Have you ever wondered about how your paper barcode, a little plastic finish token, a stopwatch and a scanner conspire to produce your parkrun result?
You’re not alone! It’s a question that comes up quite frequently, often heard at the end of the finish funnel. Those who attend post-parkrun coffee often get a behind-the-scenes peek at the results processing magic and Run Directors are more than happy to show curious minds how it all works. Haven’t had that opportunity yet? Well, we’re going to explain it for you!
If you’ve been to a parkrun and completed the course, you’ve been through a finish funnel. That’s what we call the area just beyond the finish line, often marked by colorful cones, flags or other barriers that essentially direct finishers along a certain path. Volunteers in high-vis vests also line the finish funnel, as they are stationed at particular points to make sure each participant completes the following sequence.
After I got my finish token I had to catch my breath and another person who finished after me got scanned before I did. Will that mess up the results? Nope! It doesn’t matter what order finishers are scanned as long as the finish tokens were distributed in sequential order of crossing the finish line.
I’m not registered and/or I don’t care about recording my result, do I still need to collect a finish token and get scanned? If you don’t have a barcode then there is no need to get your token scanned, but we still need that finish token! The best option is to still take your token and return it to a volunteer who is scanning.
I didn’t get my barcode scanned until about a minute after I crossed the finish line. Will my time be off by a minute? Nope! Times are logged by the stopwatch (or app) at the finish line. The time your barcode is scanned is irrelevant.
After going through the finish funnel, it’s time to celebrate your finish, chat with other parkrunners, cheer on the next finishers and otherwise enjoy the morning. Your work is done!
After the tail walker crosses the finish line and goes through the sequence (yes, they completed the course and get credit for volunteering AND participating,) the timers stop the stopwatches (or app,) and save the results to the device with another click of a button or tap on the screen. Volunteers using stopwatches hand them over to the Run Director and volunteers using the app email the results file to the local parkrun email account. Similarly, the volunteer who scanned barcodes will either hand the device to the Run Director or save and send the results from the app on their phone via email.
Next comes the fun part. Once the Run Director has their coffee or tea and has nestled into a chair at the post-parkrun meeting spot, it’s time to process results.
The stopwatch and scanner are plugged into the parkrun laptop one at a time, and two software programs electronically grab the data files from each and save them to the computer.
The file from the stopwatch contains all of the times of the finishers. The other file from the scanner contains the data that matches each finisher’s personal barcode (or parkrun ID number) to their finish place (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.). Each file is saved to the computer. For those events using smartphone results, these files are simply downloaded onto the computer from the emails sent to the local parkrun email address by the volunteers.
Event Directors and Run Directors have access to the parkrun results processing website, which prompts users through the next few steps. The event name and date are selected and confirmed, then the site asks the user to upload the stopwatch and scanner files you just saved to the computer. Once those are uploaded (using the same process as you would if attaching a file to an email,) the RD clicks the “next” button and then the magic happens!
The parkrun results processing website does its thing and the two files are matched up, producing a set of results that lists each participant’s name, finish position, time and all of the other great data you see on a results page. At this point, RDs are able to make edits to correct mistakes (deleting a result from an extra click on a stopwatch, entering the name of a participant whose personal barcode wouldn’t scan for whatever reason, swapping the finish positions of a couple who had each other’s barcodes instead of their own, etc.) Most mistakes can be easily and quickly fixed at this point, so long as the other volunteers made the RD aware of possible errors during the event as they occurred. Those of you who are hesitant to volunteer for fear of making a mistake take note- mistakes happen often and most can be fixed!
Once the RD is satisfied that the results appear accurate, they are submitted with another click of a button and minutes later participants receive their personal results emails and the full set of results are posted to the event’s website. If the RD notices or is alerted to an error after submission, they can go back into the results processing website to make edits, which will be reflected soon thereafter on the event’s website.
Voila! There you have it, the magic of parkrun results processing. The next time you go out to post-parkrun coffee, ask the RD if you can watch over their shoulder and you can experience it firsthand.
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