Give Them An Inch And They May Run A Mile

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

photo by GISuser

You’ve made up your mind, trained for weeks, and now you find yourself and hundreds or thousands of other like-minded runners about to embark on 26.2 miles of marathon goodness. You’ve got your waterbelt, maybe a GU or two, or three, and in your mind’s eye you see the course map and recall the race strategy you’re going to employ to get to the finish line. It’s likely even at this moment, you’ve never given any thought to whether or not that 26.2 mile distance the race organizers have mapped out is accurate. If you’re trying to qualify for Boston running too short a distance would be a disaster, but how about those poor souls who have to run too far like those who endured the 2005 Lakeshore Marathon? As Mark Cihlar, founder and chair of the event, wrote to participants afterwards, “The marathon course was exact – exactly 27.2 miles: Last minute adjustments from the move to the Great Lawn, inclusion of Navy Pier, and park district construction caused us to miscalculate and we foolishly added an extra mile – how terrible!”

So perhaps as you stand there ready to race you have asked yourself, “How do they calculate the official marathon distance?” According to this article on mapping the Beijing Olympics course, the answer is a little bit more low tech than you think.

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