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I just returned from being the lead rider for the first female in our local marathon. I have been the certifier for this and the accompanying half marathon & 8K for many years now.

Last year I e-mailed the organizers pointing out what I perceived to be critical deficiencies in their marathon course layout which resulted in the runners, that I could see from my position with the lead female, running tangents where they should not have been and therefore saving considerable distance.

There was no improvement this year. At exactly the same spot where the runners should have been directed to be on the right-hand side of the road centerline there were no signs, no cones and it was obvious that the race marshalls had not been given any instructions on how to deal with on which side the runners were to run.

I don't believe it is my duty to make sure that the course is laid out properly. Last year I measured it after consulting with the race committees delegate and followed his instructions. Because of the other races the marathon uses the left side of the road for part of the route and the right for the rest. I pointed out before measuring the route last year that this was going to cause some confusion if not signed and coned properly.

I certainly can't blame the runners for what they were doing. I would have done the same thing had I been running and not been given any indication of which side of the road I was to be on.

What should I do this time? The certification certainly shouldn't be valid considering what I saw today or is it?
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My advice to race directors has always been to try not to restrict the runner’s use of the entire road. Where absolutely necessary, then restrict the road to a single lane or shoulder of the road. The burden is squarely on the race director’s shoulders to insure course restrictions are in place and that runners follow the measured route.

Laurie perfectly described the inherent problem in restricting the use of the entire road. Race day isn’t the best time to restrict the runner’s path, too many traffic cones and barricades to set in place, too many intersections to man, and too few volunteers show up to handle all race day activities.

The marginal difference in a measurement using a redistricted path versus an unrestricted one isn’t that dramatic. It is best to error on the side of a slightly longer path than to have all your hard work be tossed out the window because a traffic cone line was missing and runners ran a shorter course. Many times I measure a course using the entire road and on race day they might restrict the runner’s path. The important thing is ensuring that runners run at least the stated advised distance.

Just yesterday morning we had to improvise boundaries for our cross-country invitational course. The person in charge of delivering 300 traffic cones got a flat tire on his trailer on the way. Of course, he didn’t have a spare.
Laurie, I ran the Royal Victoria Marathon, albeit a long way after you and the lead female runner. I was very surprised that the route that I assumed was the measured route (often marked with a blue line) was not being followed, expecially in the last 10 or 15 km. At times the course marshals and even the aid stations had moved to the wrong side of the road and where the runners should have been on the right, but had moved to the left. Pete raised a good point. In this case it was an out and back portion of the course with runners generally restricted to the right side in both directions through the use of an occasional traffic cone, but the road was completely closed to traffic so when there were no opposing runners there was nothing to prevent runners from following the SPR. More cones, signs and properly instructed course marshals could have solved the problem.

I agree with Pete that we should assume the full width is going to be used unless it is clear that runners will be restricted to one side. On busy streets where the road remains open to traffic it would be difficult and not very safe to either run or measure a shorter route so I have followed the race directors commitment that runners will be restricted. I also add a note on the map stating that the certification is not valid if the course is not laid out in accordace with the map and if runner restrictions are not inforced.
Hi Paul,

Thanks for your replies. Beach Drive is the road I'm generally referring to. That is from about 16.5 km to 30.5 km of the marathon. The problem with Beach Drive is that is an out and back so on the return from the turn-around the runnners will always be forced to stay on one side or the other due to the large numbers coming towards them. It is on the outbound leg that there is a problem and the runners are supposed to be restricted to the right side. I seem to recall one of the reasons for that was the decision not to drive the lead vehicle down the wrong side of Beach Drive.

To measure this part of the route using the whole road both ways would be decidedly unfair to everyone. Beach Drive has been part of the Marathon route ever since we changed from a double loop format some ?20? years ago and it has never been a problem until this past two years when, as I said, part of the route is run on the left and Beach Drive on the right.

Paul, the blue line is still there from the Commonwealth Games in 1994. They were not supposed to paint it with standard road paint but must have. Some of the line had to be ground off some years ago due to people confusing it with the centerline on dark rainy nights.

Hope you had a decent run. The weather seemed to be ideal.
One of the things I always get concerned about in a case of incorrect course layout is that some runners assume it was bad course measurement. I measured a course for a race I subsequently ran where there was an official race mile marker sign misplaced by a quarter of a mile (short) on race day. The paint marking I had made during measurement was clearly visible on the pavement a quarter of a mile further on. I overheard talk between runners after the race questioning the validity of the course length as a result of this misplacement. I know that as a measurer this situation is typically outside of my control. However, whether a measurer likes it or not, there is sometimes association made between poor race management and the course measurement.

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