DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I just ran the Marine Corps Marathon, and my results only showed up online through 30-K — something obviously went wrong with the timing system, and I am trying to sort it out. Does this technology always work? How often is it used? This was the first race for me where the timing system was on my bib. — Maria
Thanks for your question. It's a timely one (no pun intended!) Although this is a question better answered by someone involved with the technology side of the race management business, I can at least offer you what I know and have personally experienced. Although technology has provided immense opportunities in our sport, it can also cause almost as many headaches. It is not perfect by any means. But it usually isn't too far off, either. By industry standards, if the read rate (bibs being recorded) at the finish line is 99.98 percent or better, it is considered a successful day. Some races meet this standard, others don't. Either way, .02 percent of the total field is not being read. Why? There are numerous reasons, including whether the bib was folded and thus the chip was broken. Depending on the field size of the race, this could be anywhere between 5-25 runners. Unfortunately for you, it seems you were one of the unfortunate ones who fall in this category.
So, what can be done about it? Races must be receptive to runners who are missed seeking answers. They should take all the information the runner can offer and research it themselves. Looking at data collected at course checkpoints and, if available, looking at photos taken by their official photography company should help in "reconstructing" your finish time and place. We do this all the time. Recognizing that you are anxious to get a response, you need to also be a little patient with a race that just occurred as they, too, are probably dealing with a lot of post race activity. That doesn't mean that you should give up in your efforts to at least get a response as to what might have happened with your particular result, however. Nine out of ten times, there is a resolution and a missed finish time can be corrected.