As a business owner and innovator, I'm constantly looking for ways to improve our services and provide a better experience for our customers. As an event management company, our primary customer of course are the non-profits and other organizations that host events. As an event coordinator, our customers are also those of you who participate in our events. Technology plays a big role in what we are able to do.
I've been in this business for over 15 years now and have seen a lot of changes. I've talked to others who have been in much longer and it is always interesting to me to see how far we have come. From the runner's perspective, we are there to host a quality event and produce times so that we can deliver awards. From the event director's perspective, the same can be said but there are many more aspects both before and after the event that are also important. The primary issue for the event director is the management of their data. This used to be a lot of work for race directors but with modern tools such as spreadsheets, this has become much easier. Athlete Guild has taken that a step further and built tools on our website to enhance the data management aspect. We never have to deal with spreadsheets except for very special purposes. All of our data is always maintained securely online so all event staff is able to view and manage the race without having to copy things around. It's been a huge factor for us in ensuring that preparations go smoothly. This is just one example of how the use of technology plays a role in modern events.
From the participants perspective, technology is part of the registration process and then the day of event with timing. Registration tools haven't changed much over the years except for added features to support the many different kinds of events. Social media has also changed it a little in allowing us to feed streams directly from registration. It doens't affect registration, but does help with the marketing. The biggest change though is in the timing and results area. Many of you may remember running races where popsicle sticks or index cards were used to score the race. I've actually talked to some really small races that still do it that way. For most races though, RFID (radio frequency ID) timing is the norm. The technology in this area has improved dramatically over the years.
The original RFID chips for races were tags that were attached to the shoe. It worked well and was reliable but also has the disadvantage of being expensive. The shoe tags themselves are reusable but expensive so they need to be collected. This means that runners have to put up with being stopped at the finish line to collect their chips. It also means that most races won't hand them out until race morning because they don't want to lose the chip.
Newer technologies now make use of disposable chips. One company that a lot have used is a shoe tag but it's a throwaway. The runner has to tear the tag off of a provided sheet or bib and then attach to their shoe. It works but is easily destroyed or attached incorrectly. The latest technology on the market are chips that actually attach to the bib. There are a lot of advantages to this technology. The chips along with the bib can be distributed prior to the event and there is nothing for the runner to do. No extra distribution, no extra attachment, and especially no collection after the event. It is so easy that I fail to understand why any race director would burden their participants with the older technologies or why runners would put up with the older systems.
Technology by itself doesn't solve all of the problems of races, but it does make things much easier. The goal of course is to provide for a much better experience to the participants. We're in the business of providing event experiences and our goal is to make it as fun and rewarding as possible. Technology allows us to better make that happen.
See you at the race!