That course was long!

One of the most common things I have recently come across on Twitter and in conversation is about how various races were not the correct distance. You know the half marathon that is 13.2 instead of the 13.1 or the marathon that ran 26.4 miles. Then there is the absurd and unacceptable, nearly jaw dropping 5k that measured out to 3.11 miles on your Garmin or iPhone. You know exactly what I am talking about, the .01 that cost you a PR because it set you back 15 seconds. That moment when you could have finally broken that coveted 60 minute mark in the 5k, but due to inaccurate measurements by the race director you will have to find another race to get your PR.

With so many people preparing for fall events, and many of my own friends preparing for their first 13.1 and 26.2 this year, I thought it would be appropriate to give people some suggestions so you don’t fall victim to running too far during a race. Last year I was part of a half marathon that ended up being 13.74 miles at the Urban Cow, which was a mistake due to lead cyclist taking runners on a wrong turn, so technically the course wasn’t wrong we just were lead incorrectly. However, if you aren’t taken off course here are 3 things you can do to make sure the course is spot on with distance…

The first and probably most accurate is to run with a (measuring) wheel. Don’t know what a measuring wheel is or don’t own one? For about $120 you can get a digital one. So you can dump your Garmin or iPhone and just run with this. It will be more accurate than any other running device. Sure running with a measuring wheel might slow you down, but at least you can complain to the race director with a valid measurement from your wheel. Just keep in mind that due to safety precautions, if you opt for this method you will probably have to start at the back of the pack with the baby joggers because you are pushing a wheeled object. Just make sure you start measuring from the start line not where you start at the back of the race pack.

do you have a digital wheel?

If you don’t feel like pushing a wheel during a race and find that to be impractical, then the next two methods might be your cup of tea. The second method would be to attach a measuring tape to your back while asking the race director to hold it and not move at the start line until you finish. Yes, the tape might trip other runners, but lets be honest the safety of others doesn’t matter if the course is too long anyways. A couple cons with this method is that if the course has any sort of turn you might have to ask onlookers to hold the tape along the course to prevent it from overlapping onto non-running areas off the course. Another downside to this is that you might have trouble finding a measuring tape that is 26.2 miles long, 13.1 miles, 10k or even 5k. However, if you do find a tape that fits your needs make sure you use a steel tape, this will give you the most accurate measurement since a cloth or plastic tape will stretch when pulled which will cause for an increase in distance. If you use this method and you find the course to be long well you can just point to the tape and bring it to the attention of the race director and yell “The proof is in the tape” or “The tape don’t lie”.

is your measuring tape steel or plastic?

The final method of measuring a course, and this one might be the easiest because you won’t have to push a wheel or ask someone to hold the tape down, is to measure your stride and perfectly match each and every stride to a certain distance. Once you have mastered and perfected your stride, calculate how many strides it should take you to complete your desired race distance. Write that number down on your hand, you are now ready to race and measure out the course to assure that it is the advertised distance. Did you have to take too many steps to cover the race? Well bring that to the attention of the race director and explain how you know the course is too long. If they laugh or question you about your method ask them “Are you calling me a liar?”, because that will solve any issue that might arise.

what is your stride distance?

Have you ever ran a race and noticed that the course was long? What is your preferred method to complain to a race director and prove them wrong? Do you think the universe revolves around you?

12 thoughts on “That course was long!

  1. that is the goal πŸ™‚ I think we all get so focused on training we forget to laugh every now and again.


  2. OMG I love this! I always crack up when people complain about race distances! Our Garmins are not perfect, nor do most of us run the shortest distance of the course.


  3. Wait our Garmins aren't perfect? Why did I spend $300 on one? I want a refund πŸ™‚


  4. Everyone knows race directors hate it when runners drink a refreshing beer post race. I achieve revenge every time I tip one back.


  5. I love this! πŸ™‚ I carry my wheel everywhere for exactly this purpose.

    Sometimes when the course is off (I ran a marathon that was 1/4 mi too long and the times were later officially adjusted), this is how people notice the error. It does happen, but rarely.


  6. Wow this is amazing. I'd like to run with a wheel please. πŸ™‚


  7. Love this. Though I think we need video of these attempts…


  8. why not just do keg stands at the finish line? go big or go home πŸ™‚


  9. can you please video yourself running with a wheel, you know for the sake of research πŸ™‚


  10. perhaps I can try to find a wheel company to sponsor a giveaway πŸ™‚


  11. you find me a steel measuring tape that is 26.2 miles long and I will video it for you πŸ™‚


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