David Dobbins ddobbins at gmail.com
Tue Jul 10 11:47:03 EDT 2012

Hi Group,

   Greetings from Missoula, Montana. The Missoula Marathon was held this
past weekend. There were 5000+ runners/walkers/handicappers participating.
The Hellgate Amateur Radio Club, led by Elmer WG7P, did a great job
directing efforts of the 25+ volunteers who provided voice communications
and APRS support to the race. We had communicators at most of the 17 AID
Stations along the two routes, which included a Full Marathon (26.2 miles)
and Half Marathon (13.1 miles). As the three lead male and female runners
passed each AID Station the assigned communicator would radio in the bib
numbers and time of crossing to Jerry N7GE (also an avid APRSr) at the
finish line. I manned the APRS finish line station, monitoring the trackers
we had following three lead males and female runners, and two "tail end
charlie" trackers bringing up the rear of the races. Both Jerry and I took
turns radio'ing the leader updates to Eric NZ7S at the FINISH line crossing
where the announcers broadcast the info over their PA system.
   The trackers consisted of two Byonics MT-AIO "yellow box" units mounted
on bicycles, a Byonics MT-RTG mounted in the half-marathon pace car, three
Kenwood D7/D72's, and an Arduino tracker neatly mounted on a bob-trailer
behind the tail-end charlie bike. We ID'd the trackers with tactical
callsigns (MSLA*) and entered owner callsigns at the end of the status text
comment, set them for 30 second updates with various offsets to reduce
packet collisions. Battery life well exceeded our needs on all the
trackers. The finish line station ran UI-View with two area specific maps
generated with Precision Maps v9, one showing the entire race routes, and
the other focused on the final four AID stations. The AID stations were
generated as objects on UI-View, and were periodically announced onto the
APRS-IS as MSOAID*. As my TH-D72 was being used as a tracker, the UI-View
station relied on APRS-IS input only. A projector and screen displayed the
race picture for others to see from our location just below the finish line
in Caras Park.
   The trackers and FINISH line station worked great, although there were
some gaps in coverage and other technical difficulties along for the ride.
It was nothing we couldn't deal with, and overall a very successful
mission. This was the first occasion for using APRS at the Missoula
Marathon, and race officials were very impressed. I've done about a dozen
or more races, marathons, triathons and Ironman events over the years, so
bring some experience with me to the Hellgate club as I'm summering in
Montana to escape the heat of Tucson. Makes sense, right?
   We had a debrief last night at the monthly HARC meeting, and along with
increasing the number of trackers to cover the three leading males and
leading females of each race, we intend to place a tracker with the 5 hour
PACER runner, and perhaps with one or more of the SAG vehicles. We also
talked about coordinating some other communication updates including
"tweeting" the BIB numbers when they pass the AID stations, so others can
stay aware, and using several iPhones or Android smartphones to broadcast
streaming video to UStream and link it with a map of the associated APRS
tracker. I have that capability now, using my Android Bionic and mobile
tracker to the web page at http://k7gps.weebly.com, but it could easily
have been adapted to U2APRS or APRS OpenTracker running on a smartphone and
the UStream video simultaneously. Oh the possibilities are limitless.
   There's another communications-related activity I'd like to expand for
next year, that is in the "lost and found" arena. We had several people
wanting to drop off lost and found items, or in two cases looking for
separated parties, one of which was a runner/walker in the event, who
should have, but had not yet crossed the finish line. We took the bib
number, name and description of those folks and radio'd an attempt to
locate to our people along the course, but unfortunately never made contact
with the other parties. On the TV news later that night I heard a report of
one runner who collapsed mid-way between aid stations, where we didn't have
any communicators, was administered CPR and rushed to the hospital. His age
and physical description matched those of the person we were looking for.
We'll try harder next time to get the bib number of those who are
administered first-aid along the course, and get that info to
communications-central, so when concerned parties come looking we can
provide them with at least some information, or which hospital they were
transported to.
   Regards, Dave K7GPS
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