Remember the days when popsicles sticks and pull/tear tags were the official timekeepers at a race? When wrong or missing results were simply a common casualty? Looking back now with our fancy-schmancy transponders and tags, the days of pen and paper seem almost prehistoric – dating back to the late 80’s! Race timing technology has advanced considerably in the past decade and, as Global Running Day kicked off the month last week, we’d like to celebrate just how far we’ve all come in the endurance industry.
So join us, fellow race enthusiasts, as we take a look back.
Besides the traditional check-the-clock-and-write-it-down method, the tear-tag method was also popular in the primitive era. But while these methods were cheap, they were also prone to human error and disgruntled runners. The first true revolution in race timing technology would come in 1993, when Netherlands-based ChampionChip developed the first shoe-mounted timing chip using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology from Texas Instruments. But ChampionChip had a monopoly: the market was small, the chips were expensive, and most endurance events stuck to traditional methods.
It wasn’t until decades later when more companies came onto the scene, that timing chips really began to take effect. As timing equipment became more diverse and affordable, these chips grew immensely popular for their efficiency and near-perfect results. However, there were still problems, as collecting chips after a race was a logistical nightmare: athletes would be backed up through the finish line waiting to turn in their chips and many others would walk off with them, rendering them unusable.
Over the years, disposable chips (pioneered by yours truly), became the obvious solution. These cost-effective chips went from being attached to bulky ankle straps to a much smaller device attached to your shoelaces or running bib. With the “D tag”, the timing chip is placed on the back of the running bib and is peeled off and attached through your shoelaces. The “B-Tag”, is a newer addition to the race timing family: it comes adhered to your bib number and stays secured throughout the race. So now it doesn’t matter if you’re organizing a half marathons, marathon, or triathlon – these revolutionary timing devices will be with your racers every step, paddle, and pedal along the way!
A New Era
Since the invention of the revolutionary race timing chips, the endurance community has yet to see much competition against these incredibly handy and accurate devices. A few decades ago, it would’ve taken weeks and sometimes months to publish final results! Now, with the advent of technologies like Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, endurance companies have found ways to provide results more efficiently than ever. Software like ChronoTrack Live, allows racers and spectators to access real-time results, and services like Athlinks offer an up-to-date database of results for every runner and every race.
This Global Running Day, we think it’s important to recognize how far the endurance industry has come. From timing to race registration, the process has become quick and painless for both runners and race organizers. It’s incredible the strides we’ve made just in our eight years of operation: we’ve timed more than 13 million athletes in coordination with 300+ timing partners. From the local 5k’s to the New York City Marathon, it’s been one heck of a run (pun intended)!
Looking back on everything that’s changed in the past decade, we can’t wait to see how the industry continues to evolve. This Global Running Day, we give major kudos to the race organizers and the volunteers who used to do race timing by hand (bless your souls)! You set the stage for our accomplishments and we could not be more proud to be a part of such an innovative and close-knit community.
Happy Global Running Day!
To learn more about ChronoTrack, contact us.