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When I first heard about the plans for the Marathon in the 2012 London Olympics the route was to be start with some loops in the city centre before heading out to finish in the Olympic Stadium. Hugh Jones was called in by the London Marathon Ltd to do some exploratory measures. The following is original route which I have found on wikipedia:
Originally the route was planned to start at Tower Bridge, run through Tower Hamlets and finished at the Olympic Stadium. It would have had a 580 m "run-in", three laps of 11.61 km circuiting central London and passing through or close to the Tower of London, the Victoria Embankment, the Palace of Westminster, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, Birdcage Walk, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Strand, St Paul's Cathedral, and the City of London. After the final circuit, the route would then have headed east for 7.34 km, along Whitechapel Road and Mile End Road, towards the Olympic Park and a finish in the Olympic Stadium.
This route is shown in a map (pdf) on the Tower Hamlets website.
In August 2010 I read the one David Katz had been appointed by the IAAF Council as the Official measurer for the London Olympic Games Road races.
In September 2010 the route was changed to remain entirely within the city centre starting and finishing on the Mall. According to The Guardian report this was "because of the potential for traffic chaos and security issues" with the original route.
Hugh measured the new course and a test event was to be held over the new course on 31 May 2011. Hugh planned to make use of the opportunity of the closure of the roads for that event to get a more accurate measurement ride without traffic problems. The 39 test runners were scheduled to run together at 3 hr marathon pace, and Hugh wrote that he planned to get a measurement ride as follows:
The timetable on Monday morning is very tight. We set up at 04.00 when the road closure comes in, and then I will start to measure as soon as I can, but unlikely before 05.15. I want to measure 1 small lap and 1 large lap in the running direction, although some parts of the course are disrupted by works, and will definitely be different a year from now. The test event starts at 06.00 - 50 runners going the full distance at 3 hour pace. I am only due to start duty on course at 07.50, to navigate the lead vehicle for the wheelchairs, as they set off on their one lap. They will rest a while and do a second lap. The Marathon test event will be finished at 09.00 and the London 10,000m starts at 11.00. There is a test for the walks course at 16.00. Not sure how we could do this. I would definitely be just riding at maximum pace to get the job done before the race starts, stopping at pre-noted points and scribbling the reading down. I attach my prompt list for these locations (different to that I have previously used, as this is the first chance I have had to do a measurement without worrying about traffic).
I chickened out of joining Hugh for the reasons explained in my reply:
Many thanks for the details - but I think on reflection I would be too slow and impede your measuring too much.
I understood your original plan had been to ride behind the test runners who would be doing 3hr pace for the marathon, i.e. 8.7mph. I can manage that since my electric bike can give maximum assist up to over 10mph, then the assist is steadily reduced, reaching zero at 15.5mph.
Riding above 15.5 mph I get no assistance, and in any case the gearing of the bike is deliberately rather low (for hills) so I have to pedal at an uncomfortably high cadence rate at speeds of 15 mph and above. Also the power needed to overcome air resistance goes up as the cube of the speed, and I have a completely upright riding position. This is no problem at all around 8.7 mph but at say 20 mph the air resistance pushes the power required to drive the bike up by 12 times, So what might be a requirement of about 30 watts at 8.7mph becomes 360 watts at 20 mph, and of course it all has to come from me rather than the motor at that speed!
I find the electric assist bike is very effective to help me measure at speeds typically between 8 and 12 mph. .........
....... So I wish you well on Monday morning, and I will be happy to remain in bed rather than turnout out very early and then just impede your challenging job.
On 16 May 2012 I got another message from Hugh:
The Olympic measurement (official) will likely be 13 June, just me and the official measurer (David Katz) - unless you want to join. Please let me know. It will likely be from 03.00.
Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity:
I would like to ride, provided my presence won't make the operation more complex to manage for David, whose work must take priority over hangers-on like myself.
Hugh got the go ahead from David:
After discussion with David Katz he is happy if you wish to join us for the official measurement. The riding order would be me, him in the middle and you. We would calibrate next to the start/finish line (350m) and David would like to re-calibrate mid-measurement, after having done the small lap [in two sections: i) from Embankment "wrong way" around down Northumberland Avenue, The Mall Spur Road, Birdcage Walk, Great George Street, Parliament Square (North side) and Bridge Street; ii) The 600m section down the Embankment (in the running direction)] We would measure the large lap from where it diverges from the small lap, just before the end of Northumberland Avenue and it is possible to measure right around the lap to Big Ben while only momentarily straying across the road into oncoming traffic (on Gresham Street/Princes Street near the bank of England and for 60m wrong way down King William Street near to Monument). We are still discussing arrangements with the police, but I think we will likely start around 02.30 on 13 June. The measurement should only take a couple of hours. Would you be able to join us?
So it was that I prepared to join Hugh and David for their ride. I have described what happened on the following page:
The Olympic Marathon Measurement - Mike Sandford's Narrative Account