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Always wear your race bib on the front (here's why)

Many people wonder why race-day instructions always tell you to wear your race bib on the front. It can be a hassle if you’re wearing an outer layer you might want to take off (but not throw away). Turns out there’s a good reason for this, and it’s not just so race officials will know you paid for your entry.

Marathoner and triathlete Skip Schott of Holland, Michigan found this out the hard way. Schott ran the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan in May 2018 as a Boston qualifier. However, he knew there was a problem when he saw his result.、

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Schott’s gun time and net time were listed as identical: 3:25:10.5. The only people whose gun time and net time might realistically be the same are elites who start at the very front, which Schott is not (and did not). He knew it had taken him at least several seconds to reach the start line after the gun went off. When he raised it with race officials, however, they were suspicious, since there was no time recorded at either the first timing mat or the mat at mile 16, even though Schott’s GPS and Strava data prove he ran the entire course. They said his result must stand.

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▲RFID chip number bibs and RFID tags

It wasn’t obvious how it happened until Derek Murphy of Marathon Investigation (who took it upon himself to look closely at the evidence) saw one of Schott’s race photos, and noticed he was wearing a waistband-style bib belt, but with no bib visible. His bib was at the back.

Murphy says that timing mats do not always pick up bibs with embedded chips if they’re not worn on the front. Murphy did some calculations and figured Schott’s chip time should be 3:24:40, five minutes and 40 seconds below his 3:30 qualifying time. Considering the cutoff was 3:23 last year, he should have been safe with that chip time. And indeed he would have been, since this year’s cutoff was 4:52.

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The B.A.A. accepts chip times for Boston qualification. But when it came time to register for Boston last month, Schott had no choice but to register with the only time he’d been given. But he needed a chip time of 3:25:08, not 3:25:10.5. Schott’s official time was too slow by two and a half seconds. His registration was denied.

(It’s interesting to note the huge difference between the number of people who exceeded their qualifying standard by as little as 4:52–220 individuals–and the number who exceeded the standard by five minutes, which was 8,500.)

Murphy has taken on Schott’s case and asked both the qualifying race and the B.A.A. to reconsider. In light of Murphy’s investigation and evidence that Schott ran a clean race but missed his Boston entry only because of the bib issue, the Bayshore Marathon agreed to adjust his chip time. So far, no word from the B.A.A.

“The lesson I did learn was to watch your bib placement,” Schott told us. “I hope this helps other runners.”

We will update the story if anything changes. In the meantime, take our advice and always wear your race bib at the front, and on your outermost layer.

Updated on October 12th, 2018: Since the story broke, Murphy pieced together Schott’s race in an effort to identify his actual marathon time. Murphy and Trevor Step of RF Timing came to the same conclusion that Schott’s GPS data was accurate. Schott’s actual start time was 30 seconds after the gun, meaning that he crossed the line in 3:24:40, not 3:25:10 as was suggested by his initial results. His Boston application was rejected based on his original time.

An adjusted net time was submitted to the B.A.A for review, and was officially accepted.

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