Gun v chip timing.

I completed in the Nottingham Christmas half marathon today, 3rd December 2017. The first race since Xiqiao 24 hour race, just to see what's occurring with the legs. Safe to say they are still a little tired, however recover is going really well.

Now the Nottingham Christmas half is basically one of four events on race day and entails 4 and a bit laps around a 3 mile lake. I'd read that there was a mile walk to the start line and allowed plenty of time from arrival to get to it. Ahem, well I spent 15 mins queueing for registration, in the toilet queue and so muttering obscenities to myself I re-queued in the registration queue. This as you can imagine ate into my pre race faff time and so with very little faff and a lot of flight, I tried to run to the start line. It was the other side of the lake and was certainly more than a mile away. There were about 30-40 other runners all who had mis-judged how long it would take to get to the start and we all desperately stressed tried to make it. Not to be though, I heard the hooter and they were off, I observed from the back of runners all lining up to get over the chipped start line.

What seemed minutes passed before I started my race and was out of sorts from the start as a result. That said, I haphazardly paced a half decent race and enjoyed stretching the legs on on this very flat and windy course. It certainly has the potential for PB's, that it has the other races occurring at the same time though means there is a lot of people dodging so slowing PB potential down.

The final mile was probably the most exciting as I had second lady just up ahead, I was giving what I had left (which was nowt really) and passed her with about 400m to go. We fought it out, however on this occasion she was the stronger finisher and came in seconds in front.

Unbeknown to me however, is that races officially go from 'gun time' in spite of their arguable inaccuracy. It's a tradition that has been upheld for a number of reasons including including:

  • To avoid confusion
  • So that the lead runners can maintain/pace/hold on to/ or let go of, their lead depending on the competition around them, basically for race integrity.
Certainly when considering something like a sprint event on a track, every runner has an assigned lane, the gun goes off, the runners run and when it's over, the timers report in. Simple! The method is equally acceptable accurate on small races where there are a hand full of starters that can be identified and timed manually through the gun start system. Indeed, 

So who is the chip timing for and why have it? Chip timing is both extremely precise and capable of addressing several weaknesses that are inherent to traditional timing methods. Moreover, chip timing setups are capable of protecting against cheating, record accurate splits, provide instant updates and compensate for slow starts caused by crowded start areas. And yet, when it comes to actual race results it counts for nothing other than for you, the runner, to peruse over what could have been if you got to front of the start line on time, muscled your way through the crowds of runners and went with the gun. 

On this occasion, it made the difference between finishing 3rd and 1st for me. My gun time placed me third lady overall, and my chip time won me the race! I don't know which one to believe!