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From what I gather from reading several posts, you cannot certify a cross country course. What about a beach course? I have been under the assumption that the same applies. There is a marathon in Florida, that is saying that their course is certified, with 2 and a half mile section on the beach. It seems to me to present the same problem as a cross country course. How can you produce defineable points from year to year on a shifting surface, without any landmarks? How do you measure a straight line for SPR? Another question... If this is allowable, is the calibrated bicycle technique still the method to use? Would you calibrate using a calibration course on the sand? If this is allowable, I have several races that would love to have a certified, beach course.
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I recently measured a marathon which had a 2.5km section on the beach. I located three points on the beach referencing to fixed landmarks (eg 20m from a fixed object and 30m from another ojbect). Once I had the fixed points which the runners would have to go around I measured the distance using GPS waypoints and a 5m locational error as I felt that was more accurate than trying to ride my bike on the beach. I was very confident that the running distance was greater than the advertised distance.
I think there's a pretty good chance that a GPS would be more accurate on a beach than a Jones counter. Especially if the situation is measuring the straight-line distance between two points, which is what it sounded like Paul did. That 5m location error is probably greatly over-estimated, since most of that is bias error, which will be the same for both points and will cancel out when subtracting to get the distance between them.

For a Jones counter, even if you calibrate on the beach, the sand conditions may be different on different parts of the race course.
Or, a Jones counter could be used IF one were to ride a balloon-tire or Mtn-tire bike.

If the tires are fully inflated for calibration, while on pavement they will compress, resulting in more clicks per mile.
While on the beach, if the bike is walked, one would get fewer clicks per mile. BUT, if a 100-meter calibration was set up on the beach AND one on pavement, a comparison could be made to accomodate the variation on the sand. That should be pretty darn close, and still keep the SCPF viable. But, walking the bike is the key on the sand. That gives a much more repeatable condition, since the tires won't sink in as far. (Runners will be on harder sand than softer, simply for ease of running.)

If the course is measured just after high tide, then the least amount of hard sand would be available, allowing for SPR on hard sand. If the run is later after high tide than the measurement, runners would likely run a slightly longer course by choice. No problem!
In the old days, there were fewer cars on the roads, less traffic and less hassle with running a race on the roads.

Today we see a lot of growth in the off road races, be it cross country or some mad adventure race. Maybe the time has come for a second class of measurement for off road courses that would not meet either the current road measurement methods or criteria.

Right now there is only two standards, certified road courses and everything else. This leads to athletes complaining that the run on their triathlon was too short and the bike was too long.

Currently we turn our noses up at these non-traditional and non-conformist events, is if it was not true running.

I think, since we are the people who understand the methods, math and problems associated with creating reproducible race measurements, we should start to talk about creating some consistent method and possibly standards in this space. - - - Before some other body comes out of left field with a totally different system.
I think a special category for off-road races is a good idea and it doesn't have to be for tri events. I recently measured a half marathon which included 4km on a very rough trail. I measured the trail section with my bike, but because I was not 100% confident in the result I refused to apply for certification, although I was confident that the measurement was very close and based on the terain there were not going to be any records set, not matter who chose to run. The race director was disappointed, but I think it was the right thing to do.
For trail races, I let race directors know that, while the course can't be certified, I will guarantee an accurately-measured course, which they should advertise as such. I encourage them to put an asteric next to "Accurately measured" in their brochure, then explain that, due to uneven and loose rail surfaces, while the course can't be certified, it was measured the same way a certified course is measured, and should be within 10 feet of the distance a certified course would be.

This normally satisfies both the race director, and runners. The key is letting everyone know that the same equipment is used in measuring the course, and that a qualified measurer is measuring the course.
I think Duane and Paul are heading the right direction. (Pete, Tri-Fed now is a very different organization than it was 20 years ago, and is only one of the orgs doing non-traditional races.)

A second classification would allow us to formalize what it sounds like many are all ready doing: Measuring a course, using a calibration course and a bike, to a reasonably accurate distance.
The advantage to the RD would be that they would have some form of secondary certification that was reasonably accurate and fixed the course, start and finish points.
I think a lot of us have given the race people this type of service for a XC or Beach course. However, to register these races may be going to an extreme that is not necessary.

I don't see what purpose it would serve other than saying their race has been measured by USATF standards, which has been done by the measurer.

Just my opinion!
Originally posted by Pete Riegel:
You can measure the course right, according to our standard, but saying you have done so, without certification, lacks credibility. It's right up there with "certification pending."

Well, at least it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing the runners ran the correct distance. Smiler

For an example of an "elastic" course (short one year, long the next) see this post on the CT running message board:

Originally posted by Pete Riegel:
One potential solution to this problem would be to certify anything that is measured to our standard, and put a checkbox on the certificate and a note on the map to the effect that the course is not record-eligible.

I've thought for a long time that we should do this anyway. There is nothing on the certificate that tells the reader whether or not the course is record-eligible.

We should consider adding something like:
Record-Eligible? Yes No Maybe Reason:____________
to the certificate, and, at the risk of adding something else to the map side of the certificate, add "NOT RECORD ELIGIBLE" or words to that extent on courses that don't meet drop, separation, and/or documentation requirements.
Interesting; I just received the following email from a RD looking to certify a partially off-road course:

Last year my co-director and I promoted/conducted the first annual Salmon River Road Race which benefits the Colchester Land Trust. The race is approximately 5.5 miles on paved road, dirt road and groomed trail. We were so pleased to have attracted 130 runners last year. We would like to have our course certified this year. Can you tell me what we need to do and if we can have it certified by our second annual running on May 10th, 2008?

My response is below;

I can’t tell whether your course can be certified without seeing it. The reason is that there are very strict rules (by the governing body, USATF) regarding certification of off-road courses. Your course can probably be measured accurately, but certified is another story. Again, I will have to see the course.

The certification process includes more than measuring. Un-certified courses can’t be called certified regardless how accurately they are measured. The rules for measuring are contained in a booklet put out by the Road Running Technical Council of USATF. The entire process is designed for untrained people to use. However, this can seem daunting the first try. It is available at:

Generally, the USATF State Certifier requires an explanation of exactly how the un-paved sections are measured and how these sections are defined such that they are repeatable. That’s why I would have to look at the course. If the dirt road is hard and well defined, there should be no problem. If the groomed trail is hard, fairly smooth (no deep ruts, no loose gravel, no deep beds of wood chips, big puddles) and well defined (well defined edges that are reasonably certain to be the same year after year) that should be no problem.

If you can send a map or a detailed description, I may be able to provide a better answer. After reading all this and if you’re still interested, please get back to me and we’ll work something out.
At one time I thought off-road courses weren't to be certified, and I seem to remember that the consensus swung over to making them certifiable as long as it's possible to describe and follow a well-defined path. But now I hear folks starting with the premise that they're not certifiable, and I'm wondering what I missed on this score. Was there a recent (i.e. within the last 10-15 years!) ruling about this?
A good argument for certiying such courses is grounded in Mike Sandford's research on the behavior of pneumatic tires-- which, when calibrated on a smooth surface, will produce long courses on rougher surfaces. Or maybe we should require that the calibration be on the same surface as the course-- the trouble with that is there are typically many different kinds of surface within one race, and also this is not a requirement we have made for road courses even though road surfaces also can vary a lot within a race. My 2 cents.
Bob Thurston
I believe the discussion is not regarding courses defined as "cross-country", as in scholastic competition, and the like; rather the discussion is along the lines of "how much non-paved surface is acceptable, and what type of non-paved surface is acceptable for a course to be certified?".

I think it would be a worthwhile endeavor for the powers-that-be to discuss those constraints. I have quite a few courses that use parts of non-paved trails, and most of them are firm enough, and well-defined enough to allow for consistency in layout and the path of the runners. I turn those in for certification regularly. I do draw the line if there is no way to ascertain the course layout by someone just looking at the map; for example, making a bend across a soccer field. Those courses are not submitted for certification. I do, however, beat teh race director about the head a bit to get them to allow me to modify the course enough to be certified. They usually relent, and thank me for beating them into compliance.

Any chance of a ruling in the next year? I believe there is enough demand for guidance that it would be welcomed, and the ruling parties may even be immortalized.

I don't think it's a good idea to put a % of what part of a non-paved section that can be certified. I feel it's up to the measurer/certifier to make that decision. If the course is firm enough to ride and well defined then it can be certified.

By the way, for those that don't know Duane is now a Certifier/FS in training. He has done outstanding work and I look forward to him being with the RRTC for a long time.

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