Dominic Smith ⇓

200 runners, 32 miles, 1 big communications challenge

The communications for the Dartmoor Discovery Ultra-Marathon, 2011.
This page is archived. It was last modified in June 2011 and it will probably not be updated.

200 runners, 32 miles, 1 big communications challenge

This article is expected to be published in a slightly amended form in the magazine distributed to those who register to participate in the Dartmoor Discovery Ultra-Marathon in 2012. I thought I'd put it up here too for anyone else who is interested.

The Dartmoor Discovery Ultra-Marathon is a gruelling challenge for all of the runners who take part: the 200 runners have to run 32 miles up and down hills on Dartmoor, with the course fluctuating between 415m and 60m ASL.

In many ways it is as much a challenge for the Dartmoor Radio Club, who ensure that runners complete the race safely, arrange minibus collection for drop-outs and coordinate the St. Johnís Ambulance where necessary. The group's role also extends to passing the numbers of each runner to the race commentator just before they arrive at the finish.

The poor mobile telephone coverage over much of Dartmoor means that a dedicated communications network for the race is indispensible, but setting up such a network is made particularly challenging by the terrain: about one-third of the course (principally the section between Ashburton and Widecombe) is not within direct radio coverage of the start/finish in Princetown.

Over several years assisting in the race, the volunteers in the club have refined a plan for overcoming these difficulties:

Map showing position of the sweep minibus

A GPS-linked radio beacon in the sweep minibus allows the Communications Centre to ensure drop-outs are collected.

In the Communications Centre, which was located in Princetown Methodist Hall in 2011, all of this information is amalgamated using software written especially for the race by yours truly.

The software performs several tasks:

(Because it contains real data from the 2011 race, some data has been redacted from the screenshot showing the missing runners alert above.
The version of the Google Earth map as displayed in the Communications Centre has an Ordinance Survey map overlay, instead of the standard satellite imagery. For copyright reasons, the OS overlay cannot be reproduced here.)

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I am Dominic Smith and this is my personal website.
I am a radio amateur, Agile project manager and website developer living in Cambridge.   More about me »