Welcome to Marathon May! Every day from now through the Marathon (and perhaps even a few days beyond) we’ll share a new race-related FAQ here on the blog, our Facebook page and via Twitter feed. Got a question you think we should cover? Post it here, on FB or on Twitter and we’ll get right back to you.
Q: Are your awards based on chip time or gun time?
The KeyBank Vermont City Marathon publishes our finish order and awards all prizes based on gun time as opposed to chip time. Gun time is the time from when the start horn sounds to when you cross the finish line. Chip time is the time from when you cross the start line to when you cross the finish line.
We are frequently asked why awards are given based on gun time instead of chip time. The answer lies in “what is a race”. To us, if Runner A and Runner B are sprinting to the finish line in the heat of competition, and Runner A reaches the finish line first, Runner A has won that particular race. It’s straight-forward, and it’s the elemental definition of “racing”. Bringing chip times into this mix sets up a situation with the same two runners where if Runner A crossed the start line only 2 seconds ahead of Runner B and then nipped Runner B at the finish line, scoring by chip time would place Runner B ahead of Runner A. We don’t feel that’s right.
Rule 245 of the USATF rulebook addresses their view on Finish Line Recording and Timing for Long Distance Running and Road Events: “The order in which the athletes cross the finish line shall be the official position.”
Sometimes we get complaints that giving prizes based on gun time isn’t the right way to do things because it encourages runners to line up too far forward at the start. While lining up near the front will get you across the start line faster, it also makes it very likely that you’ll start too quickly leading to slower running later in the race. We believe that finding the pace sign that most closely matches the pace you are trained to run is the best strategy to run the best marathon you are capable of. You will certainly lose more time late in a marathon due to slowing down because of going out too hard then you will lose by running the first part more conservatively and having a lot of energy left for the last 6-10 miles.
To state the obvious, a marathon is a long race! It takes about 4 minutes for all our starters to cross the start line. For the person who crosses our start line LAST (Runner Y) to catch the person who crossed the start line FIRST (Runner X) Runner Y would need to run about 9 seconds/mile faster than Runner X. In most cases our top age group competitors will start in the first half of the start corrals, which means an even smaller potential time discrepancy. When you look at it as 2, 3, 4 minutes it seems like a lot, but when you break it down by a per mile pace it is very small.
As to the question, is my time chip time or is it gun time – the answer is, it’s both! As noted above, your place will be determined by your gun time and the exact order of finish. Most runners will be more interested in their chip time, the time it actually took to run from the start line to the finish line. That is one of the wonderful inventions related to this sport over the past 15 years-now runners know exactly how long it really took them to run a race if that race uses chip timing.