Along with 7,300 other runners, Skip Schott received the dreaded email from The B.A.A. last week. While he ran a qualifying time for the 2019 Boston Marathon, his entry for the 2019 Boston Marathon was not accepted.
Skip’s official time of 3:25:10.5 was 2-1/2 seconds too slow. He needed a time of 3:25:08 to be accepted into the field. For runners to be accepted into the 2019 Boston Marathon, they had to run a time that was 4 minutes and 52 seconds faster than their qualifying standard. Skip’s time was only 4 minutes 49-1/2 seconds below his standard of 3:30:00.
But there is more to this story.
Skip earned his qualifying time at the 2018 Bayshore Marathon.
The Bayshore Marathon is a chip-timed event. However, Skip’s net time and finish time are identical. This would indicate that he started with the elite runners (he did not).
At the time of the race, Skip emailed timing officials about his result. The response he received, was as follows:
“Skip, unfortunately we cannot adjust. Official Bayshore times are Gun Time”
A quick look at the results shows that other runners are credited with a chip time different than their gun time:
Even the runners that started from the front have a slight variance between gun time and chip time. Typically clock time is only used as the official time for the top competitors. This is so the elite fields know where they stand – whoever crosses the finish first is the winner. But for purposes of age group awards, and Boston qualifying, chip times are the standard.
We could easily assume that Skip started more than 2-1/2 seconds after the gun time. However, we have evidence that proves that he started much further back.
Skip sent me his GPS file and a link to his Strava. Using the Flyby feature of the Strava, I was able to identify another runner that crossed the start at approximately the same time as Skip:
The other runner that I identified as starting at approximately the same time as Skip is in the Bayshore Marathon results with a chip/gun differential of 30.3 seconds.
Additionally, Skip provided the names of two runners that he started the race with. Those runners also had an approximate 30-second differential.
The data is clear that Skip should have been credited with a chip time of approximately 3:24:40, safely below the time of 3:25:08 needed to be accepted into the 2019 Boston Marathon.
It was my immediate belief that Skip’s chip did not register at the start, which resulted in the system defaulting to the gun time. He was also missing a split time from mile 16. It should be noted that he is seen on the race video at the turnaround point, and GPS confirms that he did run the entire course.
I asked Skip for any photos he had, and the cause for these issues was immediately apparent. Skip had his bib attached to his bib belt, but the bib was behind him. This resulted in the missed reads at the start and mile 16. Most timing systems are highly reliable, but when the chip is embedded in the bib, it is important to have the bib on the front of your body to ensure that it registers at all mats. Conclusion
While this situation likely could have been avoided had Skip worn his bib on the front of his body, I don’t believe his failure to do so should disqualify him from running the 2019 Boston Marathon. He immediately notified the timer, who was dismissive at the time.
I point out the bib location in an effort to educate other runners to avoid situations that can arise from missed timing mats. Always keep your bib in front of your body and on your outermost layer.
There is ample evidence that he started 30 seconds after the gun, which would result in an adjusted time that easily would gain him entry into Boston. The race would only need to accept that he started 3 seconds after the gun in order for his qualifying time to be good enough for Boston acceptance.
I believe, based on the evidence, that the Bayshore Marathon should adjust Skip’s official time and that he should be granted entry into the 2019 Boston Marathon.
I have reached out to both the Bayshore Marathon and the B.A.A. The B.A.A. responded that the race would need to acknowledge the discrepancy and work with the timing company to make the change. I will provide updates as appropriate.
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