Friday, May 6, 2011


No, no, don't worry. This isn't an evangelising post. Well it is, but the J is not Jesus, but Jason, as in Jason Murphy, our favorite race official.

As you may be aware, la belle just came back from the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati. It was a warm(ish) but wet day, maybe between 17 and 21 Celsius. Great running weather we suppose and she put it to good use, running a 3:23:53 (or thereabouts). First time sub 3:24 and a personal best. Yey.

Pretty good splits, very consistent and near-as-dammit even splitted the whole thing. Fourth AG too. All-in-all a good day out. Training was not perfect and this result clearly shows that long runs are over-rated; the fewer she does, the better she does. Any fewer and she'll be taking to the start-line smoking a Gauloise and eating poutine and still get a PB!

As you may also be aware, it was a trip fraught with difficulties; a cancelled flight on the way out, a missing suitcase that turned up just in time for the trip home, hotel problems and most of the museums and art galleries in Cincinnati were closed on Monday, the only day she had left to take in the sights of Jerry Springer's former stomping-grounds.

There was one last thing. The Flying Pig has a no-double-dipping policy for it's awards. Nice. So as at least one of the big-time place-getters was 35, la belle reckoned that, according to the preliminary results, she should have been in line for a nice little gong, no?

However, the preliminary results were just that, preliminary, and before she'd eaten her way through the recovery tent, she'd been dropped by one place. Which on the face of it was odd as whilst PBs and BQs are always by chip-time, gongs are by gun-time.

A little digging (what's a gal to do when Cincinnati is all but closed?) showed something odd. The lady who was 3rd AG did not ping all the mats!


That's right. Runner #5307 (I have no problem naming and shaming at this point) had 6.8 mile split, missed the half and 20 mile mats and pinged the 25.2 mile and finish mats. As she had some split times and a chip-time, she also must have pinged the start-mat.

#5307's first 6.8 miles were at nearly 10 minute per mile (or there-abouts), so after an hour, she was something like 14 minutes in arrears to la belle, who as previously noted was stoically knocking out 7:45s (per mile). Her final mile was 7:20 or so. Her final time was a scorching 3:21. So, she covered the remaining 18.2 in 2 hrs 06 minutes. This isn't a bad pace, 7:00 per mile or so, coincidently the same pace Denise Robson and I were knocking out on our Tour de Dartmouth at the same time.

I can't work out where she must have passed la belle, as running at least 40 seconds per mile quicker and being fourteen minutes down after 7 miles, it should have taken her over 21 miles to catch her (14 mins = 840 seconds/40 seconds = 21) ! This assumes they started together, which they likely didn't. If you say the speed differential was 45 seconds, #5307 could have caught her in 18 miles (18 + 7 = 25 miles), but you tend to remember being passed in the finishing straight and sprinting it out for the place, and she doesn't. These pace times are necessarily extrapolated as she didn't have those splits.

When contacted by the timers, who'd noticed this anomaly, she said she ran the whole course but her chip fell off and she was carrying it on her watch-strap, hence it didn't register on the mats. The timers were temporarily placated, but then they then found a finish-line picture from their own cameras that showed #5307's chip clearly on her shoe.

The map is above (larger version here). There is no evidence from the mats, that #5307 was ever any further east than than the apex of that big bend in the Ohio River.

For a while, the timers didn't think they had grounds for DSQ, but we argued (in a couple of emails) that if she couldn't be placed on the course, then there were no grounds to assume she had run the distance.

The last we heard, however, #5307 has been DSQ from the results.

This is as it should be.

Those mats, you see, aren't split-time mats per se. Sure, that's how we think of them and your average runner thinks they are there so their times can be texted to friends, family and colleagues and simulcast to people following them on Athlete Tracker (who hasn't spent the last Sunday in August, or the Patriots Day morning glued to their computer?). As nice as that is, that's not why they are there. They've been there since before when SMS was only a brand of cycling clothing!

They are lap audit mats and there because Rosie Ruiz cut the course (and spectacularly so) at Boston in 1980! She denies it, but the fact remans the only person who vouched for her being on the course was a dude running in a Superman suit. In 1980 BAA didn't have hard-and-fast eveidence that Rosie was, or was not, in Framingham or Wellesley or on the Newton Hills or on the subway. So lap-audt mats were introduced. They confirm you did, in-fact, run the entire course.If you didn't ping all the mats, it's pretty good evidence you didn't do the course, and if you didn't do the course then you should not appear in the results. And if you ignore the evidence of the lap-audit mats, as the Cinci timers were thinking of doing, then why go to the expense of having them? Speaking of Boston, this was a BQ time, and not any old time, this was a first-day sign-up time.

You can miss a mat, but when this happens we ask, did your splits make sense? If you missed a lap and clocked a 2:55 per k average, it's clear something is wrong. In this case the times were believable, but fast. Running a 7 minute mile, #5307 should have been fighting for the win and would have been third. So, was it believable? Perhaps, but one's incredulity was being strained by this point; missing mats, chip not where she said it was, blazing fast times. Occam's razor and all that.

So justice, in this case has been served. It's not about the gong, which la belle may, or may not receive, it's about the principle.

Now all we need to do is write to the Columbus half. She won there last year but, curiously, she has no 10K split-time.......



  1. the detail!

  2. If you do 'borrow' one of my pictures from my website for your blog you could at least mention the source: