Timing Issues at Boston Leave Some Runners Concerned


The brutal conditions at The Boston Marathon this past Monday didn’t only affect the runners, it affected the timing systems. I’ve received messages from some runners regarding what they believe are inaccurate finish times. I will address my initial findings on some of those cases at the end of the article. Below I will lay out an instance where a runner ran a Boston Qualifying time but did not register an official finish time. The BAA has informed me that they are working through all timing situations and that given the weather there are several instances to work through.

On Wednesday I received a message from Louise. She ran Boston, but did not register a finish time, and was not in the official results.

Hi Derek, I was wondering if you could give me tips to help me prove i finished the Boston Marathon on Monday. I stupidly wore my bib under my jacket because of the weather, and although I pulled up my Jacket going over the mats. My chip did not register at all of them, and not after the 40k mark. There is only one photo of me after the finish line, with my bib showing. Any tips you can give me would be greatly appreciated, it was an extremely tough race, but my best Boston, and a requalifier for me.

I looked at her splits. She registered at all splits through the ½. She hit the half in a time of 1:48:44. She did not register a time at 25k, 30k, 20 mile, 21 mile, or 35k. She did register a time at 40k of 3:28:27 and then nothing else, including the finish.

She estimated that she had a finish gun time of 3:41:17 with a gun time of 3:45:47. I was able to help her find herself in the finish line steaming feed. 


Comparing to the post finish line photos – that’s her on the right. It definitely seems to be a match.

The finish line video was important. She crossed the finish, but did not register a time. It was proof that there were issues with her bib being picked up by the timing equipment.

Calculating Her Time

An estimated finish time is not ideal – especially when calculating a Boston Qualifying time.

After Louise spotted a partial glimpse of herself in one runner’s finish photo, I was able to identify her approximate time of finish. (Had she not identified herself in the finish photo, I could have estimated her time based on the clocks visible  at the finish). Sorting the list of finishers by time of day, and finding the runner whose finish photo Lauren appeared in, I was able to approximate her finish, and search for other runners that finished at nearly the same time.

Louise’s estimated time of finish was between runner 16386 (2:35:50) and 17830 (2:35:51). She was maybe 1 step behind the runner that finished at 2:35:50.

From my data pull of the live runner data, it was determined that her start time was 10:54:31 AM, giving her a chip time of 3:41:20.

GPS Confirms my Findings

After I did my calculations, Louise confirmed my findings by providing the link to her Garmin data.

Her data confirms my findings – Her watch time shows within 2 seconds of what I determined from the video and photo evidence. I am forwarding my findings along with the link to her GPS data to The BAA. I believe she should be added into the results.


Harsh weather will almost always have some effect on timing equipment, leading to more missed splits than usual. This could be a combination of the weather having an effect on the equipment itself, and runners wearing layers that are covering their bibs. I am aware of other issues. See the below chart of runner start times:


The 3 spikes occur at the very beginning of each wave. I am continuing the analysis of the data (with help), but it appears that runners that did not register start times were assumed to have started at the very beginning of their assigned wave. If a runner actually started further back, this assumption would have a significant impact on their overall time. I looked at wave 1 in detail, and there are runners showing a 10:00 am start time with extremely slow 1st splits relative to the rest of their race. The BAA is aware of some issues related to the weather and working through them. I will send them a list of bibs that I believe were affected, and allow them time to work through everything.
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  1. Hi Derek, I am also affected by the technical difficulties. I ran and toughed it out with my BIB showing all the way on my shirt. My Boston Marathon app shows me starting with splits for 5k, 15k, 20k, 25k, 20 Miles, and last 21 Miles. I did tough it out and didn’t cheat. I have my Finisher Medal photo and other photo’s. I also have my Garmin track and Strava e-mail me congratulations shortly after with my run report.
    I really don’t want my first Boston Marathon trashed because of technical difficulties.
    Any support or advice you provide would be greatly appreciated.
    Mike Simpson
    Ottawa, Canada
    BIB # 14718

  2. Hi Everybody, I time races for a living. Whenever possible, it is always best to wear the race bib front, center chest. I feel bad that this woman didn’t get correct times. I see that she had the bib on her lower right hip. I think the 19000 steps she took on her right leg may have started to bend the timing tag on the back of the bib.

    The bibs for all types of timing systems are tested at chest height of the average person for best reading of the timing tag.



    • Hi Mark – Race organizer here. I know chip systems have come a long way, and continue to get better every year. In your experience, any chip systems that are better at handling being placed on a runner’s hip? Any that you’d say are “worse” in this regard? I know that’s not the optimal place, but no matter how much education we try to do, we always get a number of runners who put their bibs there, especially in colder weather.

  3. Oh man… I am so glad my bib worked. This year’s Boston was my first marathon (out of 44) to go WATCHLESS! I wanted to run by feel and just have fun (and serve up a new challenge as I am A-type). I figured I would get another easy BQ because the weather suited me (and I did) and I need that official time for my records.

    I am curious out of all of the racers who had missed mats but had splits that aligned w/ their finish time, were wearing layers they decided not to shed before the start.

    • My only layer over the chip was a thin clear plastic poncho. (I was freezing BTW!) Several of my splits were missing. I contacted BAA because they had the wrong finishing time for me and they did adjust my time. I assume they had photos of me at the start as well as along the course. I have my Garmin, but evidently BAA doesn’t use those to verify results. If you have an issue, contact the BAA.

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