- October 19, 2009 at 3:40 pm #11770
After a recent discussion elsewhere of paying for your time (a common concept with the D-Tag timing system), along with two recent reports here of the D-Tag system not working (cameron's not registering at Al's Run and wsuraiderwi's not registering at Columbus), I'm getting more confused by the growing interest race directors seem to have in this wasteful, unreliable system. There are so many timing systems that are more reliable, apparently less expensive, and less wasteful. Why are race directors so interested in using this significantly inferior product?
Consider the following:
- The D-Tag is a “disposable” chip timing system. This means, for an event with 5000 timed runners, there are 5000 single use chips going to landfills. ChampionChips are reusable and manual systems use a combination of reusable and recyclable materials.
- The D-Tag is notoriously unreliable. As with cameron and wsuraiderwi, it seems like there are stories everywhere of chips not registering. With the ChampionChip system or manual timing, the missed runner is a rare exception. With the D-Tag, the missed runner seems to be a common occurrence.
- The D-Tag is apparently very fragile (part of the reason it's so unreliable?). Don't fold it in the wrong place or your chip is damaged and you won't get timed. From what I've heard, it's also succeptible to water. I've seen a ChampionChip get run over by a car and still work. You don't have to worry about damaging a ChampionChip by folding it and I've submersed one in water without it malfunctioning.
- The D-Tag is apparently so expensive that many races charge runners extra to use them. I've never been charged extra to be timed at a race that used ChampionChip or manual timing.
What do you think? Why are races going to this D-Tag system when there are other systems that, other than needing a few volunteers, seem to be superior in every way? Am I overlooking some positives of this system (or did I miss some of the negatives)? If so, please set me straight. If not, maybe it's time for runners to speak up to race directors and let them know that, to keep us as clients, they will need to use a more reliable, less expensive, less wasteful timing system.
Disclaimer: I, nor as far as I am aware anyone I know personally, have any personal or financial interest in ChampionChip, producers of pull-tag race bibs, index cards, office paper, or any other company or organization that may be seen as a competitor to the D-Tag system. I have no financial incentive in seeing the D-Tag system fail and honestly do not care whether or not it fails. My only incentive is to see the running community get the best value out of its race entry dollars.
- October 19, 2009 at 6:10 pm #28665
The race scorer that I use charges only $1.00 per D-Tag. The D-Tag eliminates the need for a (variant dependable) number of volunteers. For me it could cut the need for six volunteers.
They also help when runners do not wear their bibs properly, cover their bibs, trade bibs, don't tear off the removable section to hand in, wander away (around barriers sometimes) from the number collection area etc. . .
I have not looked for ChampionChip services locally for a couple of years but last time I looked there wasn't one available. I would prefer ChampionChip.
- October 19, 2009 at 6:12 pm #28666
well, i hope this doesn't continue…I can just see cheaters taking advantage of any type of unreliable timing.
- October 19, 2009 at 6:32 pm #28667
Cheaters will always find a way to take advantage of any system – in anything in life.
- October 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm #28668
Interesting. The scorer charges $1 but the common charge to the runner is $5? Maybe the problem lies elsewhere when it comes to cost. Maybe some races are using this as an excuse to fleece the runners.
Ed, cheaters will always find a way to take advantage of any system but we don't have to make it any easier for them than necessary. Also, beyond the cheaters, what about the honest participants whose results are lost, like cameron and – if not for the good fortune that the race was using manual timing as a backup for top finishers – wsuraiderwi?
As for ChampionChip systems, I believe this was the first year that the Hank Aaron Run used the D-Tag. Before, they were using a ChampionChip system I believe in some way connected with the Striders.
- October 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm #28669
One more thought. Even if the cost is $1 per participant, that's still a fairly significant cost. If you're paying that much for timing, wouldn't you rather get a reliable system that doesn't have a well earned reputation for not registering all participants who cross the finish line?
- October 19, 2009 at 7:08 pm #28670
I am looking for ChampionChip and can only find a company in Minnesota that does this – the cost would be prohibative.
Maybe we could eventually grow HillRunner into a timing company – that could be pretty cool!
If anyone knows a company in Wisconsin that times using ChampionChip let me know – I am interested.
- October 19, 2009 at 7:46 pm #28671
I believe SMA might be what you're looking for.
Given the fact that I've never had to deal with a chip fee for a ChampionChip timed race but $5 seems like the common fee for a D-Tag timed race, I'd be surprised if ChampionChip wasn't less cost prohibitive. If it is, I really have to question why we're paying to be timed at D-Tag races.
- October 19, 2009 at 9:24 pm #28672
I didn't get into the detail in my race report, but I brought my shoe to the official timing area and he looked at it right away and his immediate response was “you didn't put it on right, that's why it didn't work.” He went on and said that I pulled from the top instead of the bottom and that caused the back to be sticky. Since the back was sticky, the d-tag was not in a complete loop and was partially flattened (because of the stickiness).. Therefore…no time. The instructions did not state to pull from the top or bottom when ripping the d-tag off the bib and I pointed this out to him and he acknowledged that this was a problem.
He was very helpful though…went to the tapes and saw my bib number with a time next to it, asked when I started (with my buddy and made it to the start about 10 seconds after the official gun) and he used the start time from him and subtracted the start time from the time he had on the tape to give me my time and I watched him update it on his computer (he obviously has had this problem in the past). Plugged in a bogus 20 mile time (the one on the site is about 2 minutes slower than actual) becaue he needed a 20 mile time for it to register because a lot of marathoners cut it short and run the half marathon (they are simultaneous at Columbus). On my watch I had 2:38:45, he told me 2:38:46 after his calculations…and I said good to go…who is going to complain about 1 second.
This is something you should not have to worry about in a race…
- October 20, 2009 at 1:46 am #28673
Hmm, I've never even paid attention to how I pull it off. How many people would, even if the instructions said to do so?
Definitely something you should not have to worry about.
- October 20, 2009 at 2:50 am #28674
I guess I have yet to use it — apparently no race I have run (yet) uses it. I have honestly never been a fan of chip timing and this does nothing to sway me from that position.
- October 20, 2009 at 12:25 pm #28675
I'm not a big fan of chip timing myself, though I do think it has its uses, especially for mass participation events. That said, I keep coming back to one thing, the lack of reliability. If a timing system can't reliably time all athletes in the event, what good is it? I guess I just don't get it. Why is it gaining in popularity, even before it has proven itself to be able to reliably do the one thing it is supposed to do? Even ignoring the other negatives on it, shouldn't that alone be enough to convince race directors to go with something else?
- October 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm #28676
you have got it right…
… it has its uses, especially for mass participation events.
the cost factor gets past on to the runner/participant…
I have used the D-tap, Champion Chip, another type of chip in an ankle-velcro wrap and one wired into the back of the race number… they have all worked for me, but then I read the instructions…
I have been in races for about 15 years and I ALWAYS see a few people who pin their number on their back, obviously they don't read or listen to those instructions either… and with the explosion in 'mass participation events' it doesn't matter if you are a fan of chip timing or not, there will be 10,000 others who will gladly take your place… sad but true
- October 20, 2009 at 1:26 pm #28677
Rita, if the only issues were with people not following the instructions, I'd agree with you. However, I saw cameron's D-Tag at Al's Run. It was attached to his shoe according to the instructions. Also, it seems as though an official admitted to wsuraiderwi that the instructions were incomplete. Finally, with the common theme of problems with water, how is this possibly a good idea for road races where it might rain?
If the only problems were with people who didn't follow the instructions, I'd say people need to learn how to read. However, all indications are that the problems go well beyond that.
As for the cost factor, why does the cost factor of the D-Tag get passed on to the runner but not the cost factor of any other timing system used? It seems like the D-Tag is either overpriced or race directors are just finding a way to extract more money out of runners.
- October 20, 2009 at 6:38 pm #28678
All costs of a race are factored into the cost that we zero in on when determining the price per entrant for an event. Not only chip costs.
If more people volunteered at events – especially in the finish line area – it might help make a decision like this sway into another direction (no chips).
I posted a request for volunteers for my event at Badgerland Striders and not one individual volunteered to help. One year when I was a member they had to beg people to volunteer at Badgerland Strider events.
As runners we can and should demand good races for our money – but we should also all volunteer to assist in at least one race per year.
- October 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm #28679
Ed, I'm not disputing your point. However, my point is that the D-Tag system is the only timing system I've ever seen in running where races have chosen to assess a surcharge for recording your time. All I'm asking is why is this the case? Why, when any other timing system is used, is the entry fee $20 for everyone but, when the D-Tag system is used, the entry fee is $20 for those not being timed and $25 for those who want their times recorded? If the D-Tag system really costs that much more than any other alternative, it should be pricing itself right out of the market, especially given the fact that it's an inferior product that can't even reliably do the one job it's supposed to do.
- October 20, 2009 at 7:32 pm #28680
I agree with you on that point – I don't know why some races charge $5.00 per tag. I was quoted $1.00 per tag and I am considering passing only a portion of that along to the runners unless I can pull in a couple of good sponsors.
Although, I have not fully embraced the idea of going to the D-tag – especially considering the one time use and toss it out issue.
Thw way we currently score the race is more reliable – just heavy on the need for volunteers.
- October 21, 2009 at 1:09 am #28681
The disposable aspect would keep me hesitant but the biggest issue I'd have would be the reliability. If you're going to pay for a timing system, shouldn't it at least be expected to reliably time all participants? This, to me, is by far the biggest problem.
- October 24, 2009 at 1:53 pm #28682
with the explosion in 'mass participation events' it doesn't matter if you are a fan of chip timing or not, there will be 10,000 others who will gladly take your place… sad but true
It matters to me whether I am a fan! 😉 Given that I have possibly run one race that used this d-tag setup (and this one race had previously handled 40,000+ finishers without chip timing for years and years) and typically run in significantly more races that use no form of chip timing than those that do, nobody is really taking my “place.” 8)
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