I had a great question sent in by runner Steve Ambler and thought perhaps others might have the same question and could benefit from the answer.
QUESTION: The St Luke’s 5K was my first race run with chip timing. Can you tell me what “Gun” and “Net” times are? There is a 15 second difference. Did it take me 15 seconds to cross the start mat after the horn? I didn’t think I was that far back, we did start kinda slow.
Gun time is the length of time between the official start of the race, when the “gun” goes off, and the moment you cross the finish line.
Net time is the length of time which begins when you cross the starting line mats and ends when you cross the finish line mats.
In very large races it can take upwards of 5-10 minutes (or more) from the time the gun goes off until you reach the start mats. Your official results are more often than not based on Net finish time. The Net time is usually the measuring stick for race PRs for most runners.
Gun time becomes important for people who are the front runners and come across the finish line in first, second or third place. If a runner runs a national or world record time on a certified course it’s the gun time that is used in the record keeping.
As far as placing in races, placement and awards are based on Gun time. So, in essence, you may have a Net finish time better than someone who might have won an award, but your Gun time will be slower than theirs. If you ever plan to compete to earn awards you will always want to line up as close to the starting line as you possibly can.