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Yes, the certification is valid until the expiration date shown on the map.

I always suggest that the new race that wants to use the course ask for permission from the race director of the original race who paid to have it measured. And maybe even offer to pay part of the cost of the original measurement.

Thanks. This particular race director had a falling out with the brewery that the race started and finished at so he pulled his race out, the brewery has now started their own race and advertised that it's a USATF certified course using the former race's certification. When I can, I have been certifying the course using the location name vs. the race name so that it's generic to the course.

If they simply use the course and claim it is USATF certified, they are not breaking any rules. They can even display the original map on their website, and they are still not breaking any rules.

But if they change the map, and keep the USATF logo on it, they are violating USATF rules and infringing on USATF copyright. Of course it's unlikely they will get sued, but I will let them know they are violating USATF policy. I've done this in a couple cases and the race removed their modified map from their website.

Interesting. I am not completely grasping the purpose of a prohibition on a race using an existing currently certified course while placing its own name on the map.

If Sam's Restaurant, say, holds a spring 10K on a course certified for Dave's Restaurant's fall 10K, Dave's Restaurant can't really do anything to stop Sam's - right? If Sam's wants to work within our rules, would we then say that Sam's must obtain its own certification for the exact same course? Are there extant instances of this in our database?

By offering our certified course maps, even of expired courses, to the general public, it seems to me we are in fact giving up control of how they are used. If one of the race directors who is asked to remove the new race name from the certification map simply ignores this request by USATF, we can't practically do anything about it - right?  Does USATF Legal have some blanket copyright restriction in force for all certified courses? Even if we were to add language to each certification map such as "Copyright 2023,", what would this accomplish?

Not asking because I want to be the devil's advocate here. I just have questions about the purpose and the efficacy of this policy. In Washington, D.C., after 9-11-2001, the streets that can be made available for races in the downtown and the federal complex were severely restricted by the authorities. Most of the certified courses in this entire area went away, except for some that are completely within National Park Service properties. Even the Army Ten Miler and the Marine Corps Marathon were forced to change their courses to comply with the new rules. Only a single 5K was allowed in the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor - in the space between Freedom Plaza near the White House and our U.S. Capitol.

Since this restriction was enacted, several medium-to-large footraces stage their annual event on this one remaining course. A few that I know of:  Cherry Blossom 5K, Purple Stride 5K, Race For Hope 5K, Race For Every Child 5K. All of these events take Bob Thurston's certification map and create their own version of it with their event name and the certification number on it. If Bob has any problem with this - actually I am almost certain he doesn't - I doubt he is likely to ask any RD to change their customized course map.

If the USATF policy can thus be ignored, I am still wondering what we want to accomplish with a restriction on "re-mapping" or "re-branding" our certified courses. I hope no one in USATF is contemplating some kind of enforcement of this rule. I think that could be quite unpopular. A more useful endeavor in my way of thinking is for us to establish national minimum fees for course certification that take into account the labor and skill to establish and renew cal courses, to measure, and to create good quality course maps. Then, we can ask RDs who want to re-brand a certification map to pay the original client part of the cost of the certification. And they can still ignore our requests. I for one am OK with this.

Last edited by Race Resources LLC

Sam's can do almost anything it wants to without anybody's permission. It can use the certified course for its race. It can claim it uses a USATF certified course. It can put the certification map on its website.

The one thing Sam's cannot do is display the USATF logo on a certification map that it has modified. If it wants a USATF certificate with its race name at the top, and it has the original race's permission, it can be obtained for a nominal fee.

So I am confused. Are you saying that a race can take a map and change the name or not? I have a race OH15031MW (Rich Dalessandro Memorial Fall Turkey Trot 5K(#3)). After 15 years the family running the race is quitting and another RD wants to say it is a continuation of the race. The original race director doesn't want her brothers name associated with this race. So are you saying the new RD can change the name on the map and put their own name on the map? I am totally against changing anything on the map. Let's say the new race takes over and wants to change the finish by 50' and then change the start 50' to make up the difference. So they change the certified map to show that would this then be allowed?

According to the policy it looks like the other race can change the name by sending $10 to the Regional Certifier with the original certificate. Then the new certificate would be submitted to the Vice Chair with the normal fee (what is the normal fee?) and they would get a new course. Or just have it remeasured as the 3rd option.

Thanks for any help in what I should propose to the original RD.

Jim's example is a good one. Lyman is it ok for the race director to move the start description on the certification map 50' east and then also move the finish description 50' east to make up for it? And then display the modified cert map with cert # and USATF logo on his race website?

If you say No, then tell me, who's going to stop him from doing that? If no one's going to stop him, should USATF/RRTC just say it's okay for RDs to move the start on certification maps as long as they also move the finish to make up for it?

Good questions, Jay, Mark. It seems to me the core issue here may be characterized as the difference between what we officially sanction and what RDs do in practice. Of "course" we shouldn't condone moving the course and using the cert # and logo. As to your question about who can stop the RD from doing this, Mark, your guess is as good as mine. If we have no enforcement authority other than denying a record performance on any course thus modified, I would say we have little if any leverage over what most RDs do with their course maps and names.

In Jay's example, he could re-do the map with a new name, pay the $10.00 fee, pay $3.00 to Jane and $2.00 to his Regional Vice Chair, and have a new cert # with a 2025 expiration. He can then charge the Turkey Trot whatever for this work. If the client says "No, I don't see the need", who can stop him?

Mark, do you have some ideas about how we can prevent races from using existing certified course maps with a different event name? As long as I have been measuring, over 35 years now, I have seen numerous instances of "co-opting" certified courses for events other than for the original. I for one have no interest in telling anyone that, say, the popular 5K course in Fairfax Corner, VA, home to several annual events, is the intellectual property of only one event organizer, and anyone wanting to re-brand the certification map for their own event must step through a procedure to get their own certification number. If the course is one that can feasibly be expected to produce a record performance, this becomes a different kettle of fish. In this particular instance, the property management company paid for the certification, and they encourage the various events to re-brand the certification map to suit their preferences.

Recently, I have been retained by Loudoun County Parks in Virginia to measure and certify 5Ks in their parks, for which the parks intend to host several annual races, including some conducted by "outside" entities. To my knowledge, Loudoun Parks imposes no restrictions on re-branding their course maps.

This thought brings me to another instance in the region in which I measure where this "unique certification #" policy doesn't seem to work well. In Washington, D.C., only a handful of running events are permitted on city streets. All but the largest events are then forced to apply for permits in the National Park Service properties. There are only a few 5K and 10K courses that are allowed by the authorities for the dozens of annual events here. For decades, events have readily used Bob Thurston's and my certified courses while branding the course with their own race name. I know of no imperative any of these event organizers have experienced to apply for their own certification.

USATF can deny records and/or sanctions for events that flaunt our policy. That would be effective for, say, a race like the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile, which regularly produces record performances. The nearby Purple Stride 5K, with 200 runners and 1500 walkers? Not so much.

With theory and practice being historically this far apart, I question what we really want to accomplish here. Personally, I am in favor of requiring a totally separate measurement/certification for each event. But I see no way to enforce this. I also know of events that had their course certified over 10 years ago that perceive no need to re-certify it. They decline to pay for a re-certification and they just keep using the same old map. No one complains.

I don't have any bright ideas on how to control our policy. Other than denying validation of record performances, which affects a tiny percentage of events on certified courses, what kinds of leverage might we pose for consideration?

My point in citing Jim's example is that just because it's difficult to enforce a rule is not a reason to change the rule and condone the activity. It should be, and is, against USATF/RRTC policy to change a certified course map in any way: a name change, a change to the start/finish description, a change to the path of the course. Just because it is difficult to stop people from doing it, is not a reason to eliminate the policy.

Regarding RDs changing the name of a course on a certification map, if the original RD who paid to have the course measured and certified doesn't care, or even encourages as in Jim's case, other RDs changing the name at the top of the map, then it certainly does seem to fall into the category of victimless crime. But if the original RD does not want others "stealing" their certification, it's not a victimless crime, and I definitely don't think USATF/RRTC should condone the practice.

Regarding how to stop it, the few times that it has come up in Michigan I sent an email to the RD telling them they are breaking USATF/RRTC policy and asking them to take it off their website. If they ignore me they ignore me, but so far the races have removed it.

I get this, Mark. Not an enviable task doing this. Thank you.

I understand the reasons for your position. I still regard this as appearing to be tantamount to a solution looking for a problem. My humble opinion is that we are in effect promulgating dead letter law, with which there is bound to be selective enforcement, which potentially creates its own problems, as we see.

We could require certification clients to sign an agreement in which they are prohibited from sharing their course with another event. While this could reduce the number of infractions, we would still have no way of preventing anyone from downloading a certified course or taking a screenshot of the certification map, then modifying it for their own purposes - as happens today. How would we even know who is doing this?

Would it be more useful for us to satisfy ourselves with the knowledge that events that use certifications purchased by another entity are at least using a certified course as opposed to courses that are created with one of the many inaccurate online apps? Isn't this more in accordance with our basic goals?

Apart from you taking your valuable personal time to send "cease and desist" emails to RDs when a violation happens to come to your attention, Mark, a toothless rule seems to me to serve little purpose. "Legislating" ethical behavior in this sense doesn't strike me as a worthwhile endeavor. What are we publicly offering our products for if not to encourage the use of properly measured and recorded courses? Since we have no way at present to stop visitors from "poaching" courses for their own uses, why not take a look at handling this availability differently?

Here's one thought:

  1. Make available publicly only a list of certified courses.
  2. The searchable list will be the same as today's except:
    1. it will allow users to see maps and certificates only after they pay a modest fee to USATF for each session. Otherwise, only the flat list.
    2. These documents will be protected with "Anti-Scraping" technology so that users will not be able to take a screenshot of the map. Users will thus be only able to see whether there is a certified course of the desired distance in the applicable location. A visitor to our site could take a photo of the screen, but we would auto-generate digital watermarks for all displayed maps which would make such photos less than useful.
    3. Users could then apply for their own version of the course by paying a more substantial fee -say, $350.00 - to have a measurer of their choice access the map and certificate and create a new certification map and certificate with the new number and the old expiration date.
  3. While this approach wouldn't prevent someone from poaching a certification map from a race website and then modifying it for their own purposes, or creating an entirely new map with the existing certification number, it would at least eliminate the common practice of "re-purposing" our certifications from by events that paid no one anything to use them.
Last edited by Race Resources LLC

Lyman I feel like your posts are all over the place.

In one post you seem to say that anybody should be able to change the course name at the top of a certification map, and in fact we should encourage them to do so.

In another post you propose a hugely complex system designed to prevent them from doing exactly that.

What is it specifically that you want?

Hmm. I respect your question, Mark. My comments are intended as questions, too. I am not grasping how I come across as "encouraging" anyone to change the course name at the top of a certification map. Maybe you can help me understand this. Then, maybe I can write more lucidly in future posts.

What I am questioning here is the purpose and the practicality of having an unenforceable rule. I am looking for a rational approach that incorporates the tendency of human nature to seek the path of least resistance - in this instance, of RDs simply finding the certified course map they want and then modifying it for their own use - which, as we know well, is done frequently despite any USATF prohibitions against it. My thought process here is comparable to that of music download management in response to the previously common practice of users circumventing legal restrictions on distribution. Most owners are now mostly in control of that intellectual property.

We are thinking this through as we go, hopefully. To me, it doesn't seem like anyone has all the answers to the issue here.

The system I proposed really isn't "hugely complex", IMO. Especially since USATF, RRTC, and measurers gain a new revenue source that pays for itself.

  • Anti-scraping and digital watermarking are mature technologies.
  • USATF already has an online store in place, which can handle payment acceptance.
  • The problem with "certification poaching" mostly disappears. No one needs to send any "finger-shaking" emails to RDs.

If we are happy or mostly complacent with frequent violations of our rules, which it seems some of us are not, we can just do nothing, and individual certifications will continue to be used for multiple events without approbation.

I am proposing a solution here. Some people will not like it because they feel it is unnecessary, because they did not come up with an idea to fix the problem, or because they may want course certification and our products to forever remain in the non-professional realm. I am simply voicing an opinion that we should think about doing one of two things in the interest of evolving into a more professional and more respected institution:

  1. Come up with an online system to enforce our rule and provide acceptable revenue to USATF and the professionals who perform the labor required to issue a new map and new certificate.
  2. Stop wasting time pursuing an ineffective and unprofitable policy.

"What I am questioning here is the purpose and the practicality of having an unenforceable rule."

Then there's no reason to have a rule/policy against changing the start or finish description on a certification map either.

Or for that matter, no reason to have a rule/policy against saying your race uses a USATF certified course when it doesn't.

I'll try to make it clearer for you.

This is what you said.

"What I am questioning here is the purpose and the practicality of having an unenforceable rule."

Based on that logic...

There's no reason to have a rule/policy against a race changing the start or finish description on a certification map and displaying that changed certification map on their race website, because there is no way to enforce that rule either.

There's no reason to have a rule/policy against saying your race uses a USATF certified course when it doesn't, because there is no way to enforce that rule either.

Mark, I think you may be confusing the issue here with your logical thinking!

I don't agree with this "logic", but I do believe we can always strive to improve. Especially when we can harness technology to enhance our productivity and our efficiency. I am guessing you do, too, in different ways. I view this as a good thing. By discussing alternate views about what makes sense in our presumptive quest to improve, we can leverage more good thoughts and minds in pursuit of solutions. I doubt anyone thinks we should abide races that claim their courses are certified when they aren't - even though we have done something tantamount to that in a couple of instances where we have accepted faulty certifications. Yet, we realize that, at present, there is little we can do to prevent such abuse unless the event happens to be USATF sanctioned.

Upon reflection, I feel that my ideas are sound. I am eager to hear what others may think. And, BTW, thanks for all you do for us, Mark.

There are many interesting thoughts, comments, and suggestions posted here.

Like Neal, for years I have recommended to any race wanting to use an existing certified course to seek permission from the race that had the course originally certified.  With permission, we can then issue a certificate and map with the second race’s name.  Simple enough when people are cooperating.

Many races are promoting and raising funds for their charitable causes.  These races are generally operating as non-for-profits.  For them, affordable course certification must be justified within a race budget with limited funding.  Using an already certified course is an easy decision to make. The expense of hiring a measurer to measure, mark, and have certified a new course is avoided.

We cannot discuss these issues without noting USATF is also a non-for-profit organization, which RRTC is a very small part of.  Like charitable races, USATF squeezes and justifies budget dollars.  Charitable races and USATF both rely on a volunteer workforce.  USATF has not really changed that much since the overshadowing days of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).   The word “amateur” looms large, reminding us of their mandate. Charitable races and USATF must maintain a volunteer culture to exist.

Of course, policing property ownership rights with certified courses and getting paid commensurate with the technical skills and safety risks are against the tenets of volunteer culture.  We are fighting an uphill battle to get paid for these professional services rendered.

The volunteer philosophy is also strongly built into our course certification program, which allows anyone to measure a course for certification.  Those of us who have been State Certifiers, reviewing certification applications and course maps, can speak to the learning curve of newbies.   The cost to have a course certification application reviewed has not changed in 40 years.  The necessary programing cost to maintain the new online course certification system should clearly be a practical reason to increase the course certification fee.  

Maybe with World Athletics’ influence, the RRTC can start to move away from the volunteer model.  Training and ranking measurers is essential for World Athletics and could easily be adopted by RRTC.  With more properly trained measurers, our culture could finally change.   


Kevin, so many of us have a history of volunteering for running events for so many years that it seems to me there is an expectation among some charities that there is a willing cadre of folks who can be expected to offer their services to running events free of charge. In the past few weeks, I have had to tactfully explain to two prospective clients that I must charge something for the professional services they require when they asked me to do something, without mentioning paying for my work. A timer for a large Thanksgiving race recently asked me to create "pretty" versions of two certification maps. They did not bother to ask me what my fee would be. When I responded with a bargain-basement number to produce maps that would take hours to produce, they replied "Never mind".

I admire and respect the volunteer ethic in our sport and the work of members of our group who have helped build the sport of running over many years to the robust level we enjoy today. Sometimes, it seems to me that we may have created an expectation that we are employees of USATF or some other organization that somehow supports us in our work, or that we are all generous hobbyists who look to volunteer our services. No disrespect to those of you who willingly fit this category!

When, over many years, I have discussed becoming a measurer with prospective candidates, and they then get a feel for what we do, most of them have said something akin to "Wow, that's a lot of work. Too much for what you get paid." I have heard other active measurers say the same thing about encouraging new measurers.

As I think about this challenge of bringing in new measurers, the things that can go wrong in the certification process that can result in denials of record performances, and of the median age of measurers nationwide, I am left to wonder how to address these issues. I agree with Kevin that the time has come to at least examine our volunteer model.

As Kevin points out, the fees paid to certifiers, regional certifiers, Vice Chairs, and the Registrar are now lamentably out-of-date. I would extend this view to the fees that we as measurers are paid. If we consider how our fees work out on an hourly basis, it often makes little sense in comparison with any other professional fee-for-service, it seems to me. I think we sometimes fail to give ourselves full credit for the value of our work.

I was reminded of this while measuring a marathon a few years ago. The RD, president of a large running club and long-time runner, wanted to ride with me for several miles to see how the measuring process works. I explained the SPR concept to him in detail as we began. As we rode, I repeatedly pointed ahead to the path I needed to ride. Nevertheless, I was forced to stop numerous times to ask him to move off of the tangent I was heading into. What we all take for granted seemed to be inscrutable to him. Another competitive runner, back in the day when I occasionally ran times that were competitive for women, told me she always followed my path in races when I was in the field because she knew I always ran the SPR - which path wasn't apparent to her.

I could go on. I expect that most of us can relate similar experiences. I agree with Kevin that we should take a hard look at the pros and cons of making some changes in how we operate. If it is not too late to add this as a discussion item for the 2023 annual RRTC meeting, I would appreciate this topic being included in the agenda. If it is too late for this, I for one would like to see a robust dialogue about it on this forum. This is about fair compensation for all of us, especially those of us who cannot afford to donate more than a modicum of our time to our work. It is about securing the future of the measuring/certification profession when it seems there is little if any prospect of a new technology supplanting our measuring methods in the near future. I hope everyone who has any thoughts about this topic will chime in here.

Stay safe out there.

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