Trying to ONLY run 26.2 miles in a marathon (Read 2206 times)


    My garmin has recorded each of my marathons as ~ 26.6 miles. The last I would have met my goal if I had only ran 26.2 and not 26.59. Perhaps garmin is inaccurate, but since I use it in training, I'm thinking I have to be prepared to run an extra .5 mile to hit my goal for next marathon. Since we have no blue line to follow, do you study the course and make sure you are running it always on the "right" side of the road to keep the distance short? Anyone have any advice to only run the 26.2?



      1. Garmin and other GPS or pedometer style devices are not 100% accurate. They are close enough, though, and probably won't account for more than maybe 1/5 of the mile difference at most (probably less.) 2. More likely, you didn't run all the tangents. It's an acquired skill. Marathons are measured shortest distance possible, plus a bit more to make sure they aren't short (only about 40-50 meters for a marathon, 4 to 5 meters for a 5k.) When you are running, keep your head up, and aim your body at the next turn that you can see. Traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) probably will make this impossible, so be prepared for a little extra distance in a race.

      Run to Win
      25 Marathons, 17 Ultras, 16 States (Full List)


        Blaine, I'll be honest... I've paid NO attention YET to running it the shortest. I stay on the left and plod on ahead with no focus on turns. It's probably harder as a mid-packer to cut-across streets than it is for fast guys like you. Wink OK, so I'm guessing I can cut some time down just by paying more attention to the turns. This is good.


        A Saucy Wench

          I think my marathon was about 26.6 also.. Heh...the local ultra this weekend has a special prize...if you can get your garmin within 0.5 miles of the measured course you get a bonus prize. My understanding is the course was measured multiple times by the race director using his garmin and cutting all the tangents.

          I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets


          "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

            In really big marathons it is impossible to run the tangents--too much traffic. There was a guy in front of me at Boston this year trying to run them and I--along with a lot of other runners--wanted to punch him in the face. Every time we went around a turn he'd cut across the road and cut off about 20 people, then sweep back to the other side of the road and cut off 20 more people. So if you want to run the shortest path, run smaller marathons.

            Runners run.

              I don't usually wear a Garmin in marathons, but just out of curiousity, I wore my Garmin for the first time in the last marathon I did, and even with trying to cut the corners as much as possible, I was still registering a 1.01 - 1.03 distance for most miles. Just an observation.

              Feeling the growl again

                If I were a race director, this would drive me batty. GPS is NOT accurate enough to measure courses!! The technology almost guarantees it will come out long. There is an error associated with each measurement the device takes. Ride a bike at running speed with a speedometer to prove you are going at a constant pace. Set your Garmin to show instantaneous pace. Watch it jump all over a 1-2min pace range. It is doing that because, at running speeds, the errors are big enough that they screw up the pace measurement. Over a long run, many of the forward/rearward errors will cancel out, but the left/right errors do NOT cancel -- they add phantom distance to your run total! The errors get worse when you run a city marathon where tall buildings will certainly lead to erroneous signals. If you go look up and read the Garmin documents on accuracy, you will see why it will never say 26.2. Even if the Garmin is 99% accurate the error in a marathon is over 1/4 mile! In addition, any certified marathon is about 46 yards -- 0.1% -- long by design. This is the "short course prevention factor" meant to assure that any certified course is, at a minimum, and despite normal course measuring error, the prescribed distance. After any record, the course is re-measured. This tool was developed to ensure that people don't set records only for subsequent measurements to find the course was 1 yard short or something (if it comes out long of course the record is still good).

                "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand


                I am spaniel - Crusher of Treadmills


                  Yeah the best solution is to just not race with your Garmin. I don't get that...too much (possibly incorrect) info. Just race.

                  Runners run.

                  Prince of Fatness

                    This is the reason I will never bring my Garmin to a race. I don't need the Garmin not matching the course markers messing with my head while I am racing. I bought a Timex Ironman watch from Target just for races, so I get my splits. I tend to over analyze things, but surprisingly I don't give this much thought. I don't worry about cutting corners, or following a line. Race day is all about racing. Sure, maybe it will skew my PR by a few seconds. So what? I really think I'm better off not knowing. The caveat would be if a course was short, but I just trust that any course that is certified will be long if anything.


                      I agree that the Garmin isn't 100% accurate. When I used mine in the marathon, I set up the display to only show me the elapsed time since that's all I need to go by anyway. I wore it just to see how close it would come to the actual marathon distance, since you hear so many people say how different their Garmin reading is as compared to the actual race distance. I turned off the auto lap feature and manually hit the lap button at each mile marker. It was an experiment to see how close it really is. I've seen my Garmin register a distance for me even when I'm standing still.

                        Once you think about running tangents its hard to stop - I just naturally try and look for the best tangent when I run - Of course I only take them if it is safe. But a lot of where I run I can run tangents. I think that would be a great goal for you - See if next time you can run 26.5 or 26.4 - I would guess its near impossible to get to below 26.3.

                        7/20/17 #247 Comeback #19 ... 10/8 - Glacial Trail 50M



                          Once you think about running tangents its hard to stop - I just naturally try and look for the best tangent when I run - Of course I only take them if it is safe. But a lot of where I run I can run tangents.
                          This is the best advice I've seen. Practice running tangents on all your runs and then it will just be second nature when you are racing. As others have mentioned, sometimes (often in big races) it will take less energy to go with the flow of runners than to fight them in order to run the shortest distance possible--you see this on a miniature scale in track meets. Often a runner will choose an outside lane rather than mixing it up on the inside lanes--the free running space being much more valuable than the extra yards they may have to run.
                            This is the best advice I've seen. Practice running tangents on all your runs and then it will just be second nature when you are racing.
                            Until you get hit by a car! Clowning around

                              I am fascinated by this topic and I'm guessing that this is part of the reason that point to point courses are considered faster.... fewer turns. The only run I've run is Grandma's and up until a couple of weeks ago it was my fastest marathon. I run most of my long runs on a trail that is straight- no tangents to run- but running only 26.2 miles is something I aspire to... whether or not it can be done.