In Scotland it is totally random and the backmarker could be anywhere in the lanes. The event frontmarker could be along side the event backmarker - just depends on how it comes out.
Up until the late 70's the final of the Stawell Gift was based on what semi an athlete won. In 1975 Ravelo ran off scratch and was in the middle of the field. There's a line from the commentator where at one stage he says: "Ravelo - look at him coming through the middle"...
I don't think that a random draw or basing it on a semi/heat result are the way to go, but I wonder if we could try putting the backmarker in the middle and then work them out towards the fringes?
Similar to the amateurs I guess where the fastest athletes are seeded in the middle of the field.
Often the backmarker doesn't come into view until he/she has passed a few runners. Might make it a little easier to pick them up.
The final of Sacred Heart might have looked like this -
Lane - Colour - Athlete
1 Black - L Buchanan 13.00
2 Yellow - T Sanderson-Milera 7.50
3 Blue - A Saliu 6.75
4 Red - C Watkins 3.75
5 White - A Bubner 5.00
6 Green - R Hancock 9.25
Be an interesting exercise to try it for a one off race at a meeting somewhere......
By the way, why were the lanes at Sacred Heart in reverse colour order? The red lane was on the right hand side of the track when normally it is on the left?