As I wrote earlier this week, Skip Schott learned a difficult lesson – always wear your bib facing forward. During Skip’s Bayshore Marathon run, he had his bib attached to a bib belt. The bib was situated behind him. This mistake likely resulted in Skip not registering a start time (or a 16 mile split). His net time defaulted to his gun time, and as a result, he missed out on being accepted into The 2019 Boston Marathon by less than 3 seconds.
Upon Further Review
After I wrote the initial article, Trevor Step of RF Timing reached out to me and explained that the race recognizes gun times for all participants – a fact that is prominently displayed on the results page.
“The official Bayshore finish time is the ‘gun’ time even if ‘chip’ scoring is used.”
I realize this is a hot button issue, but the fact remains that the Bayshore is a footrace and in a footrace the first person to cross the finish line wins. I cannot fathom using a different standard for money and then another for medals. For money and records it is quite common if not standard for races to use gun time. The spirit of competition is lost on chip time. I will not deny someone who races the event and out runs or out kicks a competitor their just medal if the person they beat started slightly behind them at the start.
Daniel Siderman- Bayshore Race Director
Trevor further reiterated that, at the time, they had not received GPS data from Skip, and would not have been comfortable making an adjustment to his net time solely based on GPS data – citing that the time of day could be inaccurate. This was a valid point. Trevor concurred that the missed reads were likely a result of the improper bib placement.
While the race recognizes gun time for their official results, chip (or net) times are submitted to the BAA.
I do owe Trevor an apology for not reaching out prior to publishing the article. I should have provided him the opportunity to provide this context prior to publishing the initial article.
I understood Trevor’s, and many of my readers’ point of contention that to adjust Skip’s time without more definitive evidence would be akin to ‘making up a time’. While I felt the evidence I presented in the initial article was strong – I needed to prove that the underlying time of day data, that was the key to The Strava evidence, was accurate.
To prove the accuracy of Skip’s GPS data, I looked at the underlying Strava data at for the turnaround point – at 13.1 miles.
Runner #1732 is shown in the Strava Flyby graphic turning around about 2 seconds before Skip. I also identified runner #596 on the Flyby hitting the turnaround about 2 seconds after Skip.
Looking at the race results (which show gun time) the Flyby data is corroborated.
13.1 split (gun time)
- #1732 – 1:42:20.7
- Schott – 1:42:22.9
- #596 – 1:42:24.2
The official split times align with Skip’s (and the other runners’) Strava data, and proves definitively that Skip’s GPS data was accurate, and that the previously calculated 30 second start time differential was correct.
As explained in the initial article, I determined his start time by matching his track to another runner on Strava. The differential aligns with the start times of two friends that Skip says he began the race with.
Not leaving anything to chance, I also pulled up the video taken at both the turnaround to positively identify runner #1732. You can see both #1732 and Schott in the turnaround video (screenshot above). #1732’s bib is not legible in the video, but I matched the runner with her finish line video to positively identify her as the runner originally identified through Strava.
Bayshore (Net) Time Adjusted
After being presented with the evidence, and looking at their own data, Trevor reached the same conclusion – that Skip’s actual start time was 30 seconds after the gun sounded. His net time was adjusted from 3:25:10 to 3:24:40.
Skip forwarded me the email he received from the timer:
I had a chance to discuss your email with the the race director for Bayshore today. I was provided some additional information about your inquiry and all parties agreed on the reasons your start chip was missed an an appropriate action. Based on this agreement, we’ve submitted an adjusted net time to BAA. Qualifying for Boston is an amazing accomplishment. It’s heartbreaking to hear of those that put their all into accomplishing that goal and fall short by this little. I hope that the BAA accepts your entry.
Trevor told me that they emailed the BAA directly, and I followed up with my contact as well. I am optimistic that they will accept Skip into The 2019 Boston Marathon.
I am not an expert on the technology in bib chips, so I will not attempt to explain the technology in detail – as I will likely get something wrong. But, I do know that improper placement of bibs can result in missed reads. ALWAYS keep your bib uncovered on your outermost layer and wear on the front of your shirt. Not only does this help reduced missed reads, but it will lead to you being identifiable in photographs and video.
Some have argued that Skip broke the rules and his time should not be adjusted or even that he should be disqualified. My response is that disqualification or refusal to adjust his time would have been extremely selective and punitive. Skip ran the race honestly, and gained no advantage. He made a mistake. If he were to be disqualified for wearing his bib improperly, it would be necessary to disqualify all runners that wore their bibs in this manner.
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Concur, Skip doesn’t need to be disqualified. And I hope Boston let’s him in (2-3 seconds off the mark, OMG). But if he doesn’t get in it will be a valuable lesson to all of us.
Good to see logic and clear heads prevail. Pretty harsh to want to burn a guy at the stake for wearing a bib wrong. Your final paragraph couldnt have put it better.
Nobody gets burned at the stake here. The question simply is if he should have to suffer the consequences of his own actions, namely putting on the bib the wrong way.
Well done Derek! It must be nice to have a win when so many races (Disney, etc.) ignore your well-researched analysis. Plus, I love the idea of marathon investigations helping “winners who lost” as well as exposing cheaters.
I spent some time decades ago filing lawsuits against in small claims court against businesses sending me unsolicited faxes. It was great to win around half of the cases, but it was also a bit soul crushing to always be in pursuit of bad guys. When my wife told me that I’d become too obsessed, I gave up my little side hobby. I’m not trying to imply anything about you by the way!
Afraid I don’t agree on this one. The race is governed under IAAF rules and it is clear on bib placement. I would in fact argue the opposite – if he had won the race he would have almost certainly been disqualified. Same for those people who fold out the sponsors names when wearing their number. To not disqualify in the face of evidence is equally being selective.
Not saying that I don’t empathise with the situation as people can’t be expected to know every rule, but to reinsert a runner into the results who (unknowingly) broke the rules is rather bizarre.
“… making an adjustment to his net time solely based on GPS data – citing that the time of day could be inaccurate. This was a valid point. ”
This is not a valid point. GPS location may be imprecise to a few meters or tens of meters depending on your technology, but the GPS time signal is much better than any race timing equipment. GPS satellites are atomic clocks in orbit, and time precision is the whole basis of how GPS navigation works.
“The accuracy of the broadcast correction to GPS time to yield UTC is specified at 97 nanoseconds (1 sigma). Through various modernization efforts to the space, ground and control segments, the GPS time offset and the accuracy of the broadcast UTC correction have been significantly improved.”
I think the point was that it could have been modified through Strava or Garmin connect.
Honestly, I think Derek has this one wrong.
Using circumstantial evidence to reconstruct (really: guess) a finishing time is just not the way to go. What if his buddies would have crossed the starting line 3 or 5 seconds after the gun? This immediately gets you onto a very slippery slope.
Skip made the mistake of putting on the bib the wrong way. This was against the rules, and likely the reason why he didn’t get a chip time for the start. This is his mistake.
I realize that missing out on Boston sucks for him, but we should extent him the courtesy of treating him like the grown man he is… and let him own his mistake and the consequences.
I’ll say it again since it’s been brought up: Bayshore marathon practice of ‘gun only’ timing is crap. Especially with a race that has hundreds of runners and has ‘pace corrals’.
In age group medal situation, my wife had a faster chip time than another competitor in her age group, but was beaten on gun time (since the other person ignored starting corrals). Was told by race director as quoted above “It’s a footrace”.
If anyone ever considers running that race, regardless of your pace, start up front until they get sick of the practice.
If I were the BAA, I would probably not relent in this case, because there are 7,000 other people who are going to say something similar. Skip has a very compelling case, but I can’t imagine having to wade through all 7,000 of those cases with people providing some kind of evidence to show that their time was actually better than what the official time showed.
Any runner trying to BQ will feel some sympathy for Skip, getting that close only to be denied entry. But qualifying is no different than finishing a marathon in this respect: it relies on doing all the little things right. What if you forget to double-knot your lace on one shoe and it comes undone and the 12 seconds it takes to retie your lace are the 12 seconds that exclude you? In terms of doing the little things right, is that different than putting your bib on your chest like the marathon organizers request?
Sorry, Skip. Keep trying. Run hard. And pin your bib to the front of your shirt.
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