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Here's an article that was published in yesterday's NY Times. The artile, titled: When Runners Go the Distance, but Races Don’t was written by Lela Moore.

The complete article and photos is available at

I pasted the text below.

Enjoy. -- Justin

When we hear about a road-race shortcut, many of us think of Rosie Ruiz, who notoriously cut into the final mile of the 1980 Boston Marathon to win the women’s title. But sometimes a racecourse is inadvertently shortened by human error — a misplaced traffic cone, say, or a confused but well-intentioned volunteer.

Carolina Luevanos-Garcia at the finish line in Chattanooga. (NY Times photo)

That’s what happened when Carolina Luevanos-Garcia, 53, a retired peace officer from Sacramento, traveled to Tennessee in October to run The 4 Bridges Half Marathon in Chattanooga. It was part of her effort to become a “50 stater” — to run a half-marathon in all 50 states. But the course she ran, she was devastated to learn two days after the event, was six-tenths of a mile short of the official half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles.

“My heart dropped,” she said of the moment she saw the Facebook message informing runners that the course had been short. “The disappointment of trying so hard to have it not count is immense,” she said.

Courses are measured and certified by a USA Track & Field official who rides a bicycle with a device called a Jones counter affixed to its front wheel over the entire course — and that’s what the Chattanooga race director did. But in a mixup, the Chattanooga police drew a traffic plan for runners based on a previous year’s version of the course, and they ended up taking a detour that shortened the overall distance.

“There were many opportunities to fix it; we just didn’t,” said Jay Nevans, the co-director of the race. His organization offered runners discounts to next year’s event and posted apologies on social media, but many participants said they felt cheated, with no official time or proof that they had competed and having spent hundreds of dollars in race fees and travel expenses.

While these mistakes are not common, they usually make social media splashes. The Big Wild Life Marathon (now called the Anchorage RunFest) in Alaska was cut short by nearly a mile in August. In March, the Admiral City of Newport Half Marathon in Wales was 636 meters, or almost half a mile, short. Race workers incorrectly marked the course of the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in Delaware in 2011, shortening it by about a third of a mile. An indoor marathon in Vienna in 2012 was 1.8 kilometers, or just over a mile, short. A company hired at the last minute to erect road barricades for the Colfax Half Marathon in Denver in 2013 inadvertantly shortened that course by a tenth of a mile.

“We were more concerned that there would be a moose on the course,” said Sharron Fisherman, 69, the race director of the Anchorage RunFest. She said that one volunteer placing mile markers on the course in the dark on the morning of the race accidentally placed one too soon. “It’s a race director’s worst nightmare.”

Serious runners often target small, regional races like the Anchorage RunFest or the 4 Bridges Half Marathon because sparser crowds often mean a smoother path to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, which has strict age-based time standards based on the full marathon, or the New York City Marathon, which offers guaranteed entry to runners who meet certain time standards in the half as well as the full. When a course falls short, though, the runner’s time may be invalidated.

In some cases, the race director works with runners to submit corrected times, which are calculated by taking a runner’s average pace from the shortened course and multiplying it by what the length of the course should have been. The result is an estimate of the time in which the runner would have completed the course had it been the correct distance.

“My first concern was Boston,” said Ms. Fisherman, who worked individually with runners and the Boston Marathon race director to recalibrate runners’ times.

“The onus is on the event, not on us, to adapt the times,” said a representative from the Boston Athletic Association, which hosts the Boston Marathon.

But those seeking to join organizations like Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics, which require that applicants complete a certain number of races within a certain time, may be out of luck. A runner can qualify by running two marathons or two half-marathons within 16 days; at the groups’ highest levels, runners race a full or a half weekly. Tony Phillippi, a founder of Marathon Maniacs, said the organization did not accept submissions from races shorter than 26.2 miles, even if it was accidental. “There are marathons every weekend,” he said. “It’s too bad, but 26.2 is what’s needed to join.”

So-called 50 staters like Ms. Luevanos-Garcia, whose goal is more personal glory than professional or financial gain, may have an easier time. After runners from the Big Wild Life Marathon questioned whether their times would count toward their Alaska race, the 50 States Marathon Club’s seven-member board voted to allow the marathon to count for Alaska, although their finishes would not be “certified,” said Steve Boone, a co-founder of the club.

Nicole Blomgren, the founder and president of the 50 States Half Marathon Club, said runners who submitted races to her operated on an honor system. “If someone ran 12 miles and received a half-marathon result, and counted it, are they really going to feel like they truly achieved a half-marathon in every state?” she asked.

In the end, Ms. Luevanos-Garcia reached the same conclusion. On her blog, Perishable Prose, where she tracks her races, Ms. Luevanos-Garciae wrote about her decision not to submit the 4 Bridges race to the 50 States club. Citing her “lifelong need to follow rules,” she concluded, “I didn’t cheat because I didn’t know, but neither did I run the full distance.”

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Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Justin.

That's quite a list of short races, and if you throw in the too-long-by mistake races it would be longer.

I know that in large part, measurers consider their job done once they measure, mark, and produce a map. But more races might want to try to get the measurer or someone with similar knowledge to actually be there on race day just to make sure.
Bob's comment makes a lot of sense to me. Bob is too modest to mention it, but he again saved a race by being out on the course -if only virtually - on race day last year. This time it was the 2015 Army 10-miler. Police and some soldiers were carrying an old, out-of-date course map. They were about to direct runners onto a wrong turn. Bob couldn't be there that day, but his trusted associate Jude was there. Jude called Bob to confirm the correct route before the lead runners came. An argument between the police and the soldiers on site then ensued. Bob & Jude convinced the police and then got the cones and the course marshals moved mere seconds before the lead runners arrived.

For the Marine Corps Marathon, Rick Nealis distributes a photo of Bob to everyone who will be working the course on race day, including all the police. They are given strict instructions that Bob decides where the cones and barricades go if there is any question or any need to change anything. They are informed that no one but Bob can ascertain the certified route, and that no one can override Bob's orders except law enforcement in the event of an emergency. Bob tells me that, as a consequence, there have been no misdirected runners in the MC Marathon in the many years he has performed this job.

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