RaceDay Primer for Race Directors

Today, technology advancements now means any sized race can offer many of the same race day features that even the largest races, like the NYC Marathon, offers. All races can now offer real time tracking, split alerts based on timing equipment on the course, officially scored finish times within seconds of participants’ finishing, txt notifications, online photos, and more. In addition, newer technology innovations like dynamic bib assignment bring a host of advantages such as reduced cost, greater efficiencies, and more revenue by allowing registration to remain open even after the gun goes off. But much of this is kind of a mystery to race directors, and this blog aims to help race directors understand all that is available to them so that they can deliver the quality of a big race experience regardless of the event size and budget.


Timers are the backbone of the race day experience and are the key technology provider for event organizers. They have invested a lot of capital into timing equipment and other race related technology. Timers also typically have years of experience with the software and systems that produce results and know all of the situations (good and bad) that can happen on race day.

RunSignup’s RaceDay Suite provides a full set of Race Day timer technology (covered more below). We have many timers who take full advantage of everything from RaceDay Registration to RaceDay Checkin and RaceDay Scoring and Results. This gives them seamless integration and real-time synchronized data between each product offering. However, timers can choose to use components of the suite and integrate their own tools using our Open API to complete the same full set of features based on their scoring software and tools.

We do a survey of timers each year, and one of the questions we ask is what timers provide beyond scoring a race (timing and results):

Clearly, timers are providing a wide range of services for races. Let’s explore some of the technology and best practices available for Race Day.

Chip and Hand Timing

Most timers offer chip timing to provide scored results for participant finishers. This is where there is typically a chip on the back of the bib that identifies each runner. As participants cross timing equipment, these chips transmit their ID to timing controllers. This is typically at the start and finish and any additional split points (or verification points) the timer sets up on the course. Timers spend a lot of money to buy this highly accurate equipment in order to provide official scored results. For larger races, having extra split timing points provides real-time precise updates on a runner’s progress to timers, race organizers, and spectators who are tracking them. This type of system requires cell connections in order to transmit the data.

There is a large variety of chip timing equipment that timers can use and all of these systems can work with RunSignup technology. Many timers use a mix of equipment they have invested in over the years:

Data from Race Trends

Hand timing is a more simplified alternative to chip timing and serves two main purposes; simplified timing and backup to chip timing. This approach is used to provide finish times for smaller races or no frills, remote events where it does not make sense to have expensive timing equipment. Hand timing that syncs to a results system is also an inexpensive solution for remote split points updates. This is ideal for smaller races and events like Ultras and Trail races where race staff is staged at check points as a safety measure. Timers also frequently use hand timing as a backup tool to confirm chip timing for the top finishers. This is especially key for official meet results where things like age group records might be broken and hand timing is required. RunSignup offers its free Mobile Timing App to provide an easy-to-use solution for simplified timing alternative and backup to their chip timing and makes results posting instantaneous and easy.

Scoring Software

This is the other central tool a timer uses. Scoring software takes “raw reads” of times and chip ID when the participant’s chip crosses timing equipment on the course and matches the ID to the participant/group in the scoring software. The scoring software then produces results like finish time and age group placing. There are many complications and scenarios involved with scoring. The more advanced scoring software, like our own RaceDay Scoring, adeptly addresses these with situations with features like auto-switching a participant from the marathon to the half marathon if they pass a certain half marathon split point. In addition, RaceDay Scoring is designed to score multiple types of events that involve many nuanced features, including Cross Country Meets, Lap Races, Triathlons, etc.

The part race directors should take note of is the timer’s scoring software needs to communicate with three primary systems:

Registration – The scoring software needs to be able to download all of the participant information from the registration system. So, when using RunSignup’s registration, your timer will download your registration data into their scoring software. If your timer is using RaceDay Scoring or our other scoring software, The Race Director, this integration is seamless.

For those that use an alternative scoring software, RunSignup has an Open API that all of the various scoring software works with in the same way as RaceDay Scoring. However, some of scoring software in the industry are older and do not yet support more modern features like nonbinary gender and teams very well. In these cases, we encourage race directors to have the timer ask their vendor to add support (we will gladly help), or ask the timer to use a more modern scoring system like RaceDay Scoring for your race. We are happy to help train them, and it is one of the easiest to learn scoring solutions available today.

The chart below is from our annual Trends Report and shows some of the systems that work with RunSignup’s registration. Not all are included in this list. For example, some of the very large timers like Sportstats and Mtec have their own scoring and results systems that are integrated with our API. Some high-end timers also use RTRT, which provides an end-to-end solution much like RaceDay Scoring that includes check-in, tracking, and results. We also have recently done an integration that allows registration participant information to be synced with RaceResult scoring software.

Check-In – Check-In is where bibs (and chips) get assigned to participants and check-in technology helps to substantially streamline the packet pickup process. This technology needs to sync with the registration data and scoring software. Most timers use the RunSignup CheckIn App even if they have their own scoring software because it is so advanced, yet easy to use. Plus, it seamlessly syncs with the registration data. There are other check-in apps available from companies like RTRT and Mika Timing.

Results – Of course, all this equipment and scoring means nothing unless results are available. Most races on RunSignup use RunSignup Results, and most scoring software will post results there as well. Races like this solution since their website contains everything for their participants and results data will automatically post to the race site. Some scoring packages like Race Result have their own result system that can be linked to from race websites.

If your race is using RunSignup registration and your timer is using RaceDay Scoring or The Race Director, you can be confident in the real-time synchronization between registration, scoring, and check-in data changes.

Leave Registration Open Even After the Start of the Race

There are always a few last minute people who show up for race day – why not let them in? They generate revenue for your race and it makes the person happy. And it is now easy for timers to sync the new participants automatically and start their time when they cross the start line mat. If their scoring software integrates with RunSignup Registration data (which is updated dynamically from the RaceDay CheckIn App), then they can get the latest updates in near real-time.

Check-In and Dynamic Bib Assignment

Most races have transitioned to the modern way of doing dynamic bib assignment during check-in (even the largest of events). This means that bibs are assigned when people check-in. Dynamic bib assignments reduce waste and cost of having too many bibs for the 5-10% of people who do not show up for races. The RaceDay CheckIn App is so easy to use that timers and races are able to train volunteers in minutes. Plus, your volunteers can process a check-in within 6 seconds when using QR codes and dynamic bib assignments.

TXT Alerts

We encourage races using RunSignup to enable TXT Alerts for their races. RunSignup Results does this automatically and allows an unlimited number of txt alerts for participants (who can get a txt alert seconds after they cross the finish line) and spectators tracking participants. TXT alerts also work for split notifications. So, if your race can afford timing mats on the course, people tracking a participant can get those notifications as well. This is great for events like marathons, ultras, and triathlons where remote family members can be alerted on the progress of participants.

Live Results

People expect immediate results and scoring software can post results incrementally. No more waiting for everyone to finish and paper results getting posted on a wall:

Scott Coffee Run 2012

Live results also include features like:

  • Leaderboards – hooking up large monitors to computers is very simple and low cost and is a modern equivalent to the above picture.
  • Split Updates – for races with timing mats on the course for split points.
  • Pace – take the calculation complexity out of your results.
  • Age Grading – offers comparison performances with competitive age grading.

Participant Tracking

Large events, like Ironman and major marathons, have multiple timing mats on the course providing periodic updates (splits alerts) as a form of participant tracking. Not every race can afford this cost, but with GPS technology, your race can provide real-time continuous participant tracking. Our RaceJoy mobile app is available via our Certified Timing Partners as an extra service. Participants that run or cycle with their phones can be tracked live while they complete the course. RaceJoy provides a map view of the participant’s location and progress updates at every mile that include pace, location, and estimated finish times. Spectators can send encouragement with audio cheers within the app. RaceJoy also offers off-course alerts to the participants even in remote areas where there is no cell service like trail races.

In addition, Race Directors can track all participants using a monitoring dashboard that includes a map view and leaderboard. This also provides reporting on any off-course alerts or SOS emergency messages received from participants using RaceJoy. Organizers can send audio messages to individuals or all participants on the course (helpful in concerning weather conditions). Many events will have the lead and sag vehicles carry a phone to monitor the head and tail of the race.

RTRT is the provider of many of the large race tracking like Ironman. Traxc also provides a capability like RTRT. They work off of the timing equipment streaming data to their system. RunSignup will offer this type of streaming technology via RaceJoy later in 2024 so that races and timers can offer the advantages of both technologies together: GPS and chip data. This will expand the usage of RaceJoy to include those that don’t carry their phone during the race.

You can find a RaceJoy Certified Timer here.


For many participants, your race is a big deal and they want to remember it. Of course, they might get friends to snap pictures of them, but races should be taking photos and sharing them coupled with results. Again, there are multiple suppliers of this type of approach like FinisherPix and RunnerTag. RunSignup offers a free photo platform that does auto-tagging based on bib number and will show photos of runners based on the tag and finish time in their personal results page. Plus, photos are searchable in the overall photo albums. You can hire professional photographers to take pictures or see if your timer can include photo taking in their services. Or you can just have a couple of volunteers take pictures with their iPhones like this no frills turkey did.


Having a single custom website (Scott Coffee Run example) with your own domain with all of your content and all of your race information in one place makes the life of a race director and your participants easier and better. This includes easy signup, donation option, results, photos, and sponsors. RunSignup offers all of this in an integrated, easy platform for free to showcase your race day experience. If you are a nonprofit, you can also integrate in your fundraising pages.


RunSignup has been on a mission to make sure that any size race can provide a high quality race day experience. We have partnered with the best timers in the United States, and provided both the base technology that covers all aspects of race day, but also allows for a vibrant ecosystem of other technology providers to plug in and help races. As race directors, the power is in your hands to provide these great experiences to your participants. Consult with your timer to see how you can take advantage of these tools and more to deliver an exceptional race day experience.

Race Directors can search for timers here. You can filter on RaceDay Scoring Certified timers, who will know the capabilities of our software to deliver all of the services described above. Though, of course, there are expert timers using other high quality technologies.

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