Organized foot races with people walking, jogging or running over a specified distance, are a growing segment of event management. There are, of course, the name-brand marathons (think Boston, Munich, Beijing) which are destination events that attract world-class athletes and thousands of spectators each year.
But there’s another category of race, operating on a smaller, more local level, that is gaining ground. Sponsored by charities, athletic clubs or schools, these races attract people who race as a hobby, not a profession. On any given weekend, in any given city, there is likely to be some sort of foot race taking place. In the U.S., for example, the data-gathering site Statista reports that more than 30,000 races were held in 2016, with the majority falling into this category of events. On any given weekend, in any given city, there is likely to be some sort of foot race taking place.
Building Better Event Brands
The long-term success of foot races, be they big or small, relies heavily on athlete participation and what can be thought of as customer loyalty. Athletes who have a positive experience with the event, before, during and after the race itself, are more likely to come back next time.
To help reinforce their brands, attract athletes and maintain participation, event managers rely on technology to enhance the athlete experience. One technology that plays an important role is radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which generate precise time-stamps for each athlete to gauge performance. Every racer wears an RFID transponder that has a unique ID and communicates with an RFID reader positioned at the start and finish.
Passive transponder tags use energy provided by the RFID reader, so they don’t need a battery to operate. That means passive tags are relatively inexpensive, lightweight, flexible and don’t need to be returned to the event sponsor at the end of the race. Passive tags can even be built into the race bib so athletes don’t have to wear a special wristband or attach a special tag to their shoelace.
Flexibility, size and cost have made passive tags a popular choice for distance events, but the race-day operating environment can make data transmissions less reliable and less accurate. If there are too many athletes passing by a reader, for example, then tags may fail to be read accurately or transmit correctly. The human body itself can interfere with antenna operation and cause detuning, which can lower accuracy, too.
Building a Better Timing Solution
The Germany company race|result, a technology leader in sports time keeping and race-managing solutions, wanted to create a completely new passive transponder specifically designed for foot races. They aimed to create a lighter, more durable and more accurate solution.
It took 15 months to complete their effort but the designers at race|results succeeded in creating a reader and tag combination that takes race timing to a new level. A completely new design, based on high-performance FX9600 RFID readers from Zebra and the latest UCODE 8 RFID technology from NXP, delivers greater precision and fewer misreads. Also, because the new race tags are both thinner and lighter, they deliver significant savings on shipping and logistics, making for a greener, more environmentally friendly solution.
Using the new, race-optimized solution from race|result, event managers can offer precise, accurate timing for any size race while improving their operating processes and reducing their carbon footprints. At the same time, athletes can be certain that their times will be recorded accurately. From a business standpoint, a well-executed race with happier athletes yields a better experience, greater brand loyalty and higher prospects for long-term event success.