Timing – The View From Behind The Watch

As someone who occasionally works on race timing at events, there are a few things that I would like to get off my chest.

This guest post was sent in by a writer who shall remain anonymous, it gives their own opinion as to what it is like running just one small part of an event. I am sure that every reader could have an insight into either side of this situation. This writer works on timing systems that run many of our popular sporting events that we attend.

Dear Sir,

We have come a long way from when I started racing and your results turned up in the mail a few weeks after the race. Before that moment if you weren’t on the podium you didn’t know where you finished.

Firstly, if you NEED to know your finish time immediately you cross the finish line, wear a watch or have a functioning bike computer.

If you want results to be finished and processed quicker then you need to do a few things, fill out your entry correctly and legibly. You would be surprised how many don’t do this, and make sure you get the sex right (for some reason it always seems to be the people with ambiguous names that don’t tick the gender box)

Ensure you start in the correct wave.

Don’t cheat.

I know this sounds simple, but you would be amazed at how many times results are held up by people who don’t do the previous simple things. If all information input is correct then result processing is a simple 5 minute job, but the reality is that 99% of result hold ups are due to competitors doing the wrong thing.

A memorable example – We once had a mother go ballistic at us because her daughter didn’t win her age group, when her mother was sure she crossed the line first in her age. As it happened we had the entry forms handy, the mother had put down the wrong D.O B for her own daughter.

Another issue that can cause delays and confusions is when competitors enter one event but compete in another. This happens all the time – often with the competitor only telling the organiser when they are complaining that their results are wrong. This is a regular theme when there is a short and long course event – competitors enter for instance the short course, but on the day decide for various reasons to start and race off with the long course. They don’t tell anyone, but expect that the timers will just know that they have started in a different event, due to their time. Yet fail to realise that their time could look normal if they are slow or have a mechanical.

Starting in a different wave, because you want to go in with a friend, can also cause havoc for timers. Although many are still happy to come onto the podium to collect a prize before the confusion takes place with the rightful place getters.

Timing Bely

If a race director says results/ presentation will be at 11am according to the race schedule, but then proceeds to start the races 30 minutes late don’t expect the results to still be ready at 11am.

Just because you are finished doesn’t mean that everyone else is. In the “now” world we live in people seem to think that their results should be on the web by the time they clipped themselves off their bike, grabbed a sausage sandwich and fished their mobile out of their bag. Spare a thought for the 70+ females who may have started an hour after you. Yes interim results can be posted, but its not going to be updated every time an athlete crosses the line just so you can realise you aren’t on the podium and shoot through to get to the cafe early.

Another regular delay at some small to medium races is when we are processing the information, someone has to come up and just check ‘their time’. Of course there is a queue of 50 people behind them – just wanting to check ‘their time’ as well – then they get frustrated that unfortunately they can’t just check their time. Times that by a 1000 competitors and you have my day. Some people need to remember that they aren’t the only or the most important person at the event.

At some smaller events that use lower end technology, you have competitors who decide to walk over the timing mat numerous times at different times after they have finished and then they wonder why the results can appeared skewed or it takes the timing guys longer to ensure accuracy of the results.

Best ever was a guy who got out of the water in an ocean swim and said, ” I lost my timing band, so what’s my time” – wear a watch!

It is usually made worse by announcers saying ” we are just wanting on the timers getting the results sorted”. When what they should say is that “we would have results by now if the timers didn’t have to deal with the cluster f-k of incorrect information we have given them”.

Anyway just a little gripe/ explanation of what “really” goes on while you are waiting for your results – so that you can update your facebook page so that your mates can find out you came 15th in the 43-44 year age bracket for those with a receding hairline, two small children and a grumpy wife, a post graduate degree and a training time of only 6 hours a week category.

So next time you are being kept waiting look at your fellow competitors  before blaming the timers and the race organisers.


  1. Rob

    And next week, a lesson in how to pin a number on.

  2. Wow

    Wow negative post… Chin up the world is on your side.

  3. Event Organiser

    The timing guys are always the biggest whingers when you are running an event whether it be running, swimming or cycling… this article kind of confirms that.

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