Do It Yourself Race Timing

Or… how the NVRC used to time races, before we used a computer

by Dave Eggler

 

1. WHAT YOU NEED

a. A timing device. It’s best to borrow a unit that lets you time and print out each runner as he or she crosses the finish line. Most high school cross-country coaches have such a unit, usually a Seiko, but other brands are around. If that’s not possible, a stopwatch will do.

b. Bibs with tear-off tags. These bibs are numbered, and the tear-off tag at the bottom is essential. Obtain enough for your anticipated turnout. Where? Sometimes you can get them free at stores that cater to runners. You can buy them for about $0.12 from Runners World (runnersworld.com), although you then have to give Runners World a list of your runners, who may or may not be grateful for receiving mailings and emails from Runners World for the rest of their lives. You can buy them from a company online (e.g. RainbowRacing.com). Or you can buy them, at our cost, from the NVRC. Look on our Race Timing webpage. You may get by without bibs: see below.

c. A board to put race tags on. A useful board is made of foamcore, 32 in X 40 in, which in State College can be purchased at the Penn State bookstore. Ordinary cardboard is a less satisfactory alternative.

d. Double-sticky tape. Buy some Scotch tape that is sticky on both sides.

2. BEFORE THE RACE

a. Pre-registered. As runners register, make up their bibs to be put in their pick-up packets. Write all the information on the tear-off tag: name, town, state, gender, and age. Not the age-group, the actual age. If you want to put on a code or a special stick-on for age groups, that’s a plus.

b. Day of race. Do the same thing.

c. Prepare your board. Before the race, take a pencil or Sharpie, and divide your board into rows and columns. Make the space for each row/column entry a bit larger than your tear-off tag. Then, in the upper left-hand corner of each space, number the spaces. Start in the upper left and go down the first column, then do the second column, etc. Then… run two strips of double-sticky tape down each column, offset a little from each side of the column.

2. TIMING THE RACE

a. Start. With your timing device, start it when the runners take off.

b. Finish. When the first runner crosses the finish line, click your Seiko or other device. The time will, hopefully, print out. If you only have a stopwatch, read out the time in minutes and seconds (e.g. 17:18) and have someone beside you record the time. As often as possible (it’s not possible to do everyone), read out the bib number and have your recorder write that down. That’s a check on your final results. If you are using a printout unit, periodically write a bib # beside the time you just recorded. That’s important to maintain integrity of your results.

Meanwhile, there should be at least two people in your chute. One keeps runners in order. Very important: The order in which runners cross the finish line must be the order in which their tags are received. In other words, don’t let A pass B in the chute. The other person collects the tear-off tags (they will have a hole) on a device. Some people like to use a string with some sort of stop at the end. The NVRC likes a coat hanger fashioned into a giant diaper pin that can be closed off so the tags don’t get out of order. Put the tags on the pin UPSIDE DOWN so that when you read them after the race, they are right side up.

c. Get the tags on the board. After the race, take the tags and CAREFULLY place them on the board in the correct order, placing them over the double-sticky tape (MAKE SURE THEY STICK). You can also do this periodically during the race if you have some breaks. In case they come off the board, write the place number on the tag once it’s on the board with a Sharpie.

d. Write the times. From your printout or hand-written tally, write the time for #1, #2, etc on the assembled tags with a Sharpie. Don’t use tenths or hundredths of seconds; just ignore those. As you do that, look at the bib numbers that have been recorded, and make sure that #32 on your record is actually #32 on the board. If not, you will need to make an adjustment. (That is where race timing becomes interesting.)

e. Figure out your results. If your race just has overall winners, then your job is simple. Just go down the board and write down the winners. If you have age group winners, you’ll have to go down the board and figure those out. If you coded the tags for age groups, that’ll make the process simpler. For a small race, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. For a larger race, you will. That’s why the NVRC only times races now with a computer and commercial software.

3. PUBLISHING THE RESULTS

If you want the results posted on the NVRC race results webpages, send an EXCEL file to Marty Mazur, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. It should show overall winners at the top, then the complete list of finishers, and then the age group winners. There should be columns for place, overall place (in the case of age groups), name, age, town, state, and time.

4. ADDENDUM: TIMING WITHOUT BIBS

a. For a very small race, you can get by without bibs. This is the “popsicle stick” method that many high school cross-country teams still use. As runners finish, they are handed a popsicle stick (or card) with a number on it. The sticks or cards are numbered consecutively from 1, so finisher 1 gets 1, 2 gets 2, etc.

b. When runners are registered, a sticky label is prepared with their name, age, town, state. After the race, runners bring up their stick or card, identify themselves, and their label is placed on the board in the proper place (e.g. the label of finisher 27 is placed in slot 27). Once that is assembled, times are written on the board, and results are figured out in the same way as talked about above.

c. I don’t like this method, because a few people just leave without turning in their stick or card, and the results are incomplete. (And they will probably complain afterwards.)

Race Timing

There are several options for timing your race. Directors of large races (>500 runners) should hire a commercial timing company. If your race is a small to medium sized local race, consider requesting the NVRC's Race Timing services. This service depends on the availability of our Club Timer. If your race is small and our Club Timer is unavailable, you might want to try timing your race yourself. To inquire about the availability of NVRC timing services for your race date, contact the NVRC race timer, Dave Eggler, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

NVRC Race Timing: Services and Policy

The NVRC times road races as a service to the running community, primarily in Centre County.  We do not aim to make a profit nor to take business away from commercial timing companies. If you plan a large race (>500) or if you require ancillary services such as registration or advertising, then you should hire a commercial company (see a list below). We also time cross-country events with printouts for dual meets, invitationals, or multiple dual meets. And our software will also handle duathlons, triathlons, and races with teams. Results are posted on our website, nvrun.com.

We require that the race director furnish us, ahead of time, with an EXCEL file of pre-registered runners and that he or she furnish 2 or 3 people at the finish line to assist us. We furnish a finish line chute and display clock.

The NVRC does not loan equipment. If a NVRC-approved timer is not available for your race, we cannot time it for you.

  1. Chip Timing. The NVRC owns a chip timing system utilizing ChampionChips, either returnable or disposable.   Race entry, overall results, and age group results are done with commercial software. This is the fastest and most efficient timing system. The charge per chip is about $0.50 per runner for returnable chips and $1.25 per runner for disposable chips, in addition to the base fee. There is a substantial charge if returnable chips are not recovered. 

  2. Time Machine. The timer records data at the finish line with a Time Machine; those data are transmitted electronically to our computer. Tear-off tags are collected from bibs at the finish line.  Race entry, overall results, and age group results are done with commercial software. If the race director supplies bibs, they must have tear-off tags.   

Our fees. We charge a base fee of $55 to $150, the amount depending on the size of the race and the timing method. We will invoice after the race. We will also charge mileage if the timer travels more than 10 miles from his or her home. If electrical power is not available for our computer and printer, we will charge $25 for rental of our generator. If we furnish bibs, the charge is $0.20 per bib ($0.08 for cross-country tags) and $0.01 per pin.

Here are some races we have timed recently:

Herbie’s Hometown Loop
    http://nvrun.com/index.php/racing/results/987-5th-annual-herbies-home-town-loop

Crack O’Dawn 5K
   http://nvrun.com/index.php/racing/results/952-crack-o-dawn-5k-2011

Black Moshannon 5K/10K (chip-timed)
   http://nvrun.com/index.php/racing/results/935-2011-black-moshannon-5k-and-10k-races

District 6 Cross-Country Championships (chip-timed)
   http://nvrun.com/index.php/racing/results/1018-pennsylvania-district-vi-cross-country-championships
 

Commercial Timing Companies

Here are links to some commercial timing companies:

Runner’s High  http://runhigh.com/

PA Runners https://www.parunn ers.com/

Pretzel City Sports  http://pretzelcitysports.com/

Miles of Smiles  http://www.smileymiles.com/

Motion Timing  http://www.motiontiming.com/

Gingerbread Man Running: http://www.gingerbreadmanrunning.com

US Road Running Timing Services - Contact: 

Melissa Wolfrays
Race Timing Manager
Office - 717-266-2227
Cell - 717-885-6864
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Do-It-Yourself Race Timing

Here is an article on how to time your own small race.

Campus Loop 10K Course B

Route: Campus Loop 10K Course. (At times used as the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts 10K Race Course)
Mileage: 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles.
Hillage: Two loops over a mostly flat course with a couple of short hills. The long stretches of the course that are on Curtin Road are gentle downhills.

Total elevation change: 133 ft.
Average Grade: 2%. Notable hills:

There is a rise of about 50 ft. from the corner of Porter Rd. and the entrance road to the track to the corner where the entrance road meets Hastings Rd. by the Materials Research Laboratory. The grade is over 4% for about 100 yards. There is another sharp rise of nearly 30 ft. on Fraser St between Pollock Rd. and Curtin Rd. The grade is nearly 5%.

Description: The Campus Loop 10K makes nearly two complete loops of a course laid out on the campus of the Pennsylvania State University. The course starts in front of the Bryce Jordan Center near the corner of Curtin Rd. and University Drive. The course heads east on Curtin and makes a right on Porter Rd. The course goes right at the entrance road to the track area, then bears left up the hill along side of the Materials Research Laboratory. The course then makes a right at Hastings Rd. and continues on Hastings as it crosses University Drive. The course bears right at Bigler Rd. and then makes a left on Pollock Rd. At the corner of Fraser St., the course makes a right and heads up a short, but very steep rise to Curtin Rd. Making a right on Curtin, the course continues for about a mile to the starting line. The course then repeats the above loop, finishing in front of the Intramural Building on Curtin Rd, a couple of hundred yards before the starting line.

The Campus Loop 10K Course is a USATF certified course (Certificate # PA 97016 WB). A precise description of the mile markers follows for race directors:

Start
10' after huge light pole on left on Curtin Rd, just after University Dr., 7' before Bryce Jordan Center.
Mile 1
12' before center driveway of Materials Research Lab on right on Hastings.
Mile 2
26' after hydrant on right across from Atherton Bldg on Pollock Rd.
Mile 3
21' after light AV-24 on left across from Wagner Bldg on Curtin Rd.
Mile 4
9' after light 5CR on right along sidewalk to Environmental Research Bldg on Hastings.
Mile 5
13' before Atom First Seen sign in front of Osmond Laboratory on Pollock Rd. 8' before light 19-AW on left in front of Hetzel Union Bldg.
Mile 6
3' before light pole on right next to first building after intersection with Bigler Rd. on Curtin Rd.
10K
On Curtin Road in front of IM Building. Even with street sign on left before parking meters.

Note: Any deviation from the USATF-certified course invalidates the certification!

Remarks: The USATF Certified Campus Loop 10K course has been used for the Art's Festival 10K. In recent years, the campus roads over which the course is run have been continually torn up due to the campus construction boom. Here is a link to the current Art's Festival 10K course.

Map: Campus 10K loop
Profile: Campus 10K profile

Added: 6/01
Revised: 3/03

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Campus Loop 5K Course B

Route: Campus Loop 5K Race Course
Mileage: 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles.
Hillage: One loops over a mostly flat course with a couple of short hills. The long stretches of the course that are on Curtin Road are gentle downhills.

Total elevation change: 133 ft.
Average Grade: 2%. Notable hills:

There is a rise of about 50 ft. from the corner of Porter Rd. and the entrance road to the track to the corner where the entrance road meets Hastings Rd. by the Materials Research Laboratory. The grade is over 4% for about 100 yards. There is another sharp rise of nearly 30 ft. on Fraser St between Pollock Rd. and Curtin Rd. The grade is nearly 5%.

Description: The Campus Loop 5K makes nearly one complete loops of a course laid out on the campus of the Pennsylvania State University. The course starts in front of the parking lot to the north east of Shields Building on Curtin Rd near the corner of Curtin Rd. and University Drive. The course heads east on Curtin and makes a right on Porter Rd. The course goes right at the entrance road to the track area, then bears left up the hill along side of the Materials Research Laboratory. The course then makes a right at Hastings Rd. and continues on Hastings as it crosses University Drive. The course bears right at Bigler Rd. and then makes a left on Pollock Rd. At the corner of Fraser St., the course makes a right and heads up a short, but very steep rise to Curtin Rd. Making a right on Curtin, the course continues for about a mile to the finish line, about a hundred yards before the starting line.

The Campus Loop 5K Course is a USATF certified course (Certificate # PA 97015 WB). A precise description of the mile markers follows for race directors:

Start
272' after finish line point. Full closed loop is 272' longer than 5K.
Mile 1
34' before front doors of Materials Research Lab on right on Hastings.
Mile 2
17' after center of front doors of Chandlee Laboratory on right on Pollock Rd.
Mile 3
44' after flag pole in front of Wagner Bldg on Curtin Rd.
5K
On Curtin Road in front of IM Building. Even with street sign on left before parking meters.

Note: Any deviation from the USATF-certified course invalidates the certification!

Remarks: The Campus Loop 5K course is used for a number of 5K races that are run on campus in the Spring and Fall. These races usually benefit some charitable cause or campus organization, such as Coaches vs. Cancer, THON, or the Penn State Kinesiology Club. The Campus Loop 5K course is the same as that used for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Art's 10K, run every July. The Campus Loop 10K couse is twice around the 5K loop.

Map: Campus Loop 5K
Profile: Campus Loop 5k Profile

Added: 3/03