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Fargo Marathon timing devices getting even smaller for this year's event

Runners in the full marathon start their race in the 2016 Scheels Fargo Marathon Saturday, May 21, 2016, finishing in the Fargodome. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

FARGO—The Scheels Fargo Marathon has gone through some changes in its 13 years of existence, mostly in the form of route changes and an increasing number of participants. The timing company that has kept track of all the runners and walkers has also seen some adjustments over the years.

ChampionChip Minnesota Inc. has something new in store for this year: a smaller timing chip to attach to each runner.

"It's a real thin strip of foam," said ChampionChip owner John Magnuson, one of those behind-the-scenes guys at the Fargo Marathon.

The device is called a BibTag System that was created by a company called MYLAPS based in the Netherlands. It's about ¼-inch thick and you pin it somewhere on your running outfit or bib number.

Magnuson's advice is to put it somewhere on your front torso so it's visible. The biggest problem is if the tag is hidden behind something like a cellphone, which would block the signal from the timing mats.

He said the reliability factor is somewhere between 99.8 and 99.9 percent and that includes a human error element like a hidden chip.

"The human aspect gives us the greatest challenges," Magnuson said.

Technology has helped limit the challenges over the years. Magnuson started in the business in 1998 when a transponder was attached to a running shoe somewhere in the shoe laces. They had to be collected after each race and that was no easy task.

That evolved into a disposable chip that runners could keep. Still, it relied on runners taking the time to attach it properly to their shoe. Magnuson calls the latest chip, which uses radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology a "win-win for everybody."

"There's no extra thing for an athlete to remember to put on a shoe and there's nothing to collect at the finish line," he said.

MYLAPS is no small company. Its products are used all over the world from smaller races like the Fargo Marathon to major events like NASCAR and the Olympics. The transponders used at the Olympics are even more sophisticated and expensive, Magnuson said.

FARGO MARATHON SCHEDULE

Thursday, May 18

Youth runs at Fargodome, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, May 19

5K run-walk at Fargodome, 6;30 p.m.

Saturday, May 20

Full marathon and relay at Fargodome, 7 a.m.

Half marathon at Fargodome, 7:15 a.m.

10K run at Fargodome, 7:30 p.m.

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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