I felt surprisingly smooth and relaxed as I rounded the first turn and found myself making up the stagger on the runners on my outside.

What does “making up the stagger” mean in that context?


stagger : to arrange (things) in a series of different positions or times (Merriam-Webster)

On any curved track—a standard oval, for instance—the outside lanes are necessarily longer than the inside lanes. So that all runners end at the same finish after running the same distance, the starting points are staggered—runners in the inside lanes start farther back than runners in the outside lanes.

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At the first turn the writer, in an inside lane, has "made up" some or all of the "stagger"—has reduced the distance which initially separated him from the runner in the next lane. Speaking of a "first turn" implies that there are more turns to come, so if the writer has actually drawn even with the other runner, or passed him, he has actually "gained ground" on his rival: traversed a larger proportion of the total distance.

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  • 3
    So then, "making up the stagger" isn't really an idiom, right? "Making up" might be, but it's just being applied to a 'stagger'. – DCShannon Nov 5 '15 at 4:42
  • @DCShannon Yes. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 5 '15 at 12:16
  • @DCShannon "Staggered" just implies irregularity. For instance, a "staggered column" is a military formation in which members of a squad roughly form a line in the direction where they're headed: A proper column would see the members of a squad all in a neat, single-file line. – Crazy Eyes Nov 5 '15 at 22:39
  • @CrazyEyes Uh... yeah. That's all true. What are you getting at? – DCShannon Nov 5 '15 at 22:42
  • @DCShannon I was demonstrating that it's not an idiom because staggered is being used literally. – Crazy Eyes Nov 5 '15 at 22:44

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