How to follow Joe at the Boston Marathon!

Posted: March 19, 2010 in Pace and Racing
Tags: , , , ,

Technology is really an amazing thing.  I received an e-mail on Friday from the Boston Athletic Association introducing the AT&T Athlete Alert Program being utilized at the Boston Marathon.  This program which can be accessed here:  http://tiny.cc/FollowJoe allows individuals to sign up for text and/or e-mail alerts so that you can follow your favorite runner as they take on the most famous marathon course in the world.

Updates are sent to you directly from the course as the runner hits the start, 10K (6.2 mile), Half-Way (13.1 mile), 30K (18.75 mile) and finish (26.2 mile) markers on the course.  All you need to do is click on the link and register your e-mail or cell phone along with your favorite marathoner’s bib number.  I’m assuming of course that 7929 (Me) would be your favorite.  If you want to track the race favorites or multiple runners you can do that as well.

Crossing the finish mat at Pittsburgh 2009 - BQ!

At the Pittsburgh Marathon 13 days later they will be using similar technology as last year my wife Dawn was able to keep track of me throughout the race and know about when to start looking for me at the finish.  She also knew ahead of time that I was hitting my target times along the course and was on my way to qualifying for Boston — pretty cool.

As soon as I receive my bib number for Pittsburgh I will provide that information on the blog as well so everyone can keep track of me.  That will be a pretty interesting race to follow as even I have virtually no idea how much of a toll two marathons in 13 days will take on my body.  If you told me I will finish Pittsburgh anywhere between 3 hours and 30 minutes to 4 hours and 30 minutes I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.  This coming from a runner that can usually predict a run covering 15-20 miles within a handful of minutes +/- … Pittsburgh is going to be quite an adventure.

So how does the technology work?  The first type of timing chip that was popularized in larger races was the Champion Chip.  It was a small plastic round chip that was attached to a runner’s shoe laces.  As runners cross timing mats which are placed throughout the course, information is sent electronically to race officials to track each runner on the course.

This tracking is referred to “Chip Time” as opposed to “Gun Time”

Gun time is used to declare the actual men’s and women’s winners of the race.  These elite marathoners who are competing to “win” a marathon as well as cash prizes are simply placed at the very start of the race and when the gun sounds they take off.  They race each other over 26.2 miles and whoever finishes the course first wins – very simple.  This allows the elite men and women to simply race each other and not worry about their individual mile spits or times.  Finish first and you win.  Pretty straightforward.

Elite Men's Start - Boston Marathon

Everyone else in the race runs on “Chip Time”.  My time at Boston will not start until I cross the starting line or starting “mat”.  As I stride over the mat a time is recorded for Bib Number 7929 from Austin, TX and it will continue to run until I cross the finish line at Copley Square in Boston 26.2 miles and 3+ hours later.  For me starting in the 7th corral at Boston, there will be roughly 7,000 runners separating me from the elite men and women.  It may take me several minutes to actually cross the starting line after the starters pistol fires.  This time is not held against me per se – in fact it is not recorded.  My “clock” only starts when I take my first stride across the start line. 

This is a far cry from the days when marathon times were written down by race officials as runners came through the finishing chute and all times were recorded by hand.  As timing technology improved and wireless communication became more popular – the addition of sending updates to interested parties was implemented.

The most popular timing chip in place now is the D Tag.  It is much lighter, cheaper to manufacture than the older Champion Chips and is essentially “disposable” (although I keep all of mine after every race).  This Tag simply folds into the shape of a “D” and is tucked through the runner’s shoe laces.  Even in cold, windy and rainy conditions the tag does not move around and is hardly noticeable to the runner.  Each tag is numbered to synch up with the runner’s bib number.  Each time an individual athlete crosses a timing mat and all splits throughout the race are recorded.

D Tag from 3M Half Marathon in January 2010

Runner’s times are then sent via e-mail or text message to update spectators, family and friends as the race unfolds.  Another benefit to the chip timing technology is that official race results are now compiled literally within a few hours after a race is completed and all results are posted to the race website.  In fact, I will be able to sign up to follow all of my Run for Dom friends who are also racing at Boston and Pittsburgh this year.  I will be able to see on my phone how well they did with respect to their goals a few minutes after I receive my medal, have my photo taken and chomp on my first bagel and banana.  Pretty amazing.

Tweet My Time - Pittsburgh Marathon

Something new at Pittsburgh this year for the 2010 marathon is the addition of “Tweet My Time”.  I signed up for this on Thursday which will allow my twitter account  http://twitter.com/joe_runfordom to automatically send out tweets for me during the race as I reach the various timing mats along the course.  My twitter followers will receive live updates from the course as they are happening in real time.  Again, amazing.

So if you would like to follow along please sign up!  For the Boston Marathon on April 19, 2010 you simply need to click: http://tiny.cc/FollowJoe enter your e-mail address or cell phone number and my Bib Number 7929.

To follow marathon number 2 at Pittsburgh I will pass along registration information as well as my bib number in the next week or so as it becomes available.  If you are a twitter user you can simply click to “follow me” at http://twitter.com/joe_runfordom

If you are not using Twitter at this time, you can go here to sign up:  https://twitter.com/signup/

Once you set up your account you will be able to find joe_runfordom and click to “follow me”.  I typically send a few tweets a day updating everyone on training, Dom, Deep fried oreo consumption and what kind of trouble Kayla has been getting into.  I’m sure that will increase after the baby arrives. 

Thanks for all of the kind words and support this week!  Only 4 weeks to go to the Boston Marathon on Monday – it’s going to be here before I know it – it is nice to know that so many people are following Run for Dom as we race to make a differene.  Kicking Cancer’s Ass 26.2 Miles at a Time!

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Comments
  1. Sarah says:

    I just found out about this feature today as I want to track my cousin’s progress in Boston. Such cool things we can do with technology! Can’t wait to follow along on your runs!

  2. nyflygirl says:

    And this is the reason why I have been so unproductive at work on Boston Marathon day the last several years!! 🙂

    Technology is a wonderful thing…and it truly has come a long way!! I remember when I ran NYCM for the first time in 2006 and no one was getting the email/text updates (I was quoted about it in an article here)

    I know that there are “purists” who disagree, but chip timing is probably one of the best inventions ever…not even for the intermediate splits, but so people can line up properly at the start and not worry about the time it takes for them to cross the start! 🙂

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Lara – thanks for the visit and the message! USA Today – very cool! (sorry it wsa for not such a fun reason) – last year we were tracking a friend in his first ever marathon and we never got an update after the half-way point. Made for a stressful breakfast until he called us after his finish.

      I agree on the timing as well. It takes all the pressure off of jockeying for space at the start – I typically have to zig-zag just a bit over the first 1/2 mile but after that I’m cruising at my own pace. Thanks again for the visit! Best, Joe

  3. Libby Jones says:

    Great post, but, yes, I would strongly reiterate that some athlete tracking software is way better than others. Houston Marathon was spot on, while Dallas White Rock Marathon not so much. All depends on the company/software they are using. Nothing worse than the updates being emailed to my mom 5 hours after I crossed the finish line (“I don’t get it, honey. Why are they emailing me NOW?”)

    And I’m not a big fan of D-tags simply because of the disposable nature – that’s a lot of RFID trash in a landfill. Races proclaiming themselves as “green” and using D-tags need to think through that. You or the race can actually recycle these tags directly with the company that makes them, but you have to mail them in. For the two big races I produce, we own our own chip timing system and we use IPICO, which is the small flat plastic REUSABLE cards. We also do not use chip ties, unless your shoe doesn’t have laces, because of the additional waste.

    Good luck at Boston!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Libby! Thanks so much for the visit and message! I thought it was great when you could furnish your own Champion Chip or have it collected at the end of the race by the volunteers …. the amount of “recycleables” from a large marathon really is amazing with all the cups, tags etc. – for a group of pretty environmentally conscious folks – our carbon footprint is pretty large on race day. Take good care Libby! Best, Joe

  4. onelittlejill says:

    My phone will be buzzing like mad that day; I am following three others and will be sure to follow you.

    I have had issues with following runners before, but I have followed for Boston in the past and have never had any issues 🙂

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jill! Thanks so much for the visit and I’m so happy to hear you’ll be following along on the 19th! Can’t believe only a month away. Wow.

      Have a great start to the week! J

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