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Technology played a large part in The News and Sentinel races

August 21, 2013 - Art Smith

Runners and walkers in The News and Sentinel races this past week carried a tiny antenna with them while racing through the streets of Parkersburg.

Timing on a race is one of the most important aspects of staging a race. We use professional timers to help us accurately record the times of each of the nearly 2,000 people who took part in either The News and Sentinel Half Marathon or Two Mile Race.

RS Racing system from Canton, Ohio, uses RFID technology to track runners. The RFID antenna is hidden behind a plastic strip that is attached to the number each person wears while running. It’s the same technology used by stores to keep people from stealing clothing. We use it to track movement.

The tag is read several times during the race.

At the starting line the tag is used to start an individual’s time. The time starts when a racer crosses a mat which in our case reaches most of the way across Juliana Street. The mat is filled with a row of receivers that register when a tag passes overhead. The tag is read again when one cross a point about midway through the course. This gives you an official split time, and also lets us know that the wearer at least made it to that point in the racecourse.

The tag is read a third time about a block from the finish line. When a racer crossed this mat it flashed their name on a computer screen and allows announcer Randy Kensolving to announce that after running either two miles or 13.1 miles you are now approaching the finish line and your friends and family might want to look up and cheer for you.

Finally several sensors at the finish line read the chip. Your finish time is recorded and is used to construct the results. The results are compiled as the race is being run and are available shortly afterward.

Adjustments sometime need made, the antennas don’t work if they get badly bent. Video timed to the finishing time provides a backup. People who accidentally enter the race in the wrong categories also can also throw things off. We have spent the days since the race making sure things are accurate. We will begin awarding prize money as soon as we declare the results final, which likely will be in the next few days.

Race technology continues to improve, and I think the number of issues this year were very small.

The races went extremely smooth this year, If you competed in the races and want to see how you finished you can check results here. Trophies are available for pick-up at The News and Sentinel offices at 519 Juliana Street until the end of August. 


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