Thursday, June 21, 2012

Going the Distance (and Measuring It)

Have you ever run a race and thought you PR'd, only to find that the course was too short? Or have you ever run a race thought you had a terrible second mile only to find out that the mile marker was misplaced? These things happen in smaller races all the time but there's one race where mistakes are not an option: the 2012 Olympic Marathon.

Photo Credit: IAAF - measuring in Osaka
Today's WSJ has a great piece on the man responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the 2012 London Olympic course, and guess what, he's a local. David Katz, a middle school teacher who serves on the International Association of Athletics Federations' technical committee, is from Port Washington, N.Y. Not only has measured previous Olympic courses, he's also responsible for verifying the New York City Marathon course each year.

One thing the article makes clear--accurately measuring a 26.2 course is a long process, as much an art as a science. The complexity of the London course doesn't make things any easier. Apparently the special course designed for the Olympics has more than 90 turns! That may make for some good spectating but it doesn't make for easy measurement.

If you want to read more about measuring Olympic marathon courses, check out this 2008 article from the Times on the 2008 Beijing course.

1 comment:

  1. ha - i would not want to have his job! talk about pressure! there are no do-overs in the olympics!