Why (do we) Chip Time?

For 15 or more years the club had been using a stopwatch (Seiko S129 or S149) and a clipboard for timing its own events. The stopwatch & clipboard was used at the first 5k handicap series back in the 1990's when we had less than 40 entrants most of them being our own club members. Laptops were used with excel to remove some of the human error in calculating times over the next couple of years eventually being replaced with an Access database.

During this time a piece of software was written to use a laptop as a timing device so times didn't need to be input after the race. This didn't ever get perfected so an interface for the stopwatch was sought. The seiko S129 and S149 have a data port on them but Seiko never developed an interface. After getting some information from Seiko on the interface requirements it was found a small number had been built in Australia. The club purchased one along with an antilog data recorder and many more years of 5k series passed by with the time keepers job on the finish line becoming increasingly dificult...

How many times per second can you press the lap botton on a stopwatch? At the end of a handicap race with 100 or so finishers you need to be able to press it 3 or 4 times per second! So when the 5k series grew to fields of 170 or 180 it was too much. The finishline couldn't cope.

A solution was sought in chip timing & various companies were approached to quote on the supply of a system. The costs too high, so research started into what it would take to make our own. A reader was purchased and antenna made but the read range was too short. Some advice from the other side of the atlantic put us on the correct path with our current system. It took 3 years but we can now time the finish of our 5k series with tenths or even hundredths of a second splitting runners crossing the finish.

Chip timing allows very accurate results to be published with a few clicks. It doesn't always go to plan so we have camera backup - I'm pleased to say this has never been used other than to double check desputed sprint finishes or the occasional missed finisher. In 2013 the 5k series had 649 finishers in total over 5 races - only one was missed by the chip reader!