Skip to main content

Measuring Marathon Courses by Bicycle

http://news.searchina.ne.jp/disp.cgi?y=2013&d=0110&f=column_0110_034.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

The full marathon is a sport where you compete over 42.195 km, but how do they go about measuring that distance?  Today we're going to look a little bit at how they go about certifying the distance of a marathon.

The reality is that major international marathons use a bicycle to measure the distance.  This rule is an international standard, and the same method of measurement is used everywhere.  It was put into place in 1986.  In order to ensure that the same method is used everywhere, a bicycle that meets IAAF specifications must be used for measurement.

In the case of Japan's major marathons, to be certain that the distance is correct a provisional measurement is first made.  Before the course is certified using a bicycle the course is measured using a 50 m-long length of wire to determine that it is in fact 42.195 km.  When a bicycle is used the estimate of the distance can vary slightly depending on the weight of the rider, so the Japanese method of using a wire is probably more accurate.

When it comes to course measurement the IAAF has a lot of other rules as well.  Believe it or not, one of them is that the course can be up to 0.1% too long and still be certified as an accurate distance!  That means that the IAAF has decided that a marathon course can be 42 m too long and still be considered OK.  Conversely, they specify that if a course is a little bit short it won't be certified.

To avoid that there are a lot of cases where they add a little extra to the distance.  Even at races where government bodies are acting as the organizers!  You can find reports that the distance of a race was incorrect, and if you research it a little further you will find that in a lot of instances the organizers didn't have enough time to measure the course on foot and that it was done by car instead!  As a consequence many races have fundamental errors in the distance of their courses.

Comments

Anonymous said…
The article leaves out a lot that goes into certifying a course and offers inaccurate info also. Using a 50 meter length of wire is NOT necessarily a more accurate way to measure a course - it's tedious, time consuming, bothersome (dealing w/traffic) and, as mentioned, not necessarily more accurate than using a bike. I know these things because I've measured courses for certification in the US (Michigan) since 1981.

To be certified, measurements include a .1% short course prevention factor (SCPF) to calculations. Note I say calculations and not to the course length. Our measurement technique isn't foolproof but has proven to be the most accurate around - thus we add the .1% to calculations to ensure the course is at least long enough.

Scott Hubbard
Anonymous said…
This article explains it very well with pictures etc

http://www.therunnersq.com/2013/12/28/how-are-marathons-measured-and-distance-of-courses-certified/

Most-Read This Week

Daniel and Kawauchi Win Saitama International Marathon

After missing a medal by 3 seconds at August's London World Championships, defending champ Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) made it two in a row as she won a tight battle against Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) to win the Saitama International Marathon in 2:28:39.

With the onus on Japanese women Reia Iwada (Dome) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) to break 2:29:00 in order to qualify for Japan's new-format 2020 Olympic trials race, the pair of them did most of the heavy lifting for the first two-thirds of the race. Yoshida led the early kilometers before Iwade took over, and through strong head and tailwinds, over rolling hills and around sharp turns Iwade kept things moving just under target pace, shaking the pack down to just her, Daniel, Habtegebrel and relative unknown Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) by 15 km.

Little changed up front until after the lead group hit the start of the hilliest 10 km on the course after 25 km. For the first time Iwade slipped to the rear of the pack, and on a …

Ekiden Weekend Roundup

Ekiden season is in full swing, and across the country it was another busy weekend. Although there were four major ekidens nationwide, the best action came as runners from high school to the pros tuned up for the string of national championship ekiden races stretching from the end of this month to mid-January. At Kanagawa's Nittai University Time Trials meet, two-time steeplechase junior world champion Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) pipped 5000 m junior world championships bronze medalist William Malel (Honda) at the line in the 10000 m A-heat, winning in 27:22.73 to Malel's 27:22.79. Four other Kenyans including Ndiku's junior teammate Richard Kimunyan broke 28 minutes as their coaches eye who to run at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden.



Evans Yego of the tiny Sunbelx supermarket team won the more conservative 5000 m A-heat in 13:48.04, a race most notable for high schoolers Luka Musembi (Sendai Ikuei H.S.), Masato Suzuki (Suijo H.S.) and Reito Hanzawa (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) …

Breaking Down the Best-Ever Japanese Marathon Times By Country

Japanese marathoners these days have the reputation of rarely racing abroad, and of rarely racing well when they do. Back in the day that wasn't true; Japanese marathoners have won all the World Marathon Majors-to-be except New York, and two of the three Japanese men to have run 2:06 and all three women to have run 2:19 did it outside Japan. Whatever the extent to which things did turn inward along the way, the last few years have seen an uptick in Japanese runners going farther afield and running better there than any others before them.

The lists above and below show the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries to 2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women. Japanese men have run sub-2:20 marathons in 37 countries around the world including Japan, with Japanese women having cleared 2:45 in 33 countries including at home. Breaking it down by IAAF label times, more Japanese men have run label standard times abroad, but women have typically performed at a higher label…