To answer your questions on pigeon racing Ralphie. In this modern era all release stations are marked by a GPS location, as are the lofts/coops of each competing flyer/club member.
So the precise distance of each loft for every race station is determined.
The flyers take their birds to a club shipping meeting where the birds are officially entered into the race and placed in the shipping crates for the race.
Almost all flyers have electronic timing systems which are used to scan the birds into the race record and record the precise time of arrival back to the home loft. This time is recorded as an hour,minute and second reading.
This information is all entered into the club computer and an average speed of travel is recorded for each bird returning. Such as 1,426.036 ypm. ypm is yards per minute. The bird with the fastest ypm reading is the winner. Physical location of a flyer is often a substantial factor in which birds perform well. This due to distance variations and the affect of weather conditions and wind conditions.
My club has members spread from Harris on the South to Bemidji on the Northwest. I am in Hermantown and the winds are frequently from the East here when from other directions for most, and I have much more fog (physically and not just mentally).
Birds do get lost or come home late. I had one bird not home on the day yesterday, but it may be here this morning (I have not checked yet).
The training is simply taking the birds away from home and making them fly back. The number of training tosses and distance of them is a factor in developing physical and mental ability to perform with excellence.