During the 1890s, Oscar Wilde wrote a frivolous comedic play about people putting on a fake persona to avoid social interactions. He titled it, The Importance of Being Earnest. The play is as important to the culture as anything Shakespeare wrote. Three Hollywood movies were titled The Importance of Being Earnest from 1952, 1992 and 2002. Why all the twos? Well, numbers are important, especially bib numbers in running.
The importance of being a bib wearer (this is serious bibness)
During any race, runners (and when we write runners, we mean runners and walkers) need to wear a race bib. In part, the purpose is so to identify the runner in photos or video, to record start and finish times and to record splits in between the start and finish (when in longer races).
For example, if you run a marathon, perhaps the timing company is taking split times at 10K, 21.1K and 32K.
Or a 10K is taking half splits at 5K. Sometimes there is a prim, like at the St. Patrick’s Day 5K in Vancouver. The first person who crosses the one-mile timing mat male or female, who also finishes the race top 10, wins money — a prim! The idea here is to avoid giving someone money who ran the final 3.4K in 20 minutes but ran 4:10 to the one-mile timing mat.
Also, for security, safety, and dispute resolution reasons.
There is a lot of stuff about wearing a bib. So, as you can see, runners do not wear a bib just to show that they are racing.
What about elite bibs?
There is yet another reason that runners need to wear a bib. Let’s say you are super fast. Let’s say that you are super fast and seeded in the top 10 males or top 10 females. Well, identifying who the runners are at the front is important for several reasons:
1. Breaking a record. For example, a provincial, national or world open or age-group or master or junior record. There is a ratification process that follows before a record is certified.
2. Qualifying for provincial, national, or international competition. Governing bodies need to make sure the athlete is the athlete, not an imposter. And just to simply identify them.
3. To help identify who finished ahead in a dead heat.
4. The announcer needs to be able to see the number so as to call out their names to the spectators, volunteers and media who are on site.
Where to wear your bib
Simple: Wear your bib so it is visible from the front. With three or four pins, affix the bib to the front of your shirt over your stomach, or chest.
Do not wear your bib on your back, side, hip, inside a jacket or in any way that it is not visible from the front. Also, if the chip is covered up, the runner will not get a time or could be disqualified.
Some races deem this so important, that they reserve the right to disqualify someone who does not wear the bib properly.
For the Vancouver Island Race Series season pass holders, do not throw your two bibs away. Also, do not wear both bibs at the same time. One bib should last the entire eight races; however, you are given a second one just in case you destroy the first one or something happens to it. For example, you are at a bonfire and marshmallow roast and you were still wearing your bib from the race earlier that day. So, you bend over the fire and were set alight by a rogue flame — don’t do that.
The benefit of having a season pass bib is that you no longer need to line up at each race to pick one up. This saves you time and saves you from arriving as early as you normally would. It saves the race from having to have as many volunteers as they had in the past. This is also good for the environment, with two bibs per person rather than 5 to 8.
If you are worried about being earnest at a race or not, you do not have to socialize. Furrow your brows, look down and angry and grit your teeth. No one will come near you.
Where does a bib come from?
Well, the race director or organizing committee member tasked with this job, seeks quotes from bib suppliers. There are many. Once the price, ETA, and quantities are agreed upon, the timing company needs to be informed. Also, marketing comes into play, here. Do we want colours? Sponsor branding for extra visibility? Size, seeded numbers and which type of fibre product? All these things come into play.
The timing company will take your list of runners and their:
And name and correlate with bibs.
Will coordinate all the registrants with the series of numbers that you have worked out with the bib company. What if we want personalized bibs? “Susan” or how about a specific number like “420” or a special personal number?
There is shipping. Where to? How much? How fast?
Once all the hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of bibs have arrived and the long lists of runners are included, we need to find a way for each person to get the right bib number associated with the right person. This takes time, then volunteer coordination and events to be publicized to get people to show up (not at the last minute).
So, for the first race of the 2023 and 2024 Vancouver Island Race Series, we had a Friday night social event with beverages, food, draw prizes, and speeches. We had separate volunteer crews for season pass pickup as well as Pioneer 8K pickup.
That was Friday….
Saturday, we had race and season pass pick up at Frontrunners Shelbourne. We had the social at Frontrunners downtown.
So, the numbers, pins, and lists needed to safely go from back east, to the interior of BC, then to the Island and then to Frontrunners downtown. Then the packages needed to get to Frontrunners Shelbourne for the next morning. More volunteers, more sorting and wading through lists.
Then Sunday, all the numbers that are remaining, for Pioneer and season passes go to North Saanich Middle School for final race package pick up. After Pioneer, the remaining season pass bibs go to the next race, to join the next race’s volunteer crew for disbursement. When 541 finishers at Pioneer and then 596 finishers at Cobble Hill all crossed the line as planned — all but a small handful had issues.
Almost all issues were runner-caused.
But all is forgiven. The (Startline) timing company hits the ball out of the park solving the issues related to lost times, incorrect bibs, lost bibs, and incorrect numbers.
So, next time that you pick up a race bib, take care of it (them), do not trade it with a fellow runner, and do not throw it away in case you were not informed that the bib is for the whole season. (sometimes we err and you forgive, thank you).
Have at least three pins, if not four.
And do not panic. We are here to help. But the more results that are correct and without issue, the better off the universe will be.
To vandalize a famous Wilde quote from the aforementioned play, “I have never met any really wicked person before. I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look just like everyone else not wearing the right race bib.”