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Fellow craftsmen, it’s painful to share the message below. We all work many years to execute perfectly and we’re all undefeated until we lose a game. The first thing I will say to you all is I’m very sorry to have cast a shadow of doubt on our profession. As you measure and verify course after course and hundreds I suppose it’s easy to assume you’re infallible, sadly we’re not. What happened here as I reflect was kind of a perfect storm brewing and it sunk me. One piece of advice I would give to you all as you grow is the same I’m reminding myself of, don’t lose focus for even a moment, don’t assume you’re so good you cannot make a mistake because you can.

With that, I give the long, complete version of what happened at 7-Bridges from my perspective. I share this in hopes that no one else will have to experience this.

-- Dissection of a failure --
The 7-Bridges Marathon and 4-Bridges Half-Marathon were originally measured by me in July 2016 and issued certificates TN16004BW (42.195km) and TN16006BW (21.0975km) issued. I was brought in as an experienced measurer qualified to complete the work. This was a calculated move on behalf of the race to bring in an experienced IAAF measurer familiar with Chattanooga because the previous year they had a short course due to an improperly placed TA.

The race was run in October 2016 using those certified routes unfortunately there was an error in the first turn of the course that resulted in an unknown number of participants missing the first turn resulting in a short course for and unknown number of runners.

I was supposed to be on-site last year to complete a race-day verification measurement but due to flooding in my hometown from Hurricane Matthew I was not able to leave North Carolina.

Additionally in April of 2017 the Mac I used for years containing every course and all of the math and spreadsheets for those courses including the original 7-Bridges and 4-Bridges courses crashed and I have been unable to recover those files.

Effectively I have no way to verify (from my original measurement data) or from a subsequent full verification measurement the courses from 2016 were correct.

I was asked to come back in the Summer of 2017 and make two adjustments to the existing courses (one in the first mile and one in the middle of the courses). I have the math from those adjustments. They indicate the Full was 452.5 meters shorter as a result of the changes and the Half was 1133 meters too long. The full TA needed to be adjusted out 225.25 meters for the full and the half TA needed to be adjusted in 566.7 meters. During the race day verification I was able to determine that adjustments were made correctly HOWEVER, to make matters worse it was impossible to make those exact adjustments due to curbed planters being in the way.

Accordingly after discussing the issues with the race director in July we decided to move the TA’s out to the next vehicle turn-thru and accept the courses would be slightly long so the 2017 full was certified as a long course of 42.27038km and the half a long course of 21.11268km.

To make matters even worse I was not able to make a complete verification ride of the courses after the adjustments in July because of 2 main bridges on the course, both main Hwy’s into and out of Chattanooga would need to be controlled and escorts provided. One the Hwy27 bridge between miles 5 & 6 and the Hwy 153 bridge (TVA Dam) between miles 17 and 15. It was not possible to do that verification due to my inability to safely measure on those 2 bridges. After consultation with the RD it was determined I would come back on race-day and do a verification measurement.

It became obvious to me at mile 15 during the verification there was an issue with the course and it was (“about half-mile long”). This was based on my knowledge of the course and where I expected the mile markers to be placed. Up through mile-14 they were exactly where they should have been. When I had arrived at mile 15 the marker was no-where in-sight. This is the point on the course immediately before the Hwy 153 TVA DAM.

At the conclusion of the verification I was immediately interviewed on Facebook live by the race in an effort try and limit the backlash to the event by being transparent. During that live broadcast I took full responsibility for the errors. At that time I believed it had been due to errors that had been made during the adjustment. That live broadcast was picked up by the local channel 3 news and they came to do a second live interview in which again I took full responsibility for the error.

When I was able to get out of the spot light, and away from the stress of the day and check the math I was able to confirm the full verified long at 43.349km (without SCPF) and the half verified short at 19.91367km (without SCPF).

Immediately (before leaving Chattanooga) I went out to measure the adjustment to the TA’s on Riverfront and the section measurements for the pieces of the course that changed because I believed the error had been made in one of those adjustments. I determined those calculations were correct and the adjustments to the TA’s were correct based on re-verifying that data while still on-site.

Having arrived home and reviewed the math available I have from the verification I can only conclude the original courses were wrong and it was not known because of the course issue that happened at the very start of the race and because I was unable to perform a verification measurement between then and now. That statement is not a matter of placing blame elsewhere because I am the measurer who made those initial measurements as well. So the only common thing in the measurement error is me.

Course of action:
The course will need to be measured again to determine the above conclusion to be correct. This will be done with 2 IAAF measurers.

Lessons Learned:
1.) Never, ever assume the original measurement is correct when doing an adjustment to an existing course

2.) Always complete a full verification of the new course after making an adjustment. If it’s not possible to do so wait to make the adjustments until it is possible

3.) Backup electronic data and make sure no single device failure can wipe out this original measurement data

4.) When possible don’t make hasty statements about what you assumed happened. Wait to make a statement until you’re certain what happened

No matter how many times you’ve done it before you could easily make an error on the next course. Every measurement and adjustment no matter how “easy” should be approached with the utmost caution. Everyone is human and every effort should be made to confirm and reconfirm measurements and adjustments to verify the data to ensure courses are measured correctly and verified to be correct prior to race day.
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I frequently review courses done by final signatories to see how they do things and find map mistakes. My certifiers catch a lot of mine so I think ironically, my work is more likely to be right though sometimes we both miss things I did.

Also, this puts an e-mail copy of my numbers in cyber space. This may be heresy but I am convinced our product would be improved if we had perhaps, and I realize it sounds like I am talking my own book here, a second experienced measurer review final signatory courses before publication. That would also put the numbers out on a server.
Lynwood Wagner
Don’t know if this fits under lessons learned or just an extra worthwhile step, but I always spend an inordinate amount of time laying out the course using an on-line mapping tool before I ever go out and measure. This does three things, keeps me from wasting a lot of time on a course that will not work out as the organizer planned. Allows me to become familiar enough with the course and can prevent some wrong turns and restarts. But most important, with a little experience it is possible to match within a few meters the on-line map with the measurement. If there is a significant calculation error, it is likely the on-line map will not be in agreement.

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