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Thursday, March 22, 2012

What exactly does "chip timed" mean?

Because I'm confused.

The Wall 30k was advertised as "chip timed". When I see that, I automatically assume that the time reported will be the chip time, unless specifically stated otherwise (some races will have a caveat that winners will be based on gun time, etc). I really don't care if a race uses chip time or gun time, I just like to know which one. When I saw The Wall was chip timed, I attached my D-tag and lined up in the front-middle of the pack.
Remember that this race is on the levee path, which is narrower than a single road lane. So the start is a little congested. I moved back a tad because I didn't want to hold any 10k-ers back, and I knew it was chip timed, so it didn't matter that it would take me a little while to actually hit the start. Makes sense, right?
Nope. The New Orleans Track Club doesn't use a starting mat for their chipped races, only a finishing mat. So although you wear a chip, it times you from the gun (when the clock starts) until you cross the mat at the finish. That's a gun time. So you wear a chip, but your time is gun time.
FYI this is not actually the end of the world to me; the difference in my "chip" time and "gun" time is about 45 seconds, not a big deal. In other words I'm only talking about this because I need fodder for a blog post. Tee hee. 
Now this sort of thing also occurred at the Jazz Half marathon. This race was also advertised as chip timed, and while your chip time was listed, all results and even your pace were based on gun time! Since in this instance I started way in the back, the pace listed for me was considerably different from my actual pace - a full ten seconds off, in fact.

So. There you have it. My nit-picky chip-timed post.
Would you rather run a chip timed race or gun timed? The New Orleans Track Club only recently started chip timing; I kind of miss the old races in which you were given a tag at the finish and had to submit your own time. The tag was a sticker, and the directors would stick the stickers on a board at the finish so you could see in a glance how you did.


  1. I'm with you--happy with either, but be clear about it! I'd be a bit bummed in the situation you described!

  2. I ran a lot of those fill-your-own-time-in races in New Orleans! I loved it! But, as I am getting faster, I prefer having a chip time, an ACTUAL chip time. Before, a minute or two difference didn't mean anything; now I am more concerned with my times.

  3. This has happened to me before in a big 10k. I kept waiting to start my watch until I crossed the mat and there was no mat! I was a few seconds off too and it was okay but I'd also like to know before the race start exactly how it is going to be - just so I'm prepared...just in case I'm hoping for a PR that day. :)

  4. Weird - I've only seen chip timed. How would it work with gun timed, if it takes people a while to make their way through the corrals? That seems like a recipe for frustration in a crowded situation.

  5. The last 5K I ran was chip timed, with a start mat and finish mat. But the times and rankings were later sorted by gun time, so I wasn't sure what the point of the chip was. It didn't matter anyway because the course was screwed up and when race organizers tried to fix it mid race, it meant that some people ran way less than 5K some ran way more.

    Since I'm a slow runner and I line up way at the back at any race, it takes me an age to work my way to the start. For that reason, I'm really only interested in chip timed races.

  6. That is weird... I can't believe they didn't have a mat at the beginning!

    I would rather have a chip time. I am not fast, so I start WAY back, so my chip time and gun time are often quite different!

  7. I would always rather have a chipped time, start mat and finish mat. I ran my first 5K on New years day after all the hip surgery, and there was no start mat. I started way in the back...and then ran about 5 sec off a PR...except it was probably a PR based on the time it took for me to get to the real start.

    The exception to that were the good old days, when I was about 20, and the running club met at someone's house and the injured guy sat in a chair at the end and called off your times... that was OK too.

    I hate the fill in your time things because every time I have run them, which is only once...a distracted high school student filled out my time WRONG, really wrong like 2-3 minutes slower. very irritating. though really, I wasn t winning anything so who cared...well, I guess I did!

  8. 45 seconds is a big difference no matter what racing distance! I would definitely be annoyed to say the least. I much prefer chip time races. If its only gun time I get as close to starting line as possible.