Friday, April 4, 2008

The Scourge of the Running Community

There comes a time in your life when you have to take a stand, a time when you get pushed past your breaking point, a time when it’s no longer possible to just sit quietly and take it. This is my time. My time to go to the mattresses, my time to demand my rights, to scream at the top of my lungs “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” and then get up and slam the door on my way out.

It’s time for me to bring down the thunder on that scourge that has plagued the running community for too long now: Chip-timed races that only chip time the finish. I don’t see anyone else stepping up to denounce this practice so it might as well be me. I’m probably the person best suited for a little misplaced rage and overreaction anyway.

It has happened to Viper, it has happened to Dan, it has happened to me, and it has happened to my wife at the alcohol free St. Paddy’s Day 5K which was almost the same as if it happened to me because she just went on and on about it until I finally promised to make an issue of it at Half-Fast. Can we let it go now honey? I’m telling you guys, Hell hath no fury like a runner mistimed.

When you tie that timing chip onto your shoe, you think that you don’t have to be near the front of the pack or weave through traffic like Richie Sambora in order to get out of the gates quickly. You take your time getting to the start, even allowing the woman with the double jogging stroller to cut in front of you and 48 seconds after the gun goes off you’re crossing the starting line. That’s when you notice that there’s no freakin’ timing mat at the starting line, your race is already off to a crappy start because you’re 48 seconds behind your goal pace and while that might be easy to make up over a long distance race, this is a 5K.

What is the point of using timing chips if you’re not going to provide a chip time? You can give everyone a gun time by taking pictures at the finish or by having someone tear off the bar codes as people cross the line. When it comes to chip timing races I subscribe to the Baconator theory: do it right or don’t do it at all. I’m not going to cheat on my diet by having a low fat turkey burger, I’m going to eat a Baconator and then wash it down with a Brownie Earthquake and another Baconator.

The practice of only providing a gun time at races that are “chip-timed” seriously chaps my hide. If you are a race director who is engaged in this practice, then you are cordially invited to kiss my sweaty buttocks at the finish line.
*slams door*


  1. when you organize your "million man run" for this cause, sign me up.
    on a side note, the network quote almost got me to give up on your post because i hated that movie.

  2. Now I want a baconator with chips.

  3. “Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is!” (Kyle, is an Animal House quote better?)

    I want my 46 seconds right now! I want races to publicize this half-truth before I give them your money! Why doesn’t my waitress switch my Long Island Iced Tea for Lipton? Because it’s not what I fricken paid for!

    I want my scam of a race director to actually apologize.
    Instead of:
    "The timing company only did guntime for this event because the start/finish line was not in the same spot. Going forward with all of our other races, they will be exact time. Thanks for your inquiry.
    Thanks, Kristi F."
    “Once again, information that would have been useful to me yesterday!”
    Dear Kristi,
    It was not an inquiry! Why bother with being exact. Maybe you could offer birdwatching during the next race!

    Sorry babe, My fury is your fury. I think it was in the vows. Were you hoping it would be over now?

    Hit a nerve.

    We train to be faster.
    We pay to be timed.

  4. And you all thought I was kidding when I said that she went on and on about it.

  5. While we're at it, what's with those giant chips the size of my whole shoe? My iPod is smaller.

  6. The funny thing about mine was the start and finish were in the same place. All they had to do was move the mats over 10 feet.

    I still say no beer is worse.

  7. You are so right. I mentioned it in Oct. of 2007 but I get like two hits a day to my blog so it went un-noticed. But here is what I said (I don't say it as good as you).

    from 10/2007
    SO HERE IS MY ONLY COMPLAINT. They make an announcement that there is no mat at the start of the race (yes we had chips on). And that they needed to make cuts on expense this year and that there is only a mat at the end. I don't know what the timing company charges for a mat at the start but I can't imagine it is that much of a savings. To me and everyone around me it didn't make that much sense to have a chip, sure it helps at the end to not need to be in a line at the chute but if you are having chip timing do it right. OK COMPLAINT DONE.

  8. Dan, thanks for mentioning it. I went back and added it to my post, because the more people that it has effected the less I feel like I'm over-reacting.

  9. I bitched about this very thing right here after I was totally, TOTALLY CHEATED out of a really good 5K time because 1) there was a timing mat at the finish line only and 2) the course was too long.

    Thank you for speaking up about this seriously irritating problem!

  10. I think this also happened to me at a Komen event. And no one understood how to line up so several thousand well meaning walkers went right up to the start. I was really down that day, but I'm thinking I probably ran a fairly decent time.

    Luckily when you run a virtual race, there are no timing mats and people can cheat like hell if they want to. :D

  11. I emailed a link to your post to the race director of my race. It's uncalled for.

  12. you're not going to like hearing this, but technically, even if there was a mat at the start, your "official time" is your gun time. that's maybe one small reason why all the elites are at the front. however, 99.999% of us are not elites and, i agree with you, would prefer to have a more accurate timing system with my not-so-cheap race fee.

    btw, just recently, i ran the last chance for boston marathon in columbus ohio (a one mile loop, 26.2 times, nice eh?). somehow, their timing system has me only completing 23 miles, basically a DNF, which i discovered a few days after the fact. i definitely ran the WHOLE thing (they announced my lap 25 and my finish) and got a medal. too bad there was no finish line photographer to prove my time. pretty cheap for $60.

    sorry so long, stepping off box now.

  13. I agree 100% with you.

    My last race had chip mats at the start and at the finish, but the race results listed the gun time only. I want my 41 seconds!

  14. Oooohh, I was not aware of this. I have only been a runner for 5.5 months and the only chip I ever wore was for the Sarasota Marathon. I have never worn one for a 5K or 4 miler. (Never ran a half) I am running the Minnie Marathon May 4th (15K) at Disney. I will be lookin' for the starter mat for sure!!!

    I, for one, would understand if you deducted the lost times on the people who were affected by this.

  15. AMEN!! Same thing at my last half marathon - I want my 79 seconds!! That's 6 seconds per mile. I was ripped off!

  16. Amen! How am I going to win the Shave your 5K when they are cheating me out of precious seconds of improvement.

    Send me a petition!

  17. I've had this happen. What's the point in a timing chip if there's no mat at the start line? It totally negates the need for the chip. It's only happened to me at 5Ks, and I use my Garmin to track what I think is a more accurate time in those cases. If it happened to me at a larger event like a half or full marathon, I'd be pissed.

  18. Why have the chip if not to time it exactly? In one race with no chips, there was a guy with a little adding machine looking thing typing in our BIB number and pressing enter the moment we crossed the finish line. How they scored that to the tenth of a second, I have no idea.

    BTW, if you reference your sweaty buttocks again, I'll be slamming the door on MY way out.

  19. Here's an idea: maybe the race directors are using the cop out excuse that they are simply using the timing chip to track the runners. If chip number 3567 doesn't cross the finish line...send out the search and rescue dogs.
    Incidentally, the Spirit of St. Louis Marathon last year had timing pads in the middle of the race...and a weird guy with a clip board checking things off a list. I didn't stop to ask what he was doing...I'm sure you can come up with some kind of amusing reason. : )

  20. Yes! Yes! Yes! That happened to me on my last 2 races and it really burned me, especially on the last one: a "hypothermic" half marathon in January. I think I earned every second of that one.

  21. Wow I've never had this happen to me, but I would be seriously pissed off if it did.

    I just got a survey from a 5K I ran asking if us if they thought we should use timing chips...I of course said yes.

    But if they pull some crap like that and don't have mats at the start I will be very very angry...especially if it means my Challenge time is negatively impacted

  22. No mats at the start? Wha?!!! That is CRAZY! Might as well go back to the low-budget tear the bottom of your race number off as you cross the finish line method . . . which is still employed at some lovely little non-pretentious races I enjoy. I'd rather do that than be faked out by the "chip time pretenders". You SHOULD be outraged!

  23. That's nothing less than false advertising. At $30 a pop for a 5k nowadays, seriously, I think race coordinators should be held more accountable for defining proper expectations for those of us that are essentially ponying up enough dough to procure approximately 6 baconators to exert enough energy to burn off approximately 66% one afore mentioned baconator.


    In all honesty, I think coordinators legally be required to declare if it's fully chip-timed, or half-assedly chip-timed. **off soapbox**

  24. I just wish Vanilla wouldn't bottle up his feelings so much. Just let them out; let us know how you really feel. It'll be good for you.

  25. I had just such a race on the weekend... It was a 10k, I was going for a PB, and I was told it was only chip timed at the finish. Thank goodness for my Garmin, not as accurate but I'll take a 4 minute PB as measured by a Garmin over a 3 minute PW (personal worst) because it took me that long to get to the start line after the gun went off.

  26. blah blah Non Runner Nancy has it right, run a virtual race from your driveway and get the time you want and deserve. You don't get what you pay for, b/c $100 for a marathon doesn't buy you support at $3.80 per mile or $25 per hour divided amongst 500 people. Didn't the timer work on your watch when you went over the start line and the finish line?

  27. Ooooh, my blood is boiling just reading this post.

    I'm one of the many who got gypped BIG TIME.

    Last year at the L.A. Marathon's Emerald Nuts 5K - by chip time, I placed third. For some reason, however, they decided to go on gun time to award podium spots.


    I tried vehemently to be in touch with race director about this nonsense but of course, they made it nearly impossible for me to adequately state my concern about this issue.

    "So what you're saying is...because I was about 15 seconds back from the start line...I GOT FOURTH? EVEN THOUGH I RAN A FASTER 5K THAN THE CHICK WHO YOU GAVE 3RD TO?"

    Now I'm mad all over again.


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