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– Runners to Head Off From New Start in Zabeel Park –
Dubai (UAE): Motorists in Dubai puzzled by the site of a lone cyclist guarded by a police escort needn’t be concerned as it is all in a day’s work for Paul Hodgson as he measures the route for the 2008 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, the world’s richest ever athletics road race.
With world record marathon prize money of $1 million at stake and a further bonus of $1 million for a world record at stake, there must be no margin for error in terms of every inch of the classic 26 miles, 385 yard distance.
And for Hodgson – a Grade “A” Course Measurement Official with the Association of International Marathons and Road Races (AIMS) – this means covering the entire route on his hi-tech bicycle calibrated with a Jones Counter, the sole measuring instrument recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
“Every road race event that wants to be taken seriously has to be measured to the very last inch,” said Hodgson. ”No matter where in the world the race is held, the same standards of accuracy apply and an Accredited Course Measurement Official must measure the route using recognised course measurement procedures.
Even with so much money and prestige at stake, Hodgson is quick to emphasise that this 37 year-old method of measurements remains the best and most accurate. “Despite modern technology, the range of sophisticated electronic instruments now available provides spurious data,” he added.
“Even the advent of hi-tech Global Position Systems (GPS) has failed to provide the required standard of accuracy. Modern hand-held devices can locate your position on the surface of the earth to within five square metres, but for measuring distance they are no more accurate than a measuring wheel.”
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will see world record holder and double Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie lead the largest field ever seen in a Middle East marathon.
“Interest in the race is ahead of the normal figures, which is understandable considering the prize-money and quality of the field,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “In terms of logistics, our aim is to have a measured route beyond reproach, which is why we follow the example of the World Championship and Olympic events and their measurement officials who measure major marathon routes throughout the world.
“Each official has a bicycle and Jones Counter calibrated over different baselines, and probably their own interpretation of the running line. Yet their measurements will be within 10-15m, which is accuracy of the order of 0.03%, well within the 0.1% standard laid down by the governing body.
“Although we start the measuring during the night when traffic is low, we also need the help of Dubai Police. By the time we finish, the sun has usually come up and we need their assistance as the Dubai roads can be a little busy first thing in the morning!”
Runners looking to sign up for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon can register on-line at www.dubaimarathon.org or visit any branch of Fitness First.