Miles v. Kilometers

I ran in the Venice marathon on Sunday, and on Saturday afternoon before the run it occurred to me for the first time that the distances wouldn't be marked out in miles. That was a bit of a shock (to say the least!) as I knew that I wasn't going to be able to do any sort of accurate Km/mile conversions in my head as I was running, and I began to panic that I'd have no real idea how fast I was running.

In the end it didn't matter much, as I tried to follow the 4 hour pacers round and so didn't really have to think about timings, but if I'd not been following the pacers I think the lack of mile markers would have worried me. Even as it was I found myself confused in the latter stages, when I was *really* tired, about just how far I had left to go.

The whole thing was very well organised indeed, but with the benefit of hindsight I wonder why the organisers of marathons don't mark distances along the route in both miles and kilometers. After all the organisation involved in putting on a marathon, sticking up markers must be a relatively minor matter?

Has anyone else who's run marathons in Europe/elsewhere encountered this?


  • Have only run them in South Africa and there it's all KM. I'm a sad bas***d and have a spreadsheet that converts KM splits to miles and vice versa. I agreee it would be nice if they had both and can't be that much effort to do so.
  • LizzyBLizzyB ✭✭✭
    Oh god, kilometres! I moved abroad in May and while I can convert MPH to KPH in my head, other calculations leave me floundering (and I'm good at maths!). I joined a local running club and when asked how fast I ran, couldn't convert my minute/mile pace to minute/km pace.... doh!

    I ran a half marathon over here and despite writing my splits in km on my hand (really hard to write 21 different times on a small sweaty hand!) got totally confused at the end and picked up my speed when I still had 3 miles to go ...

    I still write my running log in miles though, although I have converted my bike computer into km ... which makes me think that I'm going faster than I really am cos 32 km/hour sounds so much more impressive than 20 miles/hour ...

    Anyone got any neat mental arithmetic tricks to enable us to do the conversions in our heads (esp. when knackered at the end of a race)?
  • I saw a neat trick at FLM whereby you just printed your target times for each mile out on a wrist band thing so you could check them off. It would be easy enough to do for km too/instead.

    It needs a bit of preparation beforehand obviously.
  • LizzyBLizzyB ✭✭✭
    Wrist band sounds like a good idea - was it like one of those ones they give you in hospital or just a bit of paper stapled round your wrist?
  • running times ( has a great little tool which calculates all you splits in miles or km depending on you target time and your race distance.

    You can even print off wristbands.

  • but the best and easied is 8 min miles = 5 min km.
  • I've done 2 European marathons and I think it's fair enough to just have km markers, after all Britain is in the minority still using miles instead of going metric properly. It did seem to clock up progress more quickly as well! Having both would probably create more confusion. That said, I recall one mile marker at the 20 mile point in Paris.
    You could split the marathon into 4 * 10K, and watch your 5/10 K splits, then there's just another 2 km to go at the end.
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    I must admit that I find it easier to work in km rather than miles. I've only competed in a 5K race so far, but found it weird that all the training schedules for this distance were in miles. If you're running a 5K or 10K race, surely it's easier to pace yourself in km splits rather than miles? The 5K race I took part in had km markers, not miles.

    I have worked out both mile and kilometre markers on all my training routes, and my tendency lately has been to use the mile ones, probably because I've been trying out the '4 runs a week' plan in last month's RW, and all the timings given are in miles.

    But I agree it's all a bit erratic and inconsistent.
  • ...erratic and inconsistent...just like me then.
    When talking about pace measurement, I find I tend to flip from "imperial" measurements like "minutes:secs per mile" to "seconds per 400m" (i.e. track lap) and back again.

    For some reason though, I've never thought to try to convert these units to "minutes:secs per kilometere", and arguably it cost me at my last 10K at Chester Zoo.
    I was aware that, for my target time (the 37 mins I woefully failed to achieve), I needed to hit something like "3:40 plus a bit" per km or "just under 6 mnute miling" to achieve it, but never thought of it in terms more precise than that.

    When, in the race, I found I'd reached 2K in 7:08 or 3:34 per km I remember thinking "bit too fast" and just eased back a touch. If, however, I'd been able to translate that into "5:45 per mile" I'd have certainly got the message.
    Doubt whether I'd have hit my target, but maybe I'd have avoided the disintegration that ensued over the second 5K.
  • WombleWomble ✭✭✭
    Near the end of my first London Marathon, I saw a sign which said '400m' to go. I was so tired I had finished before I could work out how far it was! They do have some km markers in London (for the foreign runners I believe) but not every single km.
  • I did Venice as well ... and far preferred the km measurements. They come round so quick, its great and makes pacing a lot easier. Now having half mile marks on our courses would be neat ...
  • Frankfurt marathon on Sunday had km markers at every km plus mile markers at every 5 miles. Personally I much prefer kilometres as a) its easier to count and b) they go much quicker! In Germany a very common race distance is 20km - much easier to break 1:30 for 20k than 1:30 for the half marathon!

    It still never ceases to amaze me how the UK fudges its measurements e.g. if you buy a car they will tell you what the tank holds in litres but then quote a mpg figure!
  • I agree with MartinH - and I've been here so long I find it really difficult to judge running miles any more. Almost all races distances are in kms nowadays, and running tracks are metric too. The only figures that stick in my head are 10km is 6.2 miles.

    Hey MartinH - how did Frankfurt go? I've run it before, but not in the horrible weather conditions we had over the weekend. Better pick a warm weather marathon for your 3rd one!
  • What is it with you lot? For years metric has been taught in schools, so why do people still work in miles & feet? Just ditch the miles and think km. I'm 49 was taught in imperial, but now do everything in metric (apart from drink pints!) and I'm NOT an engineer. I'm not surprised that the Venice marathon didn't have mile markers - our European friends only use metric so I don't know why people are getting upset about this. ALL Olympic distances are metric.
  • fbf - agree totally. And I drink in metric too!
  • Ironwolf - have a look at my race report on events. It was a bit windy!
  • ok gotcha. Well done anyway.
  • Ironwolf - if you drink in metric you must not drink beer, or if you do, not in pints (bottles); or you live outside the UK (not US). At least some of us agree about metric - any defence for imperial? The sooner the UK converts everything to metric (car speedos, road signs etc), the better. The Empire is dead, long live the real world.
  • but the Empire isn't dead - it's just that nowadays it's American....and what units do they use?
  • Well I am surprised to see so few defenders of imperial measurements! Good god, we'll have temperature quoted in centigrades next.

    At this rate the Daily Mail will need to start a 'Hands off our Miles' campaign.
  • LizzyBLizzyB ✭✭✭
    Don't worry, the empire still stretches to strange places ... we might be metric over here but pizzas sizes are measured in inches
  • And the sooner it's all degrees C the better. And the sooner the Daily Hate disappears into the ether the better as well!
  • hear hear - certainly to the latter at any rate
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