Using Barcodes as Race Timing Chips
Whilst there are many conventional ways to use a barcode, a sports organisation in the UK has found a less conventional use – race timings. Parkrun in the UK are an organisation sponsored by a number of sports outlets, set up to run free weekly Saturday morning 5k runs in local parks to encourage participation in sports in the UK. Anyone can turn up, the runs require no booking onto and unlike most other organised runs they are free for people to participate in. However, in keeping these events low-key and free, the use of fancy timing gates and timing chips each week is out of the question. Instead, to allow runners to keep track of their race times and to encourage people to keep running to improve their times they have established a timing system which employs clever use of barcodes.
The way this works is that each individual wishing to attend a parkrun simply logs their details onto the parkrun website and prints off their unique barcode to take with them to the event. At the event all runners are set off together at which point the timer is started. There are rarely more than about 300 runners at a parkrun event. Those who are keen to get an exact time make sure to start at the very front of the pack! All runners keep their barcode on them whilst they run and at the finish line one of the volunteers running the event stands with a digital stopwatch logging each finishing time as runners pass the finish point. As the finish point is crossed, runners are filtered into a queue in order of finish position and handed their position number with a barcode on it. The finish position barcode and the individual’s barcode printed off their computer are then scanned one after the other to log the corresponding finish time to the correct runner’s details. Because runners finish the 5k in anything from 15 minutes up to 50 minutes, runners trickle through this process making it a very efficient way to log runners times without the need to expensive timing equipment. The parkrun team then upload the results to the parkrun website for runners to check later that day.
Once runners are assigned a barcode, they keep the same barcode for subsequent runs and can print new copies of it (many get theirs laminated in case of wet weather!). This innovative use of barcode technology is allowing parkrun to keep it free, giving many first time runners from all walks of life the opportunity to attend a running event such as this and encouraging many new runners. What a great use of these stripy little codes!
For more information on parkuns go to http://www.parkrun.org.uk/