WANTED: Views on Race Software and Timing Systems
I am one of the officers of a small running club and for the past 15 years we have put on a 5K race with 125-150 runners using a timing clock, bib tear strips, and some simple custom software that worked well for what we needed. However last year we had 400 people run the race and whether we have 150 this year or 400 is anyone's guess.
Needless to say we are in the market for new software and are examining the possiblility of using chip timing. It seems like our options are:
1. Hire the job out to some that has the equipment $800-$1200
2. Just buy software like The Race Director $500 and keep using our clock and bib strips
3. Invest in a system like Jaguar or Chronotrack $4000-$5000
4. Attempt to convince the Parks and Rec dept to buy a system and mooch off them. :-)
I was hoping that some of the race directors that are using these systems or have already gone through this process would chime in with their experiences. Naturally I am interested in the fustration factor with the software, how easy it is to manipulate the data, enter people, get labels for mailers for the next year's race, re-occuring costs such as the RFID tags or "software support" agreements.
Thanks in advance.
You're not alone
Many clubs have this problem. A major concern when doing it yourself is ensuring continuity of personnel to provide the expertise needed to run the equipment and software. The more expensive the option you decide on, the more critical is the continuity question.
For me and my local running club, we went with an IPICO system because we could actually 'own' the RFID chips, not just lease them, rent them, or have to buy an entire set of new chips every race. We also stage about a dozen races a year, so have ample opportunity to amortize the cost of the system.
If you're only putting on one 5K race a year, I would recommend NOT buying a chip system, because it would have to sit in climate-controlled storage the rest of the year, and the internal batteries would likely not take well to not being used.
Other options exist for you, however. For example, you might be able to convince a club member to start a timing business, especially if there are a number of races looking for a timing company within a 4 hour drive of your location. Then, your club could hire them to score your 5K.
Based on your comments, it sounds like your club might be a good candidate for hiring a timer.
Prices per participant vary across the country but usually there's a break even event size beyond which its a simple price per participant. At smaller size races (under 500), there is usually a minimum charge that the timer will apply for mobilizing personnel and equipment.
Example: A timer has a minimum charge of $1,500 or $3.00 per participant. So if you have 500 or more participants, your cost is "perfectly variable" at $3.00 per participant. Typically, this will not include data entry, however, so you'll need to plan for both pre-race and race day data entry.
As a race organizer, I have too many other factors to worry about aside from timing (promotion, registration, permitting, course marking, awards, etc.) Having a full-service timer who will take the timing and results burden off my shoulders is well worth it.
Our club puts on or is a major player in about a dozen races a year we own or control, and he helper on the finish line of a few half and full marathons.
In all cases we sub out timing. We focus on running a good friendly event and have enough presure pulling another one out of the hat without doing timing too.
We are lucky in that we live in a large urban metropolis and can put our years timing contract out to bid. (We normally have dates for the next years races locked down, but the bid is a per race / person formula so we can add events or drop them as needed.) As a result the lowest bidder this year has resulted in a change of vendor. The new service is friendly and professional and our board is pleased with the vendor.
You would save money if doing multiple races a year like we do, but you would also increase the need for skilled staff and a continuity of the knowlage base.
I actually do the timing for our running club (and anything else technical). We also use an Ipico system and have been quite pleased with it. To us, spending all that cash for a new set of tags/bibs each race isn't worth it. At this point we have reused our Ipico chips for around 35 races and they have been rock solid, I think we have had less than 5 chip failures to this point.
We do approximately 20 races a year ranging in size from 200 to 2000 runners. In our case chip timing was a no brainer, the club just happened to be lucky that I was willing to shoulder the responsibility of learning/running it.
For only a single annual race I too would recommend outsourcing the timing as others have said.