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Hi folks:
Kudos for getting this thing up and running! I am wondering if you folks who do such a great job with your maps can give me some general advice on how to make maps with lots of s curves, and accurately reperesent every segment of the shortest course taken. I find it very difficult to draw the maps. I have used Real Estate maps, mapquest and city maps as references but to really accurately denote the detail I would like to, I am embarassed to say, I feel artistically challenged. Frowner
I cannot imagine what you do with limited time either as I know many of you show up at a city far away from home to certify courses. I have only done courses in my home city and must go back to the race location at a minimum two times (mainly three or more times) as the cal course is close to my home and I often have to adjust the start or finish to add distance after the second calibration. Even without that element I go back to properly document splits form fixed locations etc. and try and get a good handle of details for the map.

Without some other city map etc. I would be a basket case. I usually use Adobe Illustrator because I am ashamed of my freehand drawings. When arriving on loacation to a far off destination what tips do you have for drawing the map so quickly and accurately as to not have to go back to look at details to notate and show every s curve or even generate a map to scale?
I often have trouble deciphering info from the topo maps too for elevation loss/gain though it is very flat here in southern FL--Matt
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You can use city maps in conjunction with small sketches to do the job. The key to this is to measure the entire route along the shortest possible route. This way when you show a street there is no ambiguity -the runners have it all.

A curvy road can be taken care of with the notation “Runners are restricted to right of center on Podunk Road.” But if there is a left turn after going right of center you will have to figure out a way to describe it. “Runners pass to right of cone located at center of intersection of Podunk Road and Elm St” will do it.

Check out this site:

Search for 21.1 km exactly, in Elkhart, Indiana. You will find a course map of mine that I prepared using Street Atlas USA, a map program. I could just as well have used a county map and drawn neatly on it.

You can also download “Course Measurement Procedures” from It’s the USATF measurement book. Page 60 of this manual has an example of a single-line map.

Don’t be afraid to lay down a 1000 foot or 300 m calibration course when you get away from home. It takes only a half hour, and allows you to get everything done on site, so you don’t have to come back. I always do this. You never know when you’ll be back.

Map drawing is my least favorite part of the process, and the one that gives me the most satisfaction when I am done. I figure my name is on the map, so I want it to reflect well on me.
Maps are the least favorite part of certification for me too and I am always trying to improve at it. Some courses are much easier than others to draw.

I will try street atlas usa perhaps if I can get my hands on it...In the course I recently measured runners had use 1 of two lanes going both directions of the loop. They are restricted to the painted center line each way. The entire course has mini "s" curves that wind back and forth--a real pain to try and show every detail of how I measured it. I spoke to one fellow who tries to show every .1-.2 of a mile in this instance at a time as he sketches the map on an additional ride (either by bike or motor vehicle). Even then I find the process very difficult and basically unusable except for detail drawings.

I have never really had to reflect elevation gain/loss on a map either as it is so flat here--how do you provide that info--from topo maps? I find them confusing to read.

Thanks again Pete

--Matt Sonneborn
I too find that maps are a real pain in the but. Frowner I hate having to cram all the detail I want to show on one page. Most of my courses are in dense urban arias or local parks. With smaller races that twist through dense urban streets it’s a little tricky to show exactly where the course goes, which side of medians, trees or curbs. In parks the need to string together winding roads, out and backs, and the lack of convenient fixed marks makes accurate design and measurement interesting.

If I could do it on two pages, one of the course and one with a set of exploded details showing start, finish and other critical points, I would be much happier.

One tool that helps a lot is Microsoft’s ‘Streets and Trips’. Before I go to a site I talk the course over with the race director. While I have him on the phone I bring up ‘Streets and Trips’ on the computer. This is a cheep program that has most of the US streets on it. (Automap for you UK readers).

‘Streets and Trips’ has a measuring tool that allows me to layout the course before I get there. You can zoom in to see detail of any point on the course and it allows for the adjustment of any of the intermediary or points or end points as I need. All the time it keeps a running total measurement of the course. This allows for very close guesstimating before I get there. Comparison with my final measured result and the pre-measurement guestimate is normally less than a couple of hundred feet out. Good for working out and adjusting the course before getting on the bike. Smiler

MS Streets & Trips is low cost, and often comes bundled on new computers with MS Works suits. I would recommend getting the free standing version because you don’t want all the other Works junk on your PC. Free standing versions often go for about $20 on Ebay.

I am using the 2001 version. The newer versions have bug fixes and GPS interface software but mostly the street maps have not been updated.

After the measurement rides, I call up the map again. I make any changes necessary, and add the mile marks and water stops. Before printing you have to turn of all the other ‘points of interest’ junk it likes to display. All you want left is the streets and your marks. Some times marks and stops are easer to add by hand after printing, because S&T does not have good text tools. The resulting map fine for printing ‘informational’ course maps for volunteers, runners and police but NOT the cert map.

For the cert map I print the S&T map, then trace it on to plain paper to get the approximate dimensions. (Using tracing paper or very thin paper works if you then photo copy the result onto thicker paper that you can draw on.)

From then on it’s hand drawing. The first thing I do is to I change the aspect ratio of the streets by widening them to allow for the detail. Skinny streets get to be fat and wide. It often takes several tracings for me to get the basic street layout right.

I add little detail maps showing blowups of the start, finish and important sections by drawing them big on a separate bit of paper. Then using the photo copier to reduce them to a small version that will fit in one of the blank spaces around the edge of the map. I do the title and other notes on the computer. Cut them out and stick in place. Often it takes several tries before I have the font size right to fit the block in a space.

The final result is a hand drawn street map, that started as a tracing from the Street and Trips map. Only now the streets are much fatter and artistic licence takes over. On this, around the edge, is pasted a number of insert maps and text blocks. Looks like a scrap book colarge. The result is photo-copied so that it’s all on one sheet. I try to make sure no critical detail is in the 1/4" around the edge that may get missed by secondary copying.

At the end I have several maps. The final cert map and several of the Street and Trips maps that may be of various sorts. One may show the course with added direction arrows drawn along side the course. One may show water stops and one the course with mile marks. If necessary one is marked up with street closings and notes on barricades and cones needed. Blowing this up very large is useful when going into a meeting with the city, and or the police. If streets are to be closed, its useful to make a map showing the man who sets the split clocks how to get to them.

For about $3 you can blow any back and white map up very large at a kinko’s. I have had success by sticking a large S&T course map, along with a schedule of events to a door skin. (6 foot by 21/2 sheet of cheep plywood used to cover interior door in a house) Then hanging it up at registration. Looks very pro and costs less than $10 to prepare. The Street and Trips map works better than a stack of photocopied cert maps because the cert maps are generally to crowded with detail.

S&T tricks: Once you know approximately where the course is to go, you can layout a very accurate guesstimate by putting down a ‘measurement’ line while working fully zoomed in. Although you can only see the fraction of the course you are working on, you can move your view and extend the measurement line by clicking on the map, right by the edge of the map. It dos not add another point to the line but instead moves the center of the map in the direction you want to go. If you know where you are going, it’s a lot easer to lay out a measurement (guesstimate) line this way than doing it in zoomed out mode, and then having to zoom in and add more points to move and adjust the corners.

Do zoom in on every corner and part of your course to make sure your line runs accurately around the corners and bends before suggesting to the race director the approximate start and finish locations. Once you have the course worked out, zoom out, then highlight just the region with the course in it and then click in it. This will re-size your map to show just the course.

Another very useful resource is TerraServer at
The free maps only cover the USA but for those of us here its very useful, especially for course in parks with roads and trails that are not on the street maps.

Unless you regularly fly over the US and know what it looks like from 50,000 feet, locating your self is a bit tricky. Start with using the search to find your city, then zoom in. It helps to have a street map handy so you can figure out what you might be looking at.

Once you have found your location zoom in to the max and start printing. The image you see when browsing is small but when you use the print button on the TerraServer web page, it opens a second window with a much larger image. (Don’t use your print button until you have used their’s to open larger image)

TerraServer allows you to zoom in to show about one inch for every 100 meters. You can see my house, the boat out back and cars, but you can’t see people.

By printing a bunch of large images that are zoomed to the max, I can stick together one large image. The image tends to be shades of gray. I find its useful to highlight the route with white out. This takes a pot of while out and a steady hand. Now you can clearly see and trace the route.

The traced image is then ready for reducing and street widening so that I can use it for the foundation of a cert course. Yes this is a time consuming and rather detailed way to get the shape of the course. But I find it’s better than just guessing and the truth of the resultant outline helps the other bits fit together.

If you keep the map made by cutting and sticking the TerraServer printouts together, you can run this through kinkos. This time to make it larger, not smaller. Now you have a sheet with a BIG map. Using a yellow highlighter on the result to make the course stand out, and back marker pens for S, F, & marks. This makes a good informational map to display at the start.

Having Street & Trips on a laptop, and a map made from the print outs from TerraServer on hand when first meeting the race director, saves a lot of pissing around. Roll Eyes

Its easy to make and adjust alternate courses with S&T. I have sometimes taken several alternative course maps to show and drive with the RD. With S&T maps I know the distance is about right before getting on the bike. Wink
I create maps on my computer and like my typing, it gives me a chance to edit before I commit the map to paper.

I typically capture a map of the route from Yahoo maps or Mapquest. On a Mac, you can use something like Grab. If you're using a PC you can capture a window (to the clipboard) by placing your mouse pointer in the window and simultaneously pressing Alt and PrintScreen. Once on the clipboard, you can paste it into most applications. Then I just trace over it with a vector drawing program. I use Framemaker, but I'm sure you can use Illustrator.

But this doesn't keep you from going back to the scene of the measurement. For that, you need to be careful to take good notes. I also like to have a cal course that's fairly handy to the course. If there isn't one, I'll create one. It doesn't take that long and it can save you trips.
One Piece of Paper

The USATF requirement for putting the course map on one piece of paper arose because of filing and distribution needs. With over 20,000 certified courses a couple of filing cabinets are needed to hold the documents. If we permitted multiple sheets it could double (or more) the storage requirement. Also, since a course certificate and map are available on demand for anyone who asks, a standard format is needed.
Like James, I too use MicroSoft Streets & Trips for initial course layout and preliminary measurement. To generate the certification map, I save the map as a .GIF file, then import it into AutoCad. It helps that I have access to AutoCad at work. With AutoCad, I trace the roadways and other points of interest, then delete the map image. I can then resize and reshape the tracing as needed to produce the finished map. For detail areas I can copy and paste the area of interest, then scale only that section up as needed.
I have recently started to take longitude and latitude measurements using a handheld GPS at the start, finish, and mile split points on the course. I include that information on the map along with the measurements from permanent landmarks. I also include a disclaimer that the GPS locations are taken with consumer grade equipment and are subject to the inaccuracies of such equipment. Someday, I'll have the time to return to a course with the GPS and see just how close I can get to a marked point using the GPS alone.
For elevations, I use Delorme's Topo USA. Using information from the GPS, I can locate the start and finish points exactly on the map. I take the elevation information for those points. Topo USA will also generate a topographic profile of a draw object. I trace the course on the map and then create the profile. In addition to the graphic profile, the software shows the high and low elevations, along with other information such as climbing and descending distances.
Since Topo USA allows saving maps as .JPG files, I could use it alone for everything, but I find that Streets and Trips is much easier to use so I do the bulk of the work with it.
I don't want to beat a dead horse and maybe folks are talked out about maps, but it occurs to me that with so much ready access to pretty accurate maps that you can easily shrink or blow up, that we might be tempted to be too conscious of getting approximately the right scale. I think we have to remember what we're trying to do with the maps: to accurately illustrate the exact course to be followed. A healthy amount of distortion is very often needed to accomplish this. Diminish the parts where the course just stays on a road, with no "issues", but expand to show the tricky details or the exact location of start and finish.
This is partly an admonition to myself, as I am probably too prone to cramming in lots of magnified detail maps instead of "adjusting" the shape and size of the overall map.

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