Summary of Race Timing Methods

It’s always fun to talk about how to time a race to someone who has never timed a race.  Like many things, timing a race is like peeling an onion: on the surface, one may think it’s an extremely easy endeavor.  But rarely are they thinking about everything; there’s always another layer underneath.

The other day such a conversation arose regarding a small (< 125 participants) race.  It started with, “Last year we just yelled out the finish times to the runners as they crossed the finish line.”  Incidentally, this conversation happened a mere three days after Good Times proved itself with two races totaling about 8,000 finishers.  Fortunately I was able to come off my high, and step things down a notch to explain how Good Times could be used to help with such a small race.  Here is a rundown of how I explained things:

  1. Yes, what you did last year (yelling the times) was very inexpensive, but also very inaccurate.  It also didn’t give your participants the level of service they see in other races.  At the very least, you could do something like this:
  2. Grab a stack of thick card-stock paper, and number them 1 – 150 with big black magic marker.  Have each participant wear one during the race.  Have a few people at the finish line (that, over the length of about 20 yards, narrows to a single file) shuffle people together into a single file line in the order they finished, and rip those things off and stack the in sequential order.  At the same time, have someone with manual timing devices recording a list of finish times as runners cross the line.  That way the list of sequential finish times can be “married” with the sequential list of numbered bibs.  But an easier way would be to do this:
  3. Have someone running Good Times Software hit the <enter> key every time a finisher crosses the finish line, then send the “Tic Sheet” to the database.  Since the Tic Sheet report has all of the finish times listed sequentially, someone can then write in the bib numbers from the sequential stack collected by the finish line volunteers.  But a better way would be to do this:
  4. Order some real bibs… simple ones, with a “pull tag” on the bottom.  Give all of your participants a bib, and record their information in Good Times Software before the race.  Since this is a short race, have a timer enter the bib number and press <enter> for as many participants as possible as they cross the finish line.  If the runner density is too great to enter each bib number, simply hit <enter>.  At the end of the race, you’ll have a Tic Sheet with only a few blanks to fill in.  For runners that didn’t have their bib recorded as they crossed the finish line, return the Tic Sheet to the timer so he/she can update Good Times Software.  Then you’ll have all of the many Results Reports available through Good Times Software.  And finally, you could always do this:
  5. Hire one of the Chip Timing companies using Good Times to issue RFID chip tags to each of your runners, capturing their registration information before the race.  On race day, simply watch their accurate results come in automatically to Good Times Software.  Generate the reports, and go home a hero.
  6. Carefully analyze options 2 through 5, and pick one!

Well, that’s how the conversation went, albeit with more explanation to really make sure he understood the options.  Manual timing with computerized input, select timing, chip timing, Good Times Software can handle it.  It’s been used in races with less than 30 participants, and in races of up to 8,000 finishers.

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