When your timing chip fails during a road race

Posted at 12:00 PM, Apr 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-29 18:44:47-04

Most recreational runners don’t run races for any kind of recognition.  

We run because we like the physical and mental challenge. And, OK, the medals that you get for finishing half-marathons and marathons (and sometimes shorter races) are pretty cool, too.

But I’ll be honest, it’s a bummer to run a half and tie your previous personal best time, and then not show up in the race results!

Last weekend, I ran the Columbia Half Marathon, and two of my friends ran the 5K. I was looking for a half to do in the spring in the area and this fit the bill. I signed up on a whim and didn’t check out the course ahead of time, figuring I could wing it. After all, I’d run a full marathon just a few weeks before!

Well, the course was hilly. Very, very hilly. 13.1 miles of constant up and down hilly. Most of the hills were not very big, but it did seem like there was another incline every half mile. It was rough! I also started out running with the 7:30 pace group, which was ambitious, to say the least.

Still, I finished in a respectable one hour, 42 minutes and some seconds, which is a sub-8 minute pace and about as fast as I ran the Run for the Lighthouse Half Marathon in Annapolis last September, my previous PR half. Considering all the hills, I had no complaints about that time at all. My friends who ran the 5K waited for me at the finish and cheered me as I crossed.

The race officials issued timing chips to runners, which I attached to my shoe. Afterwards, volunteers were printing out results for the runners and mine took twice as long as everyone else’s, it seemed. But the volunteer confirmed my 1:42 time, and said I finished sixth in my age group out of around 60 runners.

But I’m not listed in the Columbia Half Marathon’s official results. I suspect my chip malfunctioned, which happens. It happened to my sister during the 2015 Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in D.C., when our mother, who was tracking both of us, got a text alert after mile 10 saying “the runner could not be located.” It freaked her out, and my sister almost didn’t get credit for running the race. (She was added to the results after race organizers went through all the runners’ pictures. But there was no one taking pictures along Columbia’s course).

Again, it’s not like I was trying to win the race and I had money riding on this, but I wish there was an official record of my time! One major consolation: The enormous finisher’s medal I received. Nicely done, Columbia. That is some serious bling.