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How to take pacing into your own hands if a course is mis-marked

A fairly popular half marathon was 1.3% short this weekend.

This is always an unfortunate scenario because now your finishing time is no longer comparable to other race efforts.

Nor is the race result comparable to your previous year's race result on the same course.

I would argue that a missing section of the course also changes the texture of the race since now a mile marker is misplaced which can throw off a timed split, which can throw a wrench into the original pacing plan that you designed before heading into the race.

Bad mile splits can further affect things like motivation to run hard since you may think you are performing better than you really are.

I don't want to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

A mis-marked course or mis-marked mile split is not the end of the world.

However, I would advocate that runners should have the tools to take matters into their own hands.

Hundreds to thousands of miles of preparation is required to perform at a high level. A great performance at a big race should not be tarnished by an error outside of your control.

Here are two challenges that your technology should be able to solve:

Challenge #1: You need to be able to execute a race plan, despite a mis-marked course.

You need a method of tracking your mile-by-mile and real time pacing that does not rely on mile markers being correct. This pacing method should also be robust enough to factor in hills & wind so you can keep a consistent effort despite conditions that will make your pacing variable.

Running power is a great solution to this problem. You can use lap averaged power to ensure that you are keeping a consistent effort from mile to mile. Plus, you can use real time power to know you are keeping a consistent second-by-second effort.

Challenge #2: You need to be able to reliably track your performance & personal records, despite a mis-marked course.

What happens if you set a personal record on a short course?

Did you really set a personal record or did you simply not have to run as far?

Could you have set a personal record if the course was correctly marked?

These kinds of questions open up a can of worms.

Fortunately, I have a solution for you.

I recommend tracking your personal records in terms of power & duration instead of distance & duration.

This will give you a definite source of truth of whether your performance really improved.

For example, let's say you ran three races.

1. A hilly half marathon
-- Distance: 13.1 miles, Time: 1:38:30, Average Power: 278 watts
2. A flat half marathon
-- Distance: 13.1 miles, Time: 1:35:30, Average Power: 278 watts
3. A hilly half marathon but the course was mis-marked
-- Distance: 12.9 miles, Time: 1:36:00, Average Power: 285 watts

If you only tracked your performance in terms of times, it would look you had your best performance on the flat half marathon course.

However, if you tracked your performance in terms of power & duration, it is clear that the hilly course that was mis-marked was your best performance out of the three races by a noticeable amount. You would have exceeded your "flat race" performance in terms of both power & duration. (You ran 283 watts for 30 seconds longer on the mis-marked course.)

In fact, the flat half marathon could be considered the least impressive performance because you logged a better duration for the same power on the hilly half marathon (278 watts for both races, but you sustained the wattage for three minutes longer on the hilly course.)

When you begin to think about your running in terms of power rather than pace, you will not be bothered by mis-marked mile splits or short courses any longer since you can rely on your power output as a complete performance indicator instead.

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