When you sign up for a race, few things are more important than knowing the distance you are going to run. Whether you are planning to run a 5k or an ultra, it’s nice to know what you are getting yourself into before you actually commit.
If only it was this simple.
The first marathon that I ran was more or less a blur. The thrill of the run, the excitement of the crowd (it was a Disney race so there was a big crowd), and just the “I can’t believe what I just accomplished” feeling has washed a lot of the details away.
So in my mind, that 26.2 mile race was just that–26.2 miles.
The next year, I ran the same race and things were a bit different. I was hurt, so I probably shouldn’t have run. But I did my best and made it across the finish line before they picked the stragglers up in the bus, so it wasn’t a complete failure.
Upon inspecting my garmin, I realized that this 26.2 miles was actually more like 26.75 miles! WTF!?! As if a marathon wasn’t difficult enough, the folks at Disney decided I needed to run an extra half a mile in the process?
It goes without saying, I was pissed. (Mostly because my injury caused me to walk about 12 miles, but I couldn’t be frustrated at that. I’d be frustrated with the extended course instead)
I asked a friend who finished an hour or so ahead of me what her garmin said, and complained about the fact that Disney couldn’t measure a proper 26.2 mile course.
Then, she blew my mind.
“It’s All About the Curves”
She gave me a little bit of insight that I should have known, but being new to running at the time I didn’t even realize. When courses are measured, they are measured on the vector. Which basically means that all curves are measured on the shortest, most direct route.
So if you’re not running the inside of the curves, you’re running farther than the distance measured.
The Perfect Race
Every race I’ve run since, I’ve tried to run a perfect race.
Not perfect in terms of speed or finish time, but perfect in terms of distance. I’ve tried to hug the inside lanes of most turns, and cut quickly from one side to the other on S-turns.
Needless to say, this is virtually impossible as the other runners have an annoying habit of getting in the way. But it’s a fun challenge.
To date, the best I’ve done in a half is an additional .15 of a mile. Which, over a 13.1 mile course, is pretty close to perfect.
But it is still short of perfect and longer than the race distance. So my quest for perfection will continue.
Have Any of Your Ever Run a Perfect Race? What is the Biggest Additional Distance You’ve Ever Run in a Race?