The CDC has issued a statement saying the course was incorrectly certified. The current official distance is now: 13.2762 (instead of the half-marathon distance of 13.1094). While many runners, including yours truly, are suspicious that this adjustment is not enough (ie the course was longer still), I am happy to see that some action was taken in a timely fashion.
With this new information, my self-adjusted half-marathon time would have been more like: 2:01.30 (avg pace of 9:16). Obviously, two minutes is no big thing, especially for someone who was not out to PR. But to many runners, this is simply unacceptable. I have been watching the drama unfold on letsrun.com, and it's just one big unfortunate story for all those involved.
Being part of the running scene for almost eleven years has allowed me to see just how much has changed since 1997. Internet was prevalent, but not everyone had it. At some of my earlier races, you'd find your (gun) time on a printout shortly after the race. That was all you got. There was no chip or anything. And no forum with which to post your positive or negative comments regarding the race (people would use the land-line for that, I guess). It's very easy these days to point fingers and "yell" and "scream" at the race directors anonymously over the Internet. And since many races are so big now and so expensive, I guess runners feel as if they deserve perfection come race day. It's times like these that I try to remember why it is I register for races and what it is I'm paying for. More importantly, how exactly does an organized race differ from a training run? I've picked five things to analyze.
A. The course. In a race, the course is mapped out in advance and certified or measured accurately (most of the time). On a training run, I may decide to add or subtract some mileage or perhaps chop off the third Harlem Hill in favor of another loop of the rez. I also resort to gpeds or similar for rough mileage estimates.
B. Aid stations. You should expect water (and enough of it) on a race course (unless you are told otherwise due to the specific event). Perhaps even some sports drink. And you might expect a fluid station every one or two miles. Also, should you need it, some kind of medical attention should be available. On a training run, you are responsible for your own aid.
C. Traffic. While racing, you should not have to deal with traffic. Whether or not traffic is shut down entirely, sentenced to one lane, or stopped by a volunteer, traffic should not be the racer's responsibility (you should still exercise caution, however). Obviously, when I am running on my own, I better look out for vehicles, or anything else that could run me over.
D. Scored results. A big reason people race is to have an "official" time. Unless it is a fun run, participants should be given a finish time. This time is important because it signifies an accomplished goal. With the technology we have now, the timing aspect can get pretty screwed up.
E. Goodies. This includes t-shirts, refreshments, and other souvenirs participants receive at races. Some races have a phenomenal spread at the finish line; others offer stale bagels and crushed fruit (no names here).
I'm sure there are many more things I haven't discussed (fans and spectators come to mind) but these are my primary reasons for racing. Every year, road races get bigger, more expensive, and more publicized. I still do 'em, but I try to keep in mind that it is only a race, and as long as I am safe (and preferably uninjured) at the end of them, then all is good. But another part of me feels quite cheated when something as significant as the course distance is fouled.
Besides following this drama (watching the Olympics, visiting with friends, etc), I've been trying to recover from Sunday. Today I spent some time at the gym with a four mile run (flanked by two half-mile warm up walks), lots of stretching, and just about all the PT exercises I know. Knee seemed okay. It's just going to be a one-day-at-a-time kinda thing.