| ARRS PRESS RELEASE
16 October 2007
NET TIMES ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GUN TIMES
Net times are those times taken between the time the runner crosses the timing mat at the start of the race and when that runner crosses the timing mat at the finish. The timing device records the chip ID and the time when the chip worn by the runner crosses a timing mat.
There seems to be confusion between such net times and the "gun" times taken by timekeepers at the finish line using hand-held timing devices started when the starting gun is fired. Most chip timing systems provide BOTH gun and net times.
The problem with net times is that they do not represent head-to-head competition.
For example, a very good runner arrives a bit late at the start, e.g., in the toilet and so he starts three minutes after the gun goes off. He runs three seconds faster than any one else, according to net times but the runners who cross the finish line first, never even see him or know that he is in the race. Suppose that the first runner to cross the finish is well ahead of the second and so he runs in easily to win. Then, some runner who he didn't even see, and could certainly have beaten in head-to-head competition, is declared the winner, based on net times.
This is the crux of the problem. A race involves head-to-head competition and the only way you get that is for the clock to start running at the same instant for EVERYONE in the race. Ranking by net times reduces the race to a series of individual time trials. A race is NOT about time but about besting other runners.
For this reason, the Association of Road Racing Statisticians [ARRS] will continue to rely on gun times for both global rankings and records and to disregard net times.
Ken Young (kcy provider frontiernet.net) and Andy Milroy (andymilroy provider blueyonder.co.uk)
Nawoord Martien Baars. In een email aan Andy Milroy vroeg ik of er een actuele aanleiding voor dit persbericht was. Andy mailde prompt onderstaand antwoord waaruit blijkt dat de World Cup 100 km in Korea in oktober 2006 de twijfelachtige eer had dat tal van statistici verkeerde eindtijden zijn gaan gebruiken.
The issue has been growing as an increasing problem in the media and among statisticians, and ARRS have been planning to make its position clear for some time. There has been pressure by members to do so now.
It is a major problem in tracking elite runners - for recreational runners, net times are useful and in demand, but for the elite runners it often means that different times are released, different order of finishers etc are reported.
This happened in the 2006 World 100km. Initially guntimes/stop watch times were reported on the race website. So everybody circulated those. Then fuller results were published on the website - and these were different substantially from the original results - even changing placing in the race. Subsequently I learned that these were net times and were unofficial, and that the first set of times were the correct, official ones. Several Ultra international statisticians, including myself, had to re-do our annual rankings, because we had used what we thought were corrected times.
Net times because they are often less precise that gun times, can result in confusion for both runners and for the media.