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Offbeat Rally Ideas
Written June 2012

My friend Terry Rockhold and I were members of the Scioto Sports Car Club during the 1970s, and we competed in the club’s rallies.  Terry was the driver and I was the navigator.  We traveled down Ohio's county roads while following a printed list of Route Instructions.  Because these were TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) rallies, we had to stay precisely on schedule.

But there’s more to a rally than that:  There are usually a few lettered Special Instructions, such as “Pause 2 minutes each time you cross a divided highway,” that must be executed throughout the event at each of the infrequent occasions when they apply.

I wondered whether a rally could be designed using only Special Instructions.  As a joke, I typed up the page you see in the blue box below.

Some things you might wonder about:  As a general rule in rallies, gravel roads are considered non-existent.  SRIP means Sign Reading In Part.  The numbers in the left column are official mileages starting from the “TEXACO” sign.  Howie Gorman played 13 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1937.  And Rathbone was a crossroads near the Scioto River 22 miles upstream from Columbus, Ohio.

I placed my starting point on Morse Road in Columbus, but don’t try to follow the instructions from there or you’ll probably end up far, far away.


(note: these do not apply to the odometer check leg)


At each T at which there is a SRIP “HILLS”, turn left.


At all other T’s, turn right.


At each Y in Franklin County, Licking County, or Pickaway County, bear left.


At each Y in Delaware County or Fairfield County, bear right.


After each SRIP “COUNTRY CLUB”, turn right.


At each “STOP”, alternately increase average speed 10 per cent and decrease average speed 10 per cent.


At each covered bridge, increase average speed 5 mph.


At each railroad crossing, pause 0.50 minute.


All gravel roads with two-digit route numbers exist.



Take 35 minutes to reach instruction #11.


Leaving starting line, turn right onto Morse Road.



Begin odometer check leg at “TEXACO.”



Right at traffic signal.



Left onto Ridenour Road.



Bear right after “WINDING ROAD”.



Left onto 109.






Right at T.



Second left.



Left at SRIP “HUDSON”.



End odometer check leg at “NARROW BRIDGE”.  Begin applying special instructions listed above.  Begin average speed of 32.0 mph.  Begin one-mile free zone.



Turn right into Howie Gorman’s Rathbone Ranch and await results.

America was in crisis during the winter of 1973-74.  Gasoline was in short supply, resulting in long lines at gas stations.  Later, when I moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania, I found that rationing had been imposed:  because I had an odd-numbered license plate, I could visit a gas station only on odd-numbered days.

I was still a member of the SSCC, but I wondered whether the club could continue to waste gas on recreational pursuits.  Could we enjoy the competition of rallying if we were unable to drive our cars?  Maybe we could rally on bicycles.  Not being a bicyclist myself, I didn’t care for that idea, so I went even further and speculated about rallying on foot.

As early as December 1, 1973, I found a length of level sidewalk in Marion, Ohio.  I measured it at 62 feet 1½ inches and proceeded to conduct a scientific experiment.  Walking at different speeds, I timed myself and counted my strides.  A “slow, deliberate walk” took 17½ strides, lasting 33 seconds.  A “determined walk” lengthened my stride; it took only 11½ strides, lasting 12 seconds.

I developed algebraic formulas and extrapolated my results to obtain a table of typical walking speeds.  Because our nation was supposedly converting to the metric system, the speeds below are in meters per minute. 


per minute

per stride

per minute

Wedding processional




Slow, deliberate walk




Approx. slow rally walk








Approx. fast rally walk




Determined walk




Fast walk, hustling








Four-minute mile




Champion sprinter




What might a pedestrian rally look like?  I imagined my competitors marching two by two through a level, scenic neighborhood.

I selected German Village, a historic district south of downtown Columbus, with cobblestone streets and red-brick sidewalks and restaurants . . .


including, on Third Street, the newly established hamburger place Max & Erma’s (which is now a chain).

Although I didn’t attempt actually laying out a course, I did make preparations for doing so.  I carefully traced a map of all the streets in a square mile of the Village, from the corner of Livingston Avenue and Ninth Street on the northwest to the corner of Greenlawn Avenue and Front Street on the southeast.

And I drew up a speculative set of General Instructions, parts of which are below.


INTRODUCTION.  Today, as pedestrians, you will participate in a simple TSD rally on the sidewalks and crosswalks of German Village.  It should be completed in less than three hours, including a rest break in Schiller Park approximately halfway through the event.

Das Bürgersteigsammeln begins and ends at Deibel’s Restaurant and Beer Garden, 200 Livingston Avenue, Columbus, Ohio.  Rallyists will enter as two-person teams.  The first team will leave the starting line outside Deibel’s at 1:02 pm.  The second will follow at 1:04 pm; the third, at 1:06 pm; and so on.

Because this rally uses a new and untried concept, it will be kept very basic.  There will be only two average speeds, there will be no traps designed to lead you off course, and liberal use will be made of official distances.  If today’s Sidewalk Rally goes well, future pedestrian rallies may be more ambitious.


EQUIPMENT.  Rally teams may not carry objects larger than two meters in any dimension, such as tape measures.  They may not use wheeled devices, such as bicycles, roller skates, surveyor’s wheels, or little red wagons.  Nor may rally teams use radio transmitters or receivers while on the course.

Practically anything else is permitted, including pedometers, hand-operated counting devices, slide rules, mechanical calculators, electronic calculators, rally tables, and umbrellas.  We suggest that you bring a wristwatch with a sweep second hand, a couple of pencils, and a writing surface such as a clipboard.


PAVED SURFACES.  Paved surfaces are areas which are located outdoors, surfaced with asphalt, concrete, macadam, cobblestones, or brick, and maintained for use by the general public.

Paved surfaces fall into three classifications.  Sidewalks are intended for the use of pedestrians; streets are intended for the use of motor vehicles; and crosswalks are intended for both.  A crosswalk is the linear extension of a sidewalk across a street.  During this rally, you are to walk only on sidewalks and crosswalks.



Cross-turn:  First continue straight across a street by use of a crosswalk; then, as soon as you have crossed the street, turn.  The direction of the turn will be specified; for example, “cross-turn left.”

After:  If directed to take an action “after” a sign or landmark, you are first to walk past the sign or landmark for a distance of at least ten meters.  Then you are to take the action at the next opportunity to do so.  If you see a sign or landmark, but the rally course will not take you within ten meters of it, then that sign or landmark is not the one referred to in the instruction.  No careful measurements will be required to apply these rules; either the distance will be obviously less than ten meters, or it will be obviously more than ten meters.

Kopf (or “head” in German):  The head of whichever rallyist is farther advanced along the rally course.  At checkpoints, the caller will call out “mark” when the Kopf passes him, and the timer will read his clock.


AVERAGE SPEEDS.  Two average speeds will be used during this rally.  One is 60 meters per minute (MPM), which could be described as a stroll or saunter; the other is 80 MPM, which is a moderately brisk walk, but not fast.

Ordinary TSD rally techniques can be used to calculate the correct time of arrival of the rally team at each point where the official distance is given.  For calculations at intermediate points, you may find it convenient to use another unit of length called the stride.  A stride is defined as the distance between two successive plantings of a rallyist’s left foot as he walks.  Clearly, the length of the stride varies with speed, stature, physical condition, emotional condition, and other factors.  But counting strides is about the only practical way to measure distance while walking the course.

A practice area will be provided near the starting line.  This is a 40-meter section of sidewalk.  If you walk it in one-half minute, you’re traveling at a speed of 80 MPM; if you walk it in 40 seconds, you’re traveling at 60 MPM.  Thus you can get a “feel” for that speed.  Additionally, you can count your strides.  You’ll find that 80 MPM translates to roughly 50 strides per minute, while 60 MPM translates to roughly 43 strides per minute.

We suggest that one member of each rally team be assigned no other responsibility than keeping his strides of a consistent length and counting them.  He can make tally marks on his clipboard, or he can use a mechanical counting device or some other method.  The other member of team uses these stride-counts to make timing calculations, while also reading the instructions and keeping the team on course.


SCORING.  Each leg will be scored by comparing the time it took you to walk from one checkpoint to the next with the time it should have taken you, based on the rallymaster’s accurate measurement of the course using a surveyor’s wheel.

I wrote down other suggestions of how the course should be laid out.  Each half of the rally should be between 3,500 and 5,500 meters with a rest break of at least 20 minutes in the middle; the total distance should be between 8 and 10 kilometers.  Whenever the rally course crossed a heavily-traveled street, the crossing should be made at a traffic light, and a pause of at least one minute should be included.  No checkpoint should be set up within 100 meters after crossing a street.  Checkpoints should not be located in front of private homes, nor where they might impede the movements of “civilians” in any way.

I imagined that if my rally partner and I walked this event, we might calculate our speeds this way.

It’s decided that Tom’s stride will be used as the standard.  Using a pocket electronic calculator, Terry converts Tom’s 51 strides per minute to a figure of 0.01961 minutes per stride.

Leaving each checkpoint (including the starting line), Tom starts counting his strides.  His particular method of counting involves humming to himself an extended musical scale, do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do-re-mi, humming one note each time his left foot falls.  He’s practiced this so he can do it almost automatically.  Each time he reaches the top of the scale, Tom makes a tally mark on a sheet on his clipboard and then starts humming the scale all over again.  Since there are ten notes in Tom’s extended scale, each tally mark represents ten strides.

Terry, meanwhile, reads the instructions and determines where to turn.  He also tries to check Tom’s speed.  Any time Tom makes a tally mark, Terry can perform a check by first reading his wristwatch as Tom makes the mark.  Say the watch reads 2:03:17, and Tom had just made his 17th mark since the last checkpoint.  Terry knows they left that checkpoint at exactly 2:00:00, so it’s taken 3 minutes and 17 seconds to come this far; that’s 3.28 minutes, expressed as a decimal.  How long should it have taken to travel this far?  Well, using the calculator, Tom’s 170 strides times 0.01961 minutes per stride gives an answer of 3.33 minutes.  It did take 3.28 minutes, it should have taken 3.33, so Tom needs to slow down by .05 minute.

Months later, during the noon hour of October 27, 1974, I conducted further experiments on the sidewalk outside my Pennsylvania apartment.  I walked uphill and downhill about an eighth of a mile between a sign and a fire alarm box, tallying my strides, trying to maintain a consistent pace of 50 strides per minute.  Since my stride length at this speed was about 1.6 meters, I thought about getting rid of the metric conversions by defining 1.6 meters as the official unit of distance and calling it one “glub.”  No kidding.

But that was as far as it went.  Our nation’s conversion to the metric system failed for lack of interest ... gasoline became readily available again ... and the idea of the Sidewalk Rally never got beyond the concept stage.  You might say it sank in the Scioto.  Glub, glub.




At right:  Umbrella Girl Fountain in German Village’s Schiller Park




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