Timing Runners at the Hearty Hustle is Down to a Science


By Sue Moore

Runners are always checking their times via wrist watch, Fitbit, or any other device they may be carrying during a race. The one thing they insist upon at the end of the race is immediately knowing their official time and place, be it the Hearty Hustle in Vicksburg, the 4th of July in Schoolcraft, or the Kalamazoo Klassic.

On hand at each of these races, and at least 70 or more in the area, are time keepers Brian and Lynn McDaniel of Mac’s Sports Timing. They have perfected the art of keeping each runner’s time down to the nth degree, said Tonya Nash, Community Education Director and organizer of the 27th Vicksburg Hearty Hustle.

“It’s crazy the way we used to keep times when I started back in the 1990s,” she said. “It was pretty primitive, scoring the race with stop watches and not much more.”

Race officials had a bar code scanner and the runners wore a bar code on their tags, she said. At the finish line, officials tore off the tags at the finish line, put them on a spindle and ran them to a classroom near the finish line at Sunset Lake Elementary.

Sue Opalewski would enter the information onto a computer floppy disk, using race management software which was purported to be the latest technology at the time.

“Things changed when we moved to utilizing the Vicksburg Stadium for the race and the Great Lakes ChampionChip Timing with Bill Fries about ten years ago,” Nash said.

Tonya Nash, Vicksburg Community Education director and long-time Hearty Hustle race coordinator, checks the files of previous races for historic anecdotes.
Tonya Nash, Vicksburg Community Education director and long-time Hearty Hustle race coordinator, checks the files of previous races for historic anecdotes.

McDaniels’ Mac’s Sports Timing Company partnered with Fries and eventually transitioned to managing the Hearty Hustle, as Fries retired from the business.

For the race committee, it was an easy decision to work with a timing company because it made the race much more efficient and reduced stress levels for all volunteers.

The system used by Mac’s Sports Timing is ChronoTrack , a leader in the timing technology. It takes about four to five hours to prepare the bibs and timing tags for a race this size, plus time to get everything loaded up in their trailer and ready to roll, say Brian and Lynn.

On race day, they arrive hours before the start time to set up timing mats and assist with registration. As their business has expanded, Brian and Lynn have trained staff working for them at the height of the season.

Brian does all the computer work to prepare for the race and to manage the runners’ times while Lynn works at the finish line with the handheld backup timer that keeps track of each runner.

They use the latest technology with a timing tag affixed to the race bib that has all the runner information on it captured through an online registration system. This includes address, age, length of race, on a D-tag so that the runners can be announced by Mike Roy in the press box as they enter the stadium.

“It all seems to work seamlessly,” said Nash.

QR codes are the next cool thing to incorporate, Brian McDaniel said, because they help streamline the results board information.

“We do encourage the faster runners to get to the head of the pack in something like the Hearty Hustle, as they pretty much know their ability,” he says. “Then come the baby strollers and the pooch parade.”

His biggest challenge in Vicksburg is jockeying the timing trailer under the bleachers, as he needs to be right close to the finish line.

“Running is an inexpensive way to keep healthy,” McDaniel said. “We love the moving aspect of people, excitement, and all the energy that surrounds all the events. So we hope to see everyone on May 10th at the 27th Annual Vicksburg Hearty Hustle, one of our favorite community races.”

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