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Water zapped marathon runners' time chips

Hosing down runners

As some runners in Saturday's 33rd Grandma's Marathon poured water on themselves to keep cool, they inadvertently disabled chips attached to their shoes that were meant to record finishing times.

That's the evaluation of John Magnuson of St. Paul, owner of ChampionChip Minnesota, a company contracted by Grandma's Marathon since 2001. He said marathon officials and his company have been contacted by about 150 runners whose times were not immediately available after the race.

Because of the warm morning along the North Shore, many entrants were drinking more fluids and pouring more fluids on their heads. The transponders took the brunt of the extra liquids, which seeped into the disposable chip from shoes or clothing, causing the chips to malfunction, said Magnuson, whose company has been timing races for 12 years.

"These chips weren't completely waterproof, but we didn't expect any major water problems," Magnuson said Tuesday.

"I feel terrible that we weren't able to get some runners their time that day, but it won't happen again because ChampionChip [based in the Netherlands] is no longer making this type of chip. We timed the William A. Irvin 5K without any problems [Friday], and we had relatively few in the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon."

ChampionChip is now manufacturing waterproof single-use chips, but the batch used in the Grandma's Marathons races was shipped before the new model was available, Magnuson said. Races are charged less than $10 per chip when purchased in bulk.

ChampionChip Minnesota is working with runners who had malfunctioning chips and most have now been credited with finishing times. Runners are being asked to approximate their finish times and ChampionChip Minnesota is using a backup hand-held timing system, and corresponding runner identification race bib numbers, to determine the elapsed time for 26.2 miles.

Times determined since Saturday have been recorded with Online Race Results (, including the finish of News Tribune information technology staff member Dan Moller of Poplar, Wis., who noted in a Tuesday story that he was without a time.

All times will be published later this year in an official Grandma's Marathon results book, which goes to race entrants. Other runners with questions can contact ChampionChip Minnesota by e-mail at or at (651) 227-4810.

ChampionChip Minnesota times several endurance events in the state, including the Fitger's 5K and NorthShore Inline Marathon in Duluth, Twin Cities Marathon, Minneapolis Marathon and Get in Gear 10K in Minneapolis.