New chip timing system to track runners in Pikes Peak Marathon

Runners in the 2008 Pikes Peak Marathon encountered blizzard conditions. (Photo courtesy of Pikes Peak Marathon Inc.)

It would be someone’s worst nightmare to be running a marathon up Pikes Peak and get caught in a blizzard.

It has happened.

Not this year, say the organizers of Pikes Peak Marathon and the Pikes Peak Road Runners Club. They have laid out the cash, $40,000, for a chip timing system that will give runners a more exact time in their race and track them as they run through the treacherous route in the mountains.

“With this new system I will be able to determine how many runners are at various points of the course,” said Ron Ilgen, president of Pikes Peak Marathon Inc. “This will provide critical information during extreme weather conditions such as the blizzard that occurred during the 2008 Pikes Peak Ascent.”

The new chip timing system will be rolled out and tested in the June 10 Garden of the Gods 10-mile run. And then, it will be used for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon in August, as 1,800 runners climb nearly 8,000 feet to summit Pikes Peak.

The Road Runners had wanted a new timing system for years, said Mike Shafai, Road Runners president. But the cost of the system was out of their reach.

So the club created a partnership with the Pikes Peak Marathon and bought the Ultra System, which is made by an Australian company. The system’s chips stick to the back of the race bibs and can be purchased from a number of vendors for about 35 cents each.

“This allows us to keep the cost low for the runners,” said John Garner, Road Runner club member who helped research the various timing systems.

With chip timing, runners will receive their exact time from the starting line to the finish, even those who start further from the race starting line. The races had been using “gun time” which means the seconds, even minutes, it takes to get to the starting line were tacked onto the runners’ finish time.

Safety was the No. 1 reason for buying the new system, Ilgen said.

“It’s important for us, especially in bad weather, to know where our runners are on the mountain,” Ilgen said.