The B&A Trail Half Marathon yesterday was chip timed and finished, now, more than 24 hours ago. Why do results from smaller races often take a long time to post? Even our small club races sometimes take days or weeks. I'm guessing that there are weird issues that I'm not aware of that the Race Director has to resolve, but I'd be interested to learn what goes on during the interim between race finish and results posting. If I were a RD, I guess I'd work non-stop to get the results posted immediately.
BTW, this is no knock on the B&A Trail Half Marathon, which I haven't missed in over a decade (except for 2003 when it snowed).
[Disclaimer: I speak from a triathlon's perspective. Swim and standalone road races share some of the same reasons I mentioned below, but they also have their own little quirks]
You get what you pay for. The way that RDs from smaller races attract people is to keep prices down. Larger races can negotiate better prices by negotiating cost per participant. When you run a smaller race, you pay a fixed price for the timing service. Whether you have 1 participant for 500 participants, your cost is the same. For a race like PeasantMan, it can cost about $5,000 to bring in a professional run company to do the timing. That's $5k whether you have 1 racer or 500 racers ... and you are never sure that you will sell out.
Timing system in triathlon tend to cost more because of the technology needed for the water component and the number of timing mats required. Think about the mats required for swim enter, swim exit, t1/t2, bike in, bike out, run in, run out, and whatever other timing mats out along the bike/run course. Some timing system companies charge extra if you want more timing mats and splits reporting.
Some timing system companies have service tiers. For example, if you want your race to have live results broadcast over Facebook or texting, it will cost more since a different set of technology and more manpower are used. If you just want results, but don't care too much about immediate turnaround, it would cost a little less. If you have a race of 10,000 participants, it doesn't cost you that much, per participant, to have the best of the best service. When you have a race of 100 participants, going with the best will bankrupt you.
Some races that are strictly charity based (i.e. PeasantMan), sometimes get their timing system for free. When you get things for free, you are low on the priority list. If a timing system has other races that they are working with at the same time as yours, they will work on the people that paid them, first. Your access to them during this busy time can be minimum if you aren't paying them.
Some races, like club run races (not just talking about DCTri here), have slower turnaround on results because they are volunteer based. They don't have the volunteer manpower or access to technology that will produce a turnaround as quick as say ... the WTC Ironman. When you run a race that is run by volunteers, putting a lot of pressure on your key volunteers to produce quick turnaround may not be a good long term strategy.
You can have an in-house professional system, but that costs money and expertise to run. If you are a small club or company, that may not be feasible.
Besides money, there are bunch of other reasons why turnaround for smaller races take longer than bigger races. Some of those reasons are race /RD related, some are timing company related. Lots of stuff/dialog get pass along between RDs and timing system companies during the period after the race. I can write a book on why things are slow and fast, why one small race has a quicker turnaround than another, and etc, but I'll save you the drama :)
Suffice to say, if smaller races have the same budget as bigger races, you would get your results just as quick. Every RDs out there want the results to be posted as quickly as possible so as to put the race behind them and concentrate on other things. Most of the time, they are limited by the cards that they are dealt.
I can tell you that as RD for PeasantMan that we get a lot of things either for free or at a greatly reduced cost due to our connections and partnerships. If I were to put pressures on those resources, I can guarantee you that the following year that those things will no longer be free or reduced. Our registration fees this year increased $15 over last year. The reason? We decided to pay for a professional timing company to come in and do our timing system instead of doing it ourselves.