit numbers (which is faster "11514" or "368"?)

For more information in this topic, please purchase my book "Raceology: The Science of Running your Best" available for $67.95 through

And to answer the question posed earlier, which number is the better number: "491" or "372"? By now you should know "491" is a significantly better number!

Now, you may understand my frustration at my latest race when I got my race number. I should have just gone home.


  1. Oh, I am so nervous for my marathon. We don't get our race bibs and numbers until tomorrow night. IS there any technique to help get a faster number, or is that found in the $67.99 breakdown?

  2. Sorry . . . but you've just got to buy the book! But hope for "414"!!!

    Good luck to both of you! Which marathon? I'll be checking "Running Down" for results and summary!

  3. Okay, I've got 1040. I am not sure how to feel about that. 2 good numbers, 2 bad. Anthony has 1039. Pray for him.

  4. Actually, neither of you is in bad shape!! Your 1 and 4 are fast and a 0 is the most average number. So your pretty good (except for the fact your is a tax form number!!!

    Anthony 1039 is a little worst, but definitely a throw-away day!

    Good luck to both of you!!

    1. We make the number or we introduced the number and we try on the fastest number!How strange it is!

  5. Just got 1442 for Boston... barring a wind eddy in #2 I should have a good day:)

    1. Balance your ideas and try to find out what comes out in the air!You will see the wonderful things which makes you to decide 'the next step of action'.There is no meaning in deciding good and bad numbers or fast and slow numbers.However,numbers shall merge or repulse according to their zodiacal relation.


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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.