Parkrun timing glitches - twice in two runs

How common is this?

81 to 100 of 122 messages
21/06/2013 at 08:11
Maybe no one else is bothered by it.
21/06/2013 at 09:50

My wife's time was corrected last night. They have acknowledged that things went a bit askew last weekend, and they're now slowly trying to unravel the rest of the results.

21/06/2013 at 09:57
That's good news. I suppose they can look into it if you give them enough time.
21/06/2013 at 15:34

Hi Ivor- I'm glad to hear it is getting sorted and hopefully we'll all get a time closer to throw we actually ran. 

Groveland is a fab park and it is one hilly and testing course so it's definitely a run that brings pleasure if you know you are making even slight progress on.

good luck on Saturday and take the uphill bit easyish and you'll have much more in the legs for the flatter bits

04/07/2013 at 23:17

There are various reasons for timing going wrong, can be that the timer person clicks too many/too few times or a runner funnel ducks or double crosses - this can make everyone after them move one place up or down the list so can easily make a big difference - if the person ahead/behind you was 30 secs different you will show as 30 secs faster/slower.

We try to spot errors in the results and straighten them out, but sometimes it isn't obvious or we can see there's an error but there's no way of knowing exactly where it happened, we may be able to see it was between P140 and P150 but we can only make a best guess where it was.

If someone mails with the time they got on their watch that can often give the clue to where the error was - given than it's extremely unlikely that anyone would lie about their time we accept what we are told as being true - it's usually obvious what's happened and we can correct a result.

Please note though that you're more likely to get a response if you point out politely that you think there's something wrong rather than going in all guns blazing - 99.9% of runners do ask nicely but it's spoiled by the odd one who goes off on a rant about how bad it all is - we are unfortunately only human

John (Preston Park parkrun Run Director)

05/07/2013 at 18:10

Well I think park run is fab- a weekly timed run for free- is fantastic. 

Unfortunately the venue that myself and neversaynever were commenting on, is not known for being anywhere near accurrate. I believe this is because the run is orgsnised by a company snd not by runners.

parkrun is awesome- but not all venues are equally well 'run',

I dont normslly wear a warch when doing s timed run/ but will if it is the only wsy ill get a near accurste time- and especially as I 'm going for a PB in the morning

07/05/2014 at 19:07


If you look at the above link you will notice that not only is the time outrageously fast for 2km for a 10 year old boy but everyone in the face broke their personal best by over a minute.  It's annoying for the runners who held genuine records to be knocked off the top spot, it makes rankings meaningless and frankly it will put decent runners off turning up at this new Parkrun, which struggles to get 40-50 participants because the record is impossible to beat.

I wish people could apply a little common sense and realise that a 10 year old boy over grass is not going to get within a minute of Zola Bud's 2km world record on a running track and that a jump from 75% to 86% in age group ranking is likely a timing error.

07/05/2014 at 19:09

It also means that accurate timings when they do occur may very well be discounted by coaches and others as dodgy and unreliable.

07/05/2014 at 19:36

If you think there's a problem with the results (and I think there probably is!) I'd suggest you mail the event and query it.


08/05/2014 at 00:11

I did, and got the following response.



Thanks for the email. What are you expecting us to do with this information?


08/05/2014 at 02:06
Try using the contact for the parkrun itself. I am saying that based on the assumption that the reply that you have posted was from tim the uk director of parkrun. He can be a bit snotty.
Good luck.
Cheerful Dave    pirate
08/05/2014 at 06:07

Tim's response is a bit snotty, but really, what do you expect them do do?  Annul all of the results?  Adjust the times arbitrarily based on what you think they should have run?  Or just promise to do their best to make sure it doesn't happen again?

It's unlikely that many are put off going to a parkrun because the course record is a bit suspect, to be fair.

08/05/2014 at 07:25

YIDDARMY - Tom is UK director of parkrun, not Tim

The response does sound a bit snotty. My response would have been so say that we'd look at the results and if I agreed there was something wrong either change the results or say that we agree there's an issue but TBH don't know what to do to fix it and put a post out to explain.  Results are fully editable at any time, so mistakes can be corrected afterwards.

If it was our results and it was obvious that something was wrong we would check the data and if necessary make an adjustment.

If there isn't an obvious error that can be corrected the solution would be to effectively annul them by adding, say, 30mins on to everyone so it's obvious that they aren't real, this would then set the PBs and course records to be the true ones.   

We try hard to get the results right and if people mail to question a time it's usually helpful because it puts a piece of the jigsaw in place, rather than being seen as criticism.

08/05/2014 at 07:55

That was the local director.  Take a look at this parkrun.  It ranks top in the UK for under 13 girls.

So the athlete can beat the U13 inter-counties champion over 5km, can beat the winner of the London Mini Marathon, can hold a 90 percent age group ranking, but cannot run sub 2,45 for an 800m on the track? 

Credibility of results matters.  World records set by people running 24 laps instead of 25, or testosterone filled Flo Jo, Marita Koch, suddenly running an unapproachable world record means that we don't know who the ultra talented are anymore.  

How can one compare training methods, heights for age development, stride length etc?  How can you pick races and travel to races where an athlete can run against someone of their standard or slightly better and be boosted and challenged as a result?

I pressed the race director and got this response.


parkrun is a run not a race. There were no concerns raised on that particular day by this runner or anyone else. Usually runners will let us know if there is an issue with the times (good or bad) and if there is something obviously wrong with the timing across the board (such as the 1m 23 secs you note below) then it would potentially be corrected. I would refer you to the recent comments from parkrun HQ:

"We all know that parkrun is a run not a race right? That is of course a somewhat loaded question and possibly one of the most divisive statements in running. The truth is that our event teams deliver free, weekly, timed runs. Not races. The short and simple difference being that although you are welcome to race your rivals, friendly or not, you don’t have right of way on the course, are not guaranteed a precise finish time (nor a precise distance) and if your rival gains the upper hand through some kind of devious tactic they are only cheating themselves."

Many of the issues we face with timing are caused by the runners for a variety of reasons such as when they don't take a token, say that they don't want a time despite having crossed the line, step out of line at the finish and then come back for a token, use their own GPS and challenge us based on that, give us the wrong barcode to scan - the list goes on. We have recently reviewed our process due to the increased numbers attending Platt Fields and don't have any concerns. We even did a specific test last week of GPS times from a range of runners (18 mins through to 30 mins) versus our timer to prove that there was nothing systemically run. With 456 finishers, no issues were encountered. However, sometimes mistakes happen.

If the time that you have identified is wrong then there isn't anything we can do about it unless the runner contacts us.




Of course there is something they can do about it.  It is really simple to solve this.

You write a computer algorithm that statistically compares race times.  The data is all there and publicly available.  Freak performances that fall well outside a statistical norm are automatically nullified.  Performances that look unusual, but could be true, are publish but flagged until the athlete can produce another time that confirms they are of that standard.  By comparing their performance to hundreds of similar performances and using a learning algorithm such a program could achieve near perfect accurac

08/05/2014 at 07:58


It is called "data science" and Parkrun, even if it is "not a race", should look into it.


08/05/2014 at 09:00

If you don't like it I guess you can always ask for a refund?


08/05/2014 at 09:10

On a more serious note, there are a handful of people at HQ, responsible for several hundred weekly events as well as all the administration that goes along with running a not for profit business. All with a minimal amount of funding from sponsors, funding which goes to necessary areas and development of the results processing engine.

Besides which above anything else, parkrun is about getting more people running and growing running communities in a sustainable way. Such a "feature" would simply imply that parkrun is about competition, which it clearly is not.

Edited: 08/05/2014 at 09:11
08/05/2014 at 09:23

No, it would only imply that they cared about getting the results right.

if it is not about competition, then why time the races at all?  Even if people are competing against the clock and not other runners, the time being accurate still matters.

Might I suggest a way Parkrun could get this small program or data procedure written for free.  Approach Imperial College or any or the maths and computer science departments in any University and ask whether any of their undergraduate or msc/phd students would like to solve the challenge.  Frankly, it is very easy to do so I am sure you would have a choice of students offering to do it.  Instead of paying them, Parkrun put up, and keep up, a single web page which explains how they, with the help of Imperial College, Kingston Polytechnic, and "Frederick Chong", (nearly all the best students are Chinese) solved the problem of false times, freak times, mistakes and cheats, which let's face it, must happen occasionally.

Parkrun look pro-active and the times are more credible, which avoids the Run Britain debacle of them not publishing Parkrun times, (something which still has not been rectified).  Kingston Poly get to brand themselves in this new and exciting area, which is a hot topic for business right now, lots of business people are running Parkruns and will be for the next 10 years, and Frederick Chong gets offered a job in a hedge fund or IT department of an investment bank and is earning six figures before he is 25 because some Parkrunning financier figures he must be pretty smart.

Everyone's a winner.

08/05/2014 at 09:27

Mattywarr, you cannot ask for a refund from the NHS or Meals on Wheels but I am pretty sure you would like both to keep their standards of hygiene as high as possible and review them and check them and constantly look to improve them.

08/05/2014 at 09:52

Mike - I don't doubt the authenticity of the PR distance per se, as other times posted are consistent and indeed they have carried out their own GPS tests.

However, the runner you identified has quite clearly, given the course map, taken a shortcut or cut some corners.
Can I be sure of that? Not really, but the athlete in question is the same race year as my youngest. Mine beat this athlete by ~200 places at the National XC, and ran a 1500 ~20s quicker 2 weeks ago. We also ran a PR a few weeks back in about 23.00, could perhaps have gone 30-60s quicker but not much more.
As the race director says they are only cheating themselves, and explains why PR are listed not as 5k on the Po10. It's also why I place little faith in Po10 and Run Britain as bona fide (but then what would be?). After all she is now ranked #1 on Run Britain over 5k & the girl placed 6th on that list was 3rd in the Nationals, some 352 places ahead of this athlete.

I agree that credibility of results matter and there will always be outliers like this when there aren't stringent ratifying processes in place. PR are as culpable as other organisers - even the London marathon don't do 'split analysis' otherwise they would spot recent rogue runs that have made the news.

Don't get me wrong I don't like cheats and I don't like PR - the one I did was my 3rd in what, 6 years, but I get the impression that their raison d'etre is to get people running in which they are successful, and that is no bad thing.

Perhaps drop an e-mail to the club and ask them if they think its credible after all it questions their integrity.

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