Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between net time and chip time and gun time and clock time?

First of all, net time and chip time are two terms for the same thing, as are gun time and clock time. Your gun/clock time is the time on the official race clock from the moment the race started (when the gun went off) to when you crossed over the finish line. Your net/chip time is the time from when you personally cross the starting line to when you cross the finish. Needless to say, you can only have a net/chip time when the race you are running has start "mats" to record your starting time. Because adding timing systems at the start can increase costs, not all races choose to do this.  For the purpose of world records, Olympic qualifications and many major competitions, only gun times are considered valid. But U.S. National Age Records may now be set with net times when proper timing procedures are followed.  And most races do use net times to determine age group placings, as well as many other awards from teams to clydesdales. In almost all cases, however, only gun time is used to determine the overall winner or top placers of a race. Most agree that we want overall top positions to be determined in head to head competition. .

Why are my net time and my gun time the same when I didn't cross the starting line with the leaders?

There's a very simple reason for this - your chip wasn't recorded when you crossed the starting line. Why it wasn't recorded is more complicated. For an answer to that, read the next question...

I didn't get a time. Was my chip defective?

While chip timing has dramatically improved the speed and accuracy of race timing it is not 100% foolproof. Like any technology there are times when it doesn't work perfectly. Fortunately the error rate is far less than 1%. But if you were one of the unlucky ones to have this happen to you, what caused it? Most of the time it is due to simple runner error, so there are things you can do to make it far less likely that your time will be missed:

  • Be sure to wear your chip on the front of your torso. If you wear it on your back, or your side, or your leg, you make it more difficult for the system to read it.
  • Do not wear it sideways! The tags on the back of your bib number must be oriented vertically in order to work.
  • Don't cover your bib number up with anything, especially straps or metal or containers of water. Even sweatshirts or coats, especially if they are wet, can interfere with reception.
  • Don't hold your arm in front of your bib number as you cross the line. Runners often do this to stop their watches without realizing that they may be blocking their chip from being read.
  • Don't bend, fold, spindle or mutilate your bib number. If the tag strip on the back of the number is physically damaged, it won't work.

I can't find my time!

If the problem doesn't lie with your timing chip (see the question above) there are other reasons why you might not be able to find your time:

  • You're looking at the wrong year's results. Easy to do if you just google the race results. Google probably hasn't indexed this year's results yet.
  • You're looking for the wrong time. Are the results sorted by net time or gun time? If your net and gun time are considerably different you may be on a different page of the results than what you think.
  • The system missed your start time but got your finish time. If this happens your net time and gun time will come out the same.
  • Your name is badly mis-spelled and unrecognizable. If you hand-wrote your race application and your penmanship is terrible, the human who had to decipher it and enter it in the computer might have had to guess at the spelling.
  • You wore the wrong number. Perhaps there was a registration error and you were given the wrong number. Or maybe you wore a family member's number. Ask your timer what number you were supposed to have.
  • Your time is wrong. If the system didn't read your time when you crossed the finish line, but you went back near the line ten minutes later, it might give you a time ten minutes too slow.
  • You have the wrong tag on the back of your number. If you still have your bib number, check the tag on the back of it. Make sure that the number on the tag matches your bib number. If not, let us know.

My personal GPS unit says that your race course is long. Was the course measured incorrectly?

Not necessarily. If the course was certified according to USATF standards (see the question below) and the start and finish were placed in the correct locations, then you can be sure that the distance is correct. If the course isn't certified, of course, then it may very well be the wrong length. But, you ask, the course was certified and my GPS still says I ran two tenths of a mile too long. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, to certify a course the measurer must carefully ride the "tangents," or the shortest distance between two points, weaving back and forth from one side of the road to the other to follow the straightest line possible. Unless you also run the course that way you're going to run further. The second reason is that tall buildings and tree cover can interfere with satellite signals, throwing off the accuracy of your GPS. For a great explanation of all this, read what Boston Marathon Race Director Dave MacGillivray has to say here. If you want even more detail, here is an excellent article describing the whole issue.

Can you explain age grading and age graded times?

Age grading is a way to compare the performance of runners of all ages and both genders with one another on a level playing field. When your time is “age-graded” it is calculated as a percentage of the world best time for your age and gender at that distance. This allows races to give awards to the runners with the best performance for their age. It is also frequently used in team scoring so that awards can be given to the teams whose runners turned in the best performances, regardless of age or gender.
A great explanation with examples can be found here:

Follow the link below to calculate your own age-graded time.

I have an asterisk or pound sign after my time in the results that stands for "Under USATF Age Group Guideline." What does that mean?

The USATF creates guidelines for notable performances for males and females at all age group levels. They have created time tables for all the standard distances and break down the times by age or age group, male and female. Our race timing software checks that table and if someone is under that guideline time it throws in an asterisk or a pound sign. An "*" will be placed next to each time that is faster than the guideline for that age and a "#" will be placed next to each time that is faster than the OPEN guideline. So, for example, if a 66-year-old man ran a 21:05 5k, he'd get an asterisk after his time as that is faster than the 21:20 guideline for age 65-69 men. "Open" guideline for a 5k is 14:20, so a male would have to beat that time to get a pound sign after their time.

What makes a race course "certified?"

In the sport of road racing the USA Track & Field Association has developed standards for certifying the distance of race courses for accuracy. Trained certifiers carefully measure the course with a bicycle using a specifically calibrated counter and draw up precise maps marking the start, finish and other important locations on the race course. If you are running on a race course that is not USATF Certified it is unlikely that you are running the correct distance. This is important if you keep track of your own personal record performances. A PR run on a non-certified course can't be considered valid. When it comes to world and national records a certified course is a must. No time will be considered for any kind of official record or ranking unless the course is certified. It is also necessary for the timers to have timed the race using the proper procedures according to USATF standards. Granite State Race Services is the only timing company in New England currently using these standards. If you have taken the time to get your race course certified, you should also make sure that your timing company is using the proper methods. If you are a race director looking to have your race course certified, ask us for advice or contact your state certifier.