It's almost impossible to run the correct race distance.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
When I run in a road race, is it true that I am always going to run further than the advertised distance?Thanks, Jane.
Great question! It is almost impossible to run the exact, certified distance of any road race unless the course is a straight shot with no turns and no other runners to run around. When running in races with thousands of runners and dozens of turns you can actually end up running much further than the advertised distance. Official certifiers carefully ride all the tangents of the course from the start to the finish without runners or cars on the road to measure courses. Unless you are the leader and really pay attention to all the tangents, you will definitely run further than the race distance. It is almost impossible not to.
The longer the race and the more turns and the more runners to have to run around means the more distance you’ll cover. For example, for a marathon you could actually run 26.3 or 26.4 or even 26.5 miles, not 26.2 miles. That means if you are running a 10-minute per mile pace you are adding at least a minute or more to your overall time. It doesn’t seem like a lot but if you are competing against someone in your age group, it could easily mean the difference between placing or not! So, word to the wise, if you want to be competitive and you only want to run as close to the advertised distance as humanly possible, you need to be paying much more attention to the course, the turns, how you run the course, and how you seed yourself at the start.
This can happen at the other end of the spectrum too. While running (and racing) in a local road race, I witnessed a number of runners taking a turn on the course by jumping up onto the sidewalk and cutting the course. File this under “too much knowledge is a dangerous thing,” but I knew the course was certified so it had to be measured curb-to-curb. I did not follow these runners (letting my conscience be my guide) but stayed on the road instead. As such, these runners got away from me and ended up beating me by a few seconds. Although I should have voiced a complaint, I just let it go thinking that perhaps they didn’t know better (yeah, right).
So, the next time someone asks you if you are running a marathon, say, no, I am running more than a marathon because you probably are!