One thing that consistently comes up for us as chip timers, is how start times are handled. Start times can be recorded two different ways. The first being “gun” time. This is where all racers receive the same start time; when the gun (or whistle, siren, air horn, someone yelling go; etc) goes off. The other way is recording a chip time; where each individuals start time is when they actually cross the starting line. The first thing that any racer should know about how a race will be handling start times, is that it’s a decision rarely made by the timing company. We leave this decision entirely up to the Race Director (RD). And in many cases, this decision has already been made for the RD by the sanctioning body for the race. USA Track and Field, USA Cycling and USA Triathlon rules all state that gun time is the official start time, and the time that the race should be scored on. Certainly, there are exceptions to these rules, but again, timing companies usually have very little to do with this decision. If a racer participates in a race where both times are recorded, but the race is officially scored off the gun time, the racer must understand that the chip time is really just given as a courtesy. Many times we, as timers, have been asked post-race, “what’s the point of chip timing if you don’t count the start?” This question is precisely the reason for this blog. As timers, our top priority is to capture the finish time of each and every racer. That is the main thing races hire us to do. Everything else; start times, interval times, etc. won’t matter if the timer fails to capture the finish times. Not to say these other times are insignificant, but overall, not AS significant as the finish. If you feel the race you are participating in is not being timed to your expectations, we encourage you to take your concerns to the Race Director. Ultimately, it is their decision about how their race will be timed.
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