And the Bib goes On

djc_bw-150x150by Dave Camire

Why do we wear bibs at races? The answer seems obvious to most of us, however to some the answer is not obvious at all. Don’t believe me? Next time you are at a road race walk around and ask that question. The answers may surprise you.

I’ve found that there is a portion of the racing population that does not make the correlation between these Tyvek squares and scoring the event. They do understand that to get a time they need to wear a number, but the understanding stops there.

Now you would think that newbies would be the only ones not understanding why we wear bibs, but this is not the case. I can identify veteran runners at almost any running event that do not get the concept of bibs.

Plain and simple, bibs were designed to identify the person wearing it. In order to do this visual contact is necessary – your bib needs to be clearly visible in order to identify you; pretty simple, right?

However at every single road race you will see people with numbers pinned to their back (rookies) or to their leg.

Obviously when the number is on the back it is impossible to see as the runner approaches the finish. What difference does this make at a chip timed event? Many timing companies do a manual backup (spot check) and not getting a visual of the bib makes this process impossible.

Wearing your bib incorrectly can affect more than race timing. If the event hired a photographer, they need to see your bib. The race announcer needs to see your bib so he/she can announce your name when you finish. By wearing your bib incorrectly you jeopardize getting a correct time, a finish photo and your name announced. Also it is real hard to pin that bib on your back.


Probably the most egregious bib violation is wearing the bib on your leg. Besides making visual identification difficult there is a better chance that the chip on the bib can be damaged. Runners will often fold the bib to make it smaller to fit on the leg. If the chip is folded this can cause it to malfunction. I’ve witness chips being damaged during the course of a race due to the bib being crunched and subsequently the chip being damaged by the movement of the leg.

Sadly veteran runners are often guilty of doing this. They will retort that it’s more comfortable for them to wear the bib on their leg. But you can bet they will also be the first to complain if they don’t show up in the results.

It is best to wear your race bib front and center; the way they were designed to be worn. It will help prevent a lot of problems.

Dave Camire is president of  Yankee Timing & Event Management and has been scoring races since clocks had hands. In between he made time to start the popular website, the BayState Marathon, the Good Times Series, the Wild Rover Series and the Mill Cities Relay among others.