How Our Race Timing Works

UPDATE: As of 2014 we have moved to BTag scoring. There are small RFID tags affixed to each bib. Our race timer has a sensor at the finish line to read bib numbers as runners cross the finish mats.

Tear Tag Scoring

A number of runners have asked about how the race timing works. They were curious if it is accurate since the bib tear tags are collected at the end of the chute and not the beginning.

A runner’s finish time is recorded via keypad as soon as the runner crosses the finish line by the Finish Line Scorer (see Step 1 in diagram below) via the timing computer.

It is critical that runners stay in finish order in the chute (see Step 2 in diagram) after crossing the finish line. This is the reason why the chute narrows down to single file after the finish line (to keep runners in line). If runners don’t stay in finish order, problems can occur (see below for details).

The Tag tearer (step 3 in diagram) tears the tags from the runner’s bib and puts in on a wire spindle in the order of the runners finish.

The official Race Timer (step 4) takes the tear tags, now in finish order, on the spindle and scans them into the race computer.

The computer has the finish times from the Finish Line Scorer (from step 1) and the tear tags give the identity of the runner to the race computer and matches it to their finish time since both are in the same order.

The race computer already has the runner information via registrations entered into the computer and matches the bib numbers up to the runner’s name.

Some potential problems and solutions:

  • PROBLEM: If a runner jumps ahead in the chute they will get the time of the person that crossed the finish line ahead of them.
    • SOLUTION: Typically this is corrected by the Tag Tearer or Chute Monitor before reaching the spindle. The runner can also bring this to the attention of the Tag Tearer who can reorder the bib tags right there.
  • PROBLEM: If a runner leaves the chute without giving in the bib tear tag, other runners results can be affected.
    • SOLUTION: Again, this is monitored by the Chute Monitor. If a runner leaves without giving in a tag (and they are seen doing this) then a placeholder “TURKEY” tag is put to mark their spot.
  • PROBLEM: If a runner not registered and with no bib crosses the finish line, the Finish Line Scorer may track their finish before realizing they have no bib.
    • SOLUTION: When they get to the Tag Tearer with no bib they are admonished for running in a race they have not registered for and a “TURKEY” tag is put in their spot so they don’t mess up all of the times after theirs.
  • PROBLEM: If a parent crosses the finish line with their child, they may be counted as a finisher.
    • SOLUTION: We can usually tell in the kids races who is the child and who is the parent. The problem is mainly the large adults inadvertently colliding with the other small children in the finish area. Be careful!
  • PROBLEM: If a runner who has already finished (and has their bib showing) crosses the finish line again with a friend, they may be counted as a finisher again!
    • SOLUTION: If you have already finished the race, don’t finish again! The Chute Monitors will usually pick up on the problem and assign a TURKEY tag if a time was recorded for the double finisher.
In addition, the Finish Line Scorer has a numeric keypad in addition to their finish line “button” so when the traffic is lighter (say at the beginning of the finishers with top finishers crossing) they can actually key in the bib # as the runner crosses. As the runner traffic increases, the Finish Line Scorer does not have time to key in the bib number and just records the finish times and relies on the tear tags to get the bib numbers for the finish times as described in Step 1-4 above.
It all happens very quickly — but our timers and monitors are very experienced and handle the volume with skill and aplomb. They can show you the timing equipment if you ask after the race is completed. During the race they will be quite busy!

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