Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chip Time or Clock Time?

One of my pet peeves is final placings in races being determined from what is known as chip time. With the majority of running races using electronic timing now it is possible for organizers to provide you with the time from when you cross the start line to when you cross the finish line. Nothing wrong with that. Nice to know. What gets up my goat is when it is used to determine your final position in the race. A race should be, by definition, to the finish line (aka clock time). Who can get to the finish line first after the gun goes off, right? Take the following example from the Oakland Half Marathon.

Gaylia, who happens to be one of my athletes (adding further fuel to my fire!) finishes 14th but crosses the line in front of both ladies who finished 11th and 12th. Imagine the possible scenario where she ran with these ladies for last 8 miles only to put in a massive effort in the last mile to kick past them and climb up the overall standings only to go home to her computer and find she'd been placed behind them. Disappointing, no?

How far can you take this? Can you start the race a half an hour after the race starts and run it by yourself away from the stresses of competition? I'm not asserting that chip time shouldn't be published or even claimed as your personal record but it shouldn't be used to rank athletes. When I bought this up with the race organizers of Oakland I was told it was "industry standard". Presumably standards can be changed if they don't make sense.

If there are congestion problems at the big races it's the event directors responsibility to organize corrals with seeded runners up the front. It would be a small extra cost to collect PRs off athletes wishing to start up near the front. This would improve congestion for everyone, not just up front. No beginner wants someone blasting past them at the start.

Protect the sanctity of the finish line!

1 comment:

Payam said...

funny you mention this. In 2009, I finished 4th in my age group at the SF Marathon. A few weeks later I received an award for 3rd in my age group in the mail. I thought it was a mistake, but upon further research realized that the race policy was that offical rankings are based odd of chip time, but awards are based off of gun time. This is actually for the very reasons you have mentioned. The problem is avoidable in running races the way that SF avoided it. I have seen it be a problem in smaller triathlons that do not have a "pro" heat. Instead, the waves are based on age group. If the overall winner comes from an older age group (not uncommon), the winner of the first wave will probably think they won, only to later realize they lost. Not only that, everyone else will think they won, including media... makes for an awkward result for everyone..