The Brighton Half Course Length Controversy

The Brighton Half Course Length Controversy

The controversy surrounding the extra half-mile at Brighton was all the chat on running forums, facebook and twitter yesterday. An accurately measured course, but some poor person placed the cone in the wrong place.

As my friend Faye on facebook said: “Wow, I wouldn't want to be Head of Cone distribution right now!” The story hit the local news yesterday evening and even got a mention on Chris Evan’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show this morning... Here's my race report.

As we drove across the South Downs on Sunday morning and the sun beamed through the cold clouds, on what looked like a perfectly still winter's day, I realised I had no excuse. Perfect conditions, a good night's sleep on Saturday (Mike and I had gone to bed at 9pm!) and carbed up from a lovely meal out on Saturday lunch. Training had been going well, no injuries.... just nerves!

Katie Price runs Brighton Half Marathon with injured kneeA very crowded and narrow start was quite welcome as it was a very cold day, so the line of bodies kept us warm. As we set off (at 8:59) I felt tired; 53 miles, including circuits, speed-work and threshold runs in the build up to the race was in my body and the first mile at 6:36 felt tough, but I also had a feeling I could keep going, I would just feel it today!

PICTURE: Katie Price was one of the thousands who raced the Brighton Half

The second mile was also ran in 6:36, I felt okay, not too fast, just a bit knackered. Then my first knock-back came, running alongside me was the sub 1:30 pace maker. Surely not, that's 30 seconds out. Then I overheard, 'Yes, that was a bit enthusiastic' and a few 'tuts' from the group. I decided to get away from the flag.

As we ran up towards Rottingdean, I told myself this would probably be the hardest part of the course as it's a bit of a climb, I remembered from the map that the turn was around four miles. My third mile felt good, but I didn't bother to look at my watch as I ran into four and beyond (early days, go by feeling). As I turned the corner running around the cone back towards Brighton I was distracted by an unwelcome headwind. I decided to concentrate on getting through my first bad patch and work to a heart rate of 155. So I missed the 5-mile split. 

It wasn't until I hit 6 miles that I vaguely took in the extra half mile! And saw 6.4 on my Garmin, but as I was running to heart rate, I wasn't paying much attention to this. By nine miles I realised that .4 had been the extra at every mile marker, and the collective Garmin bleeps had been going off a long way from the marker.

As I was focused on sticking to race pace, I wasn’t paying as much attention as I might have done if I was pacing a group or training. I vaguely wondered if I might have left my watch on before starting and had the .4 still on from the warm up, but I didn’t linger on those thoughts, instead I carried on focusing on keeping the rhythm.

My mind was a bit fuzzy and I decided just to look at the mile splits, which couldn't be wrong even if the Garmin had mis-measured somewhere en route. And the mile splits continued to stay mainly under 6:50 (or sub 1:30) so I felt good and had some in the bank. Also, I knew by the way I felt, and by the people around me (good!) that I was running faster than I have for a while!

But I also kept hoping that it would all add up at the next mile, and that the rogue mile marker would come right. By 11 miles I heard a marshal shout (only 2.5 miles to go). This made me feel despondent. My watch showed 1:14 at almost 11.5 miles, I realised that meant I had to run two good sub 7s to get sub 1:30!

By 12 miles I knew it was just wrong! I had no idea what time I was going for now. I had hoped to run 6:40 pace, so I just decided to keep going. As I saw 1:30:15 on the clock I was livid. I'd run 6:20 for the last half mile (which even to the end I'd hoped might turn out to be .1).  A nice man encouraged me across the line. I was encouraged by my place (I'd been told I was 8th all the way round - it turns out I was 11th! But hey ; )

My watch measured 13.55 and quickly people started talking. I'd run 6:41 pace, one second off my goal 6:40. I had worked so hard, a tired run, and I'd given it everything, and only to be rewarded with 1:30:30.

P.S. Rumour has it that the sub 1:30 pacemaker was last seen at six miles saying: ‘Don’t follow me!’

Here’s a record of my run Brighton Half using Garmin.

The Next Day

Forums, chat rooms, facebook, twitter were alive with disgruntled Garmin users reporting the discrepancy! 13.4 to 13.66 were the distances being announced. Race organisers were contacted, UKA officials etc...

One forum user posted this:

I wrote to Michael Sandford from the association of UK course measurers about the distance. He checked a few public GPS tracks of the route against his maps and said: "I am able to confirm that the course was over distance due the the turn at the East End of the course being not located in the position marked by the measurer."

He goes on to say:

"It is the responsibility of the race director to locate the turn at the position indicated in the measurement report. It is the responsibility of the race referee/ race adjudicator appointed by RunBritain to ensure that the race director is using the course as measured is used by race director. A number of measurers have asked RunBritain that race referees/ race adjudicators be reminded about these duties. A gross error like this ought to have been very easily picked up if the race referee/ race adjudicator had actually visited the East turn round and compared the location used with that described in the measurer's measurement report."

So there you have it: it's official.”

The pressure was on!

But the race organisers came good! What must have been a terrible day for them ended well and by 4pm the times had been amended, okay I still think I ran 1:27:44, but I got my PB of 1:28:17. And with such amazing conditions, many were rightly rewarded with their correct personal best on what was a perfect racing day, not least of all Fiona Powell the female first who’s been hoping to run sub 80 minutes for a long time, and no doubt the three first men, who were rewarded with a sub 70 minute time on what was a PB-day.

Here are the revised results:

Here's some news:  




An update from Power of 10:

"We have consulted with UKA/runbritain and the race organisers and it has been mutually agreed that the issued half marathon times cannot be considered as official race times so unfortunately we are unable to use them.

However, on, the handicap scheme makes a natural adjustment for the extra distance so it does not effect your handicap."



A similar thing happened to me in the Abington 10K (Granta Park near Cambridge) on 2/10/11.   I had studied the course map beforehand and run some warm ups round the first part of the course.  It went round two loops before leaving the park grounds for the road.  I was a bit surprised, to put it mildly, when we missed out the second loop before heading for the road.  My Garmin kept bleeping right between the kilometer poles. for the whole race.  It was lovely Indian summer weather......of course I did a PB with no trouble at all but realised it counted for nothing. The race distance was only about 9.6K!  The organisers admitted their mistake soon after the finish.

However, I note that my time still shows as official in the RunBritainRankings for that race.........