Who is Kirsten Lancaster?
A petite IPICO Timer from Belton, Texas, Kirsten Lancaster slings mats and barricades with the strongest of men. Despite women being a minority in the timing industry, she has no problem easily proving she’s “one of the guys” when it comes to timing operations and tech-savviness.
While at Texas A&M University, Kirsten was on the cycling team and enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with endurance sports. She looked forward to daily rides and weekends racing with her team, and bonding while strategizing how they would beat their big rivals.
“I swim, I run, I used to be into triathlons, and I used to be into bike racing (road racing) for a number of years,” she says.
After meeting her husband, a former pro triathlete, she became more heavily involved in the local running scene. Seeing races go under because “big city timers” were charging a lot to time smaller races, she started learning the business, working for a timer friend who was getting tired of weekend work.
A foray overseas for a few years put timing races on hold for Kirsten, but the moment she returned races called. Once her kids were in school she started timing races again and eventually had an aha moment: “I can grow this business!”
So, she did her due diligence, purchased her first timing system (IPICO), and timed 30 races in her first year; a few years later she is overseeing 80 races each year.
Getting to London
When asked how she got the opportunity to time the Virgin Money London Marathon, Kirsten replies, “I think I just pestered them into it, actually.”
She went to the annual IPICO Users Conference where she talked to a timer friend in Vermont whose timing company resembled hers, Pro-Fit Event Services, in size. He led a presentation about helping the Mika Timing team at the previous year’s London Marathon, which tugged at Kirsten’s heartstrings. She dearly missed her old home in England and was eager for an adventure.
Mika Timing, a Germany-based company, was leading the London timing team yet again, which included IPICO employees. Kirsten approached Glenn Latimer and Larry Hicks at IPICO for a spot on the team and prepared her pitch. She explained how she was small but strong and spoke German. A few added bonuses: she’s well-practiced in driving on the left side of road, extremely low-maintenance and doesn’t need much sleep. At the end of her pitch the answer was yes.
Timing an Abbott World Marathon Major event
“We didn’t actually time it,” explained Kirsten, “We provided equipment and mats; Mika actually timed the race.” Nonetheless, she was part of a world-class timing team for a high-profile event —a big step up from timing local 5Ks in her home state.
When asked what was different about timing the London Marathon, she told stories about the amazing experience of having an all-access pass to one of the largest and most well-known running events in the world. She described looking up at Buckingham Palace and witnessing a BBC interview with Prince Harry.
She reveled in the opportunity to spend time inside the wheelchair tent and at the elite start, standing alongside record-setting runners you only see in the media. “This doesn’t happen in Belton,” she exclaims. She was especially touched to be so close to Paula Radcliffe, a world record holder and Kirsten’s personal hero.
While watching the marathon come to a close at the finish line about six hours into the race, Kirsten was amazed to notice that she saw the same things she sees back at home. Running buddies crossed the finish line holding hands, and wore celebratory costumes. Emotionally and physically overwhelmed, runners cried as they crossed that magical line. She was reminded that running races is universal, whether a small, community 5K or a World Marathon Major.
When friends ask about her London experience she tells them, “Think of the very best time you have ever had. Oh, but this was better. It was literally the most fun I have had in a long time. It was tiring and we didn’t sleep much. It was so great. It was literally a once in a lifetime experience.”
Working with the IPICO team
Kirsten gushes over how the IPICO guys just made her part of their team. She appreciated spending time with the people who developed the equipment she uses to run her business, working alongside the guys who take time to repair her products and provide her with customer service year after year. “That is a great group of guys, too. I tell you what. You could not find nicer people” she proudly declares.
When asked about her favorite story coming out of the London Marathon experience, Kirsten can’t label any specific incident. Instead, she expresses, “I learned the value of fostering a sense of group and togetherness with my timing team.” She describes how Larry created a sense of cohesion and team spirit and she realized that was what she needed to build inside her own timing team back at home.
This small timing family sat down to eat meals together every day. Kirsten mentions that her favorite moment may have been the night before the marathon. The entire team woke early to finish setting up and was not even close to turning in until 11:00 that night. Although the prospect of sleep was tempting, the group chose to grab a quick drink and spend a little more time with one another.
“I cannot express how grateful I am to IPICO for including me. And, that is from the bottom of my heart. It was amazing.”