Chip Timing 101

When Race Day comes you may be asked to wear a Chip Timing Device. What is it you ask, and why do I need to wear it?

All really good questions. Let’s start from the Race Director’s perspective:

  • Chip timing is typically for larger road races, usually 700 – 1000 runner is when chip timing becomes cost effective.
  • Chip timing is a faster method of getting results to the participants so they can see the Preliminary results and updated results at the Awards Ceremony (an updated yet again for the race web site).
  • And Yes, Chip timing IS Expensive – expect to pay $5 per participant or more. (please don’t complain to the race director that the entry fees are so high, this is typicall the 3rd highest cost in a race.)
  • Chip time is another way of saying “net time,” or the actual amount of time it takes a runner to go from the starting line of a race to the finish line. This is usually what Age Group awards are based on.
  • But for the really fast guys that win the money they must abide by USATF rules (governing body). To win money they must be timed by “Gun time”, or the time from the start gun to the time the participant crosses the finish mat. This makes it fare for them.
  • The Participants Timing chip is tied directly to the Bib number that was assigned to you, they Must Match otherwise expect some unusual results. So, Please wear the Your Bib & Timing Chip.
  • Awards based on Chip time: Overall Awards are based on “Gun Time” and Age Group is based on “Net Time”. That is assuming there is a Timing mat at the start and one at the finish. Due to the cost, there may only be a timing mat at the finish to speed up results and everyone is based on “Gun Time”.
In General: Many races feature a timing technology in which all participants run with a computer chip attached to their running shoe. When you register for a race, you receive your “rented” or “disposable” chip, programmed with your information, at the same time you get your race bib. The chip usually attaches to your shoelaces, although some are connected to a Velcro strap that goes around your ankle. At the end of the race, someone will be there to collect the rented chip from you.

As you move across a special mat at the starting line, the chip registers that you’ve started the race. Then, as you cross the finishing line, the chip registers that you’ve finished the race. So, in other words, the amount of time that it takes you to reach the starting line (since most people are not right at the front of the race) doesn’t count in your overall time. In some cases of very large races, it can take runners at least 20 minutes to reach the starting line. Your chip time is different than your “gun time,” which is the amount of time it took you to finish the race from the moment the gun (or horn) went off.

Most large races, especially marathons, now use chip technology. As a result, runners at the start can line up where it’s appropriate for their pace, instead of trying to push their way to the front. For longer distances, the chip also records splits at various points along the course, such as the half-marathon mark during a marathon. This feature is helpful for your friends and family members who may want to track you online during your race.

Different systems:  [Click Here for more Chip Time Systems]

Currently, there are several major chip timing systems in use (I will cover 2 systems) :

ChampionChip Timing Device: The oldest and most used in running is the ChampionChip (now called) MyLaps system which is headquartered in the Netherlands. ChampionChips are tied to a runner’s shoelaces. These timing devices can be the “rented” or “disposable”. More details on ChampionChip Timing device – [Click Here].

Chrono Track’s D-Tag Timing Device: New to the playing field for chip timing, but gaining ground quickly. D-Tag is the orange strip that is on you Bib number that gets peeled on and attached to your shoe. ChronoTrack Systems is a transponder timing company that has developed a cost-effective timing system for athletic events including road races, biking and multisports. ChronoTrack has developed the single-use D-Tag, an all-weather design that attaches to the shoe. In the fall of 2009, ChronoTrack announced the next generation in UHF RFID tag timing: the B-Tag, a tag that stays attached to the race bib. More details on Chrono Track Timing device – [Click Here].

Bib Tag System or B-Tag System: This is the Chip timing system where the Timing device si attached to the runners Bib Number [Click Here] For more details.

For more technical detail on Chip timing devices – [Click Here]. See you when you get back.
Click Here for more Chip Time Systems