RunScore History Part 4

Running Score II

Even though I had written the BASIC Running Score program in about a month, it took me over a year to produce Running Score II which eventually became RunScore. I had to learn a new language: C. You can read about the Programming Language C on Wikipedia. I was using a compiler called C-86 which no longer exists.

I spent the academic year 1984 to 1985 working many, many hours on this new implementation. One thing that made it so hard was that it was not to be fixed format like Running Score had been. For example, in Running Score the ZIP code field was five characters which is fine for USA users but one of my first customers was from Canada and he need seven characters.

I had to define an architecture where everything was configurable. The user had to be able to add fields, delete fields, redefine their properties such as upper-case, lower-case, or proper case (first letter capitalized followed by lower-case letters). Since a race could have any number of events, the events had to be defined separately from the database of entrant information.

During that same academic year, I also had to write a manual. I forget what word processor I was using then but I know I eventually moved to Lotus (IBM) WordPro. I was still working on the manual in July 1985. I remember that date because that is when my mother died. The weekend before she died I had committed to score and time a YMCA triathlon at Hickories Park in Owego on Saturday July 20. I rushed home from the race and immediately drove to Ridley Park, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. Mother died on Monday July 22. A few weeks before I had spent a week in Ridley Park with Mother while my Dad was at a retreat for retired teachers in western Pennsylvania called Recreo. During that week I was still working on the manual. I had taken my computer and printer with me. Mother copy read the text. She had a lot of trouble with the word “triathlon.” She couldn’t believe it was a real word. In fact, the way we pronounce it, it would seem it should be spelled “triathalon.”

I sold the first copy of Running Score II to Don and Debbie Lawrence of Overland Park, Kansas on October 22, 1985 for $200. By the next May I had sold a total of 31.

Road Runners Club of America Annual Meeting Portland, Maine, May 1986

My breakthrough came in 1986 at the RRCA meeting in Portland, Maine. In 1985 I received a letter from Georgia asking me to conduct a workshop at the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) convention to be held near Atlanta. Barb and I had tickets to go to a Pete Seeger concert that weekend so I declined. However, I made a commitment to the RRCA president, Harold Tinsley that I would go to the workshop at the 1986 convention no matter where it would be held. As it turned out, Portland, Maine was chosen so it wasn’t as bad as if it I had to go to Los Angeles.

In the fall of  1985 I wrote to Harold reminding him of my commitment and he had me get in touch with the organizer of the convention, Bob Jolicour, of Portland. Bob asked if I would be interested in scoring the races that are held in conjunction with the convention. When I said I would do it for nothing, he offered me a booth at the exhibition for free (a booth costs $250.00). Of course, I jumped at it.

Jack Moran, head of the RRCA Computer Committee, sent me the results of a computer-use survey he had conducted. Through the committee, I lined up three other speakers. One was Harold Tinsley who agreed to talk on “Home Brew Systems”. “Home Brew” means that he writes all his own programs that the club needs for record keeping and race scoring. Dennis Steinauer from the Montgomery County, MD club talked on using existing programs like dBase III and Lotus 1-2-3. Jim Ferstle, who wrote the review of computer software in Road Race Management, agreed to talk on his experiences. I decided that I would give two talks — one on the computer survey and one I entitled “A Computer Isn’t Enough — You Need a System”.

Meanwhile, over the past several months, I had been making small improvements to my program for scoring races. I could handle input from timers made by the Chronomix Corporation in California. Also, I added the capability of using one of the keys on the keyboard. One of my customers in Ohio suggested I hook up a push button to the asynchronous port on the Personal Computer. This turned out to be a good idea. I said I didn’t want to make the buttons for sale so he agreed to take this on.

A couple of months before the convention, I mailed a copy of my program to the Maine Track Club so they could put the entries in the computer before I showed up. They had a guy in their club who was retired from the FAA. He is a one-finger typist! He, with a bit of help from others, typed all 500 names into the computer along with addresses, etc. I talked to him several times on the phone to help him over rough spots.

I decided it would be nice to have my son Clain with me so I checked with him on his schedule. As luck would have it, the convention fell right at the beginning of the finals period. Half way through the semester, he got his finals schedule and found he had one final that conflicted but the other two were on the last day and would not conflict. He suspected that the professor of the one that conflicted might make the final optional. He did, and since Clain had a good grade going into the final, he decided not to take it.

Once I knew Clain was going, I wrote to Harold Tinsley telling him that Clain would be there with me. Harold had bought counters from Clain many years ago. He wrote back and asked for more information on Clain and the counter business since he wanted to introduce Clain to the convention. I sent him a copy of the article I wrote on the counter and told Harold that now he “knew the REST of the story”.

Clain came home from school on Wednesday night, May 14. We celebrated his birthday (May 13) one day late and then packed for the trip. We got up at 6:00 Thursday morning and hit the road about 8:00. However, as I started the engine in the garage, Barb came running down to tell me someone was on the phone and it was an emergency. It turned out to be one of my customers whom I had just sent a copy of the program to. It seems his diskette was blank! I like to think that he wiped it out by re-formatting it. But, maybe I did send it to him blank. In any case, I told him I would send him a new one in overnight mail. So, on the way out of town, we stopped at the Post Office to express mail the diskette (for $10.90). It was Friday and this guy hoped to score a race on Saturday with it! I hope he had luck.

On Friday morning I set up our computers in the exhibit hall next to the Maine Track Club booth where the registration for the 5K Fun Run was taking place. They had used my program to print bar code labels which were placed on the competition numbers. They had had some problems with printing these so they weren’t all printed. That morning, I had to handle late registrants and print off more bar code labels. It was pretty wild.

Right before the race they had the official opening of the Convention. The mayor of Portland read a proclamation (too long) and they introduced Joan Benoit Samuelson (who won the women’s Marathon at Los Angeles in 1984). She is from Freeport, Maine where L.L. Bean is located. After that everyone rushed up to get her signature. Most of us had Joan Benoit posters given out the night before and were getting her to autograph them. I hadn’t planned that far ahead so I had her sign one of my RunTime Software business cards.

Then Clain and I went up to watch the start and shortly had to head back to the computers to handle the results. We had a bit of a problem with the bar codes. I had one of my customers who was there proofread the bar codes as Clain read them in. Then Bob Gibb showed up with his computer full of times. I went to read them into my computer and they wouldn’t go! We tried again and …. nothing! I immediately moved to the other computer and it worked!

However, his times had some extras in. Then when he dumped the second part, he didn’t start at the right place and we had some extras. It was really getting wild now since I was trying to get these results out and they were beginning to accept entrants for Sunday’s 10K race and they needed some more bar codes. Also, my computer workshop was starting at 3:00! I finally got the results printed and the bar codes run off. I then tried to line up my speakers for the workshop and get the projectors set up.

I set up an overhead projector on a little table and a 35 mm projector on a chair but it wasn’t high enough. Someone suggested stacking up a number of chairs which I did. Then I stuck my keys under the front to make it project high enough. (I forgot the keys and didn’t find them for two days!)

The workshop went well but I was rushed since I had five talks and a question period to get in in 55 minutes. The last guy talked a bit long and I had to yank him. However, he did give a plug for my program. He called it the only “second generation” program of the bunch since I had already written one program and had put a lot of flexibility into this one.

I went back to the exhibit hall but I couldn’t really attempt to sell my program since I was so busy getting entrants in for Sunday’s race. Finally, I shut everything down and took the computers back to the room and dressed for the lobster roast. Clain had brought a good selection of clothes but I hadn’t brought enough warm clothes. He loaned me some of his.

We went by chartered bus out to the lobster roast which was near a training school on the bay. We were on a small bluff above a beach where they were roasting the lobsters. Before the roast, Harold Tinsley made some announcements. He introduced Fred LeBow who is the organizer of the New York City Marathon. Then he introduced Clain and then Pete Fitzinger who won the U.S. Olympic Trial Marathon in 1984. In introducing Clain he told the story of the “Clain Jones Counter”. He told how I came up with the device and worked with Ted Corbitt on it. At the time Ted was doing all course certifications in the nation. He explained how Ted didn’t want to make the counters and Alan didn’t want to make them so Clain did them at age nine! Over the years Clain made 2341 of them and then, four years ago, sold the business to the New York Road Runners Club. He said he knew there had been some inflation since then but he pointed out that the first counters were sold for $8.50. (Most people there knew that the NY Road Runners were now charging $30.00!). Harold then looked through the crowd and said, “I hope he is here. Clain Jones.” Of course he was. Clain came forward and Harold asked the runners there to talk to Clain about the counter. Then he got a big applause.

After the roast we got a bus ride back to the hotel where we should have taken a shower since we were a mess after eating the lobster. Instead, we got on another bus for a shopping trip to L.L. Bean. I bought a sleeping bag for Clain there and did a lot of window shopping. L.L. Bean’s is open every day of the year except Christmas and is open 24 hours a day! By the time we got back to the hotel we were pretty tired.

That day was a bit more relaxed since I didn’t have a race or a workshop. Late in the afternoon I had quite a few people in the booth asking for information on the program. I had to tear down a bit early since they had to move a partition to make the banquet hall larger. I moved the computers over to the Maine Track Club booth and finished typing in the rest of the 10K entrants. Gabrielle Andersen registered. She was the woman who staggered around the track at the finish of the LA Marathon. She is now 40 years old and was selected as America’s most outstanding female master runner. When she got the award she explained that she has both Swiss and American citizenship which is why she was able to compete for Switzerland in the Olympics and win America’s masters award.

I got the names typed in and fixed up some files just in time to go up and change for the banquet. Clain had been studying in the afternoon in the room and was dressed before me.

The banquet was very nice. They gave out a mess of awards and dragged it out quite long.

I had a wake-up call for 5:45 Sunday morning. Clain and I got up with no breakfast and hauled the computers to the car and drove to the park where the race was. We had to wait for quite a while for a man from the parks department to show up and turn on the electricity for us. It had been planned to put the computers in a band shell. However, because of the problems I had with Bob Gibb’s times I wanted one computer right at the finish line so I could do my own timing. The problem was that it was 400 feet from the band shell to the finish line. We had asked a number of people to bring extension cords and I had brought two. When we had them all strung out we were still about 100 feet short. We sent out an urgent plea and a few more people took off to get extension cords. When they were all there Clain plugged in the computer but there was no power! Meanwhile, I had the one computer on the band shell up and running and printing out an entrants list. When we moved the extension cord to another outlet we popped a circuit breaker and the room with the switches was locked! The meet director found a policeman who was in the race but was there with his squad car. He called back to headquarters and they had someone there in about 10 minutes. By this time we figured one of the extension cords had a short circuit but when we plugged them in this time there was no problem. (We might have tripped the ground-fault detector since the extension cords were resting on some wet grass.) We hooked up the computer about 15 minutes before the start.

Wayne Nicoll was the announcer. He was one of the original course measurers and certifiers. He announced to the crowd several times that the timing and scoring was being done by Alan and Clain Jones who had devised the Jones Counter that was used all over the country to certify races.

When the race started, I punched the ENTER key on the computer to start the timing. Then all we had to do was wait. The race was won in a tie by two brothers. As each runner crossed the line, a timer pushed the button and that entered a time in the computer using the computer’s internal timer. Meanwhile the finish crew was collecting the bar codes from the runners as they emerged from the chute and put these on coat hanger wires that had been bent in the shape of a giant safety pin. These were taken to the computer table where one fellow flared them out one at a time for Clain to wand into the computer. I recruited another person to proofread the numbers as they were read in. As it turned out, two bar codes did read wrong. Also, two bar codes showed up that belong to people that were not in our computer. They had apparently registered that morning but we had not gotten their entries. We just typed them in and continued. At the worse Clain was about 11 minutes behind which isn’t bad at all. After the last person crossed the line we could see that we had 494 times. The question was, Would we also have 494 numbers? As Clain wanded the last few in we realized we would come out right on! I let out a victory cry! We then checked the select times that were recorded on random finishers and they were all okay so we printed out the results.

The results printing took a bit longer than it should have since I had made a few errors in preparing my files. However, it wasn’t long before we had the complete results printed with all the age-group awards, female finishers, and team awards.

We then packed up the computers (again!) and headed for the award ceremony. There were two more errors picked up at the award ceremony due to keypunch problems but these were quickly fixed.

Well, it was a fun weekend. However, I think Clain summed it up well. At dinner Barb asked Clain how I was during the Convention. Clain said, “You know how up-tight Dad gets when he’s in charge of a race like the Vestal XX? Well, imagine spending an entire weekend with him like that!”

After that event, sales took off.

Running Score II becomes RunScore

I had been using a compiler called C-86 which worked fine but shortly thereafter Borland introduced Turbo-C. I switched to it and later to Borland C. At this time Running Score II was a DOS (Disk Operating System) program. Even though I had been writing Windows programs for my seismology programs, Running Score II was still written for DOS. But about the year 2000, I spent nearly a year converting from DOS to Windows. By this time everyone was calling the program RunScore even though its official name was “Running Score II.” I realized this was kind of silly so I switched the name to “RunScore.”

Then in 2009 I made another big change and made RunScore a client/server system so that people could be doing data entry on more than one computer. I called the server program RSServer and the client program RSClient. This, too, was a huge undertaking.

Timing Systems

In 1996 ChampionChip was introduced to the USA at the Boston Marathon and at the Atlanta Olympics. It was needed at Boston because this was the 100th running of the Marathon. Because it was the Centennial, they drop their size limit. Dave McGillivray, did a computation and decided the race could not be timed with the methods they had been using. He contacted ChampionChip, a Dutch company, who timed it.Barbara and I attended the Olympics and saw the Women’s Marathon. I stood behind a table at one of the split points and watched what was going on.

In 1996 Mike Burns and David Simms created a USA ChampionChip company and brought the system to the US. In 1997 David called me and said he would like me to support ChampionChip. He sent me the specifications which allowed me to integrate RunScore with ChampionChip. From then on a number of chip/tag companies approached me to ask me to support their system. I supported most of them and didn’t charge anything since I assumed it would make RunScore more versatile.

Registration Systems

Shorting after I got into supporting chip systems, I was contacted by Active.com asking me to support their registration system. They put a programmer on the job who developed some middleware that was specific for RunScore. I think this was a mistake on their part. They should have set up an API and then encourage race management companies to integrate with this. Later this is what they did as well as the multitude of other registration companies came on the scene.

Web Site

In 1999 I was contacted by David Fox, from the State of Franklin Track Club in Kingsport, TN. He told me that I needed a web site and he was willing to build one for me if I would give his club free updates. I readily agreed. The web site served me well into 2017 when I constructed this one. It was hosted by 1and1.com but when I tried to make an improved system using the widely-used application, WordPress, the support at 1and1 was very poor so I moved to SiteGround.com.