IT sparked the biggest debate in the Nail Can Hill Run’s 33 years.
With the race outgrowing the original course, organisers were forced to make a tough call in 2009 and move the finish line from Hovell Tree Park to Bonnie Doon Park in West Albury.
The need to simultaneously close Pemberton Street and Padman Drive had become unmanageable with the increased participation bringing about safety fears.
Stopping runners had also compromised the race’s stature with Age Busters and those chasing personal best times harshly affected.
While the decision upset some who had grown up with the race finishing alongside the Murray River, ever-increasing numbers suggest the move was the correct one.
In redesigning the last 2.3 kilometres of the course a lot of thought was put into maintaining the same degree of difficulty as the old course in terms of distance and ascent/descent.
The distance is exactly the same, measurements were taken using GPS and mountain bike by several people.
All agreed there was no difference between the lengths of the old and new course.
Where the new course differs is that there is less ascent/descent, so you could say that the last 2.3 kilometres of the new course is flatter than the old course.
This works both ways for the runners as while they don’t get the benefit of the steep downhill from the War Memorial, they also don’t have to tackle the dreaded climb up Roper Street after crossing Pemberton Street.
Opinions seem to differ widely as to which is harder, the old or the new course.
Some people prefer the old course’s steep downhill from the memorial on the bitumen while others prefer the final kilometre of the new course which is a fast, gentle downhill on gravel.
A few race statistics comparing the old and new courses make interesting reading.
On the new course the winning male has been on average about 20 seconds slower but the women are around one minute faster.
Conclusion: not much between the old and new courses, maybe an indication of the improvement in the standard of women’s running.
Possibly the most definitive statistic when comparing the old course and new course is the Age Buster category (see table above right).
If the new course was much easier than the old course, then you would expect to see a marked increase in the number of runners able to qualify.
Conversely, if the new course was much harder you would expect to see a drop off in the number of Age Busters.
What the above figures show is that the number of first time Age Busters each year is about the same across both courses.
The All Age Busters table shows a gradual increase in the number of runners Age Busting each year — it’s to be expected, though, as once a person qualifies for the first time they are usually able to keep doing it year after year.
The debate over where the run should finish and which is the better course will no doubt continue.
What the statistics indicate is that from a runner performance perspective there is very little difference between the two, which is the outcome hoped for when the course was changed back in 2009.
What really matters is that the Nail Can Hill Run remains a stern test for runners and walkers and that the people are voting with their feet as participation records continue to be broken.