Tangents: Are You Running Too Far?

A marathon is very rarely 26.2 miles when you check your watch or GPS system at the end of the race and this is largely down to being able to run the tangents of the course (and inaccurate GPS). A tangent is the shortest possible route from point A to point B.

Below is a nice diagram to highlight how to run the tangents. This example makes it obvious, but throughout a race with many turns or sharp bends it can be easy to forget or not even think about and we can end up taking the long way round.

Diagram of Running Tangents

I recently blew the mind of several of our athletes when I mentioned that the world majors and some other larger races have lines on the course that mark the tangents so that you can run as close to 26.2miles as possible! I only discovered this myself at the Chicago Marathon in 2021 when someone pointed it out to me and I felt so silly for never even noticing this before. If you were up early enough to watch Kipchoge break the Marathon WR, you’d see that he stayed on that blue line throughout most of the race, but it is a guide that is available for everyone to use, not just the superhuman elites!

So for your upcoming race, try to cut out the weaving in and out of people if possible,  look ahead for bends/turns and plan your direct route, and look for course markings on the road to see if your race has them set out for you!

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