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A runner's relay race

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A Runner's Relay Race

When a group of avid runners and I decided to run The Relay, a 199-mile-long relay race from Calistoga, CA to Santa Cruz, CA, we were in need of some maps. But we also needed a reality check -- running nearly 200 miles for over 24 hours, all for fun?

Nevertheless, I sat down and decided to map the route's relay exchange points using Google Earth. The course quickly came to life -- I could fly over all the twists, turns, ups, and downs. However, I could also see how steep the hills were -- definitely intimidating! Check out the course yourself in Google Earth.

After creating a few great views of the course -- flying over the Golden Gate bridge -- I imported the KML file into Google Maps as a user-generated My Map. I sent the map to my team members, making us much better prepared for the run. And because I'm practically addicted to my Android phone, of course I sent the map to my phone, too. It looked awesome.

Then I decided to send it through to the race organizers. Turns out they thought it was awesome too! Having a map in such a usable & convenient format has several fantastic consequences for a race as complex as The Relay:

  • Before, runners and volunteers were always getting lost along the course. Not any more! With satellite images that show local terrain and Street View to give on-the-spot visuals the course became vividly clear.

  • Route changes are now completely trivial. Just one quick update to the online map, and everyone instantly has an updated version online and on their Android phone. No more hours of driving, surveying the new route, and printing and distributing new maps.

  • The maps allowed the race to be greener by reducing the number of signs, roads markings, posters, flyers, banners, and distance markers.

Overall, The Relay organizers were thrilled. They could now focus on promoting their cause, Organ 'R' Us, instead of spending time on tedious, logistical tasks like mapping. The takeaway from all of this? With tools to make custom maps -- complete with placemarks, routes, text, photos, and videos -- Google Earth and Google Maps are powerful, quick, and easy. And most important, they're fun!

- Craig Robinson, Google runner & cartographer

Tip - Make a map or route of your own in Google Earth: draw paths, create tours, and share content with others!