I agree it’s about the participants, but this is worse for the participants than it is for the spectator. To say that the meet starts at 11am, and you are running the two mile, so try to gauge when that might be, is ridiculous.
Also, too much standing around between heats. We are no longer timing with volunteers and stopwatches.
As for getting a run in during the meet or going to get a coffee, these are good ways to mitigate the pain, but being stuck in another town all day is limiting.
Some of my recommendations are as follows :
1. Combine slower heats of the mile and two mile, even if it means combing boys and girls
2. Consider separate meets for boys and girls so neither gender has to wait for the 11 heats of the other. The total time may be the same, but the athletes can more predictably gauge their start times.
3. There should never be multiple heats with 2 or 3 athletes in it. Combine the heats.
4. Consider separate distance and sprint meets. Give ample time for rest for those doubling and it will still be far less time than 7 hours between a 4x800 and a two mile.