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 Course Measurement Goes High Tech?
Submitted by Rickshaw :: Mon Feb 21, 2005 6:01 pm
With the ever increasing popularity of GPS-based measuring devices for runners, race directors are beginning to get flak from competitors with a penchant for accuracy. The director of a local 5K in Maryland received an email from a racer upset that her GPS showed a distance of 3.07 miles for the course-- 194 feet and about 15 seconds too short. But can GPS devices really be trusted to measure courses accurately? Most people who've looked at the problem say the answer is no, not even using the newer differential GPS system. An old-school measuring wheel device still provides the best accuracy, and has been used to certify six Olympic marathon courses since 1976.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Course Measurement Goes High Tech? Posted: Mon Feb 21, 2005 6:36 pm 

I know mine is never dead on. When I first got it I wore it the first few times on my measured running path. It was very close to the markers, but not exact. More notably though, from day to day, the same stretch was never showing up as the exact same distance. Also, the GPS's out there say they're not 100% accurate.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Course Measurement Goes High Tech? Posted: Mon Feb 21, 2005 7:04 pm 

I agree, the consumer units like the Forerunner aren't accurate enough to use to certify a course, and they don't claim to be. What surprised me was that apparently even a fancier GPS setup would still be insufficient if you really care about accuracy. I guess nothing beats rolling a wheel down the course and counting the number of revolutions it makes. As long as you can measure the wheel's circumference accurately, and you keep the wheel on the correct line from start to finish, I don't see where any error could creep in. Maybe potholes and speedbumps?

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