Marathon comes up short on finish times
Officials complete a detailed review, but more than half the times are inaccurate
STORY SUMMARY »
After two months of reviewing hours of finish-line videotape and analysis of flawed race times, the Honolulu Marathon Association has "reluctantly" determined that it will not be able to provide "completely accurate" times for last December's race.
In a letter sent to finishers and information posted on its Web site, marathon President Jim Barahal said certificates have been sent to most finishers.
But the times could be "inaccurate to varying degrees" because of a glitch in a new computer chip timing system.
The finishing times of about 2,400 runners were missed by the SAI timing system. Barahal said the association has been able to identify and give times to them by meticulously reviewing hours of videotape taken at the finish line.
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STAR BULLETIN / DECEMBER 2007
Marathoners run past Ala Moana Boulevard during the start of the 2007 Honolulu Marathon.
Finishing certificates were mailed out this week to most runners who completed the 2007 Honolulu Marathon in December, but more than half the times are not accurate and there still is a small number of people whose times were not recorded and who did not get certificates, officials said.
The problem stems from a malfunction with the SAI electronic timing system. It was the first time the marathon had used the system, and heavy rain and other difficulties caused the timing system to miss about 3,000 runners at the start and about 2,400 runners at the finish, Honolulu Marathon officials said.
"We're never going to have a finisher database that's entirely accurate," said Honolulu Marathon Association President Jim Barahal.
Since December, workers conducted what officials said was the largest review ever undertaken by a race. More than 1,000 man-hours were spent reviewing seven hours of videotape taken at the finish line. The review determined that SAI's times matched the videotape in only 8 percent of the finishers.
Most of the discrepancies were accurate to within three seconds. However, a few times were off by several minutes to two hours, Barahal said.
"We hope people will understand that this was kind of a Herculean effort," Barahal said. "We did the best we could to find the missing finishers."
The 2,400 finishers whose times were not recorded by the SAI system will receive finishing certificates based on "clock time," or the time from the official start of the race until their finish, Barahal said.
The electronic timing system is supposed to record from the time a runner crosses the starting line, which can vary depending on how far back a runner is, until the finish line.
More than 13,000 runners are also missing at least one of seven "split times," which record when the runner passed points in the race such as the halfway point, Diamond Head and Hawaii Kai.
Frank Pugliese was one of the runners who did not get a finishing time and received his certificate based on clock time this week.
"I'm OK with it," he said, "but, knowing runners, I think they want an accurately measured and accurately timed course."
Pugliese said he knows runners who needed the Honolulu Marathon time to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
But, he said, he was impressed by the way marathon officials took responsibility for the error.
Barahal and other marathon officials traveled to Japan earlier this month to meet with major sponsors and explain the problem and what the association is doing about it.
"I don't think we're going to be harmed too badly (by the timing problems)," Barahal said. "We've admitted major mistakes were made and didn't duck it, and we tried the best we can to remedy it."
Barahal said the marathon will use its old vendor -- ChampionChip Timing -- this year.
He said the marathon association has spent $50,000 to $70,000, not including labor costs, to buy computers and create new software to conduct the review.
Barahal said the marathon association and its lawyers are also talking with SAI to see if they can reach some kind of settlement for the company to cover the additional costs incurred by the marathon.
Phone calls to SAI company officials on the mainland were not returned last night.
RACE ASSOCIATION IDENTIFIES FLAWS
The Honolulu Marathon Association has counted 23,299 finishers in the December 2007 race.
Of those, 45 percent, or 10,450 finishers, had an accurate finish clock time of within one second. But 55 percent, or 12,849 runners, had an inaccurate finish time of greater than two seconds.
An unknown but small number of people might not have gotten their finishing certificate because their start times were not recorded and they were not able to be identified in a frame-by-frame review of the finish-line video.
People who did not get their finishing certificate or whose times are significantly off should e-mail the Honolulu Marathon Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.