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I don’t remember exactly when the various ideas of expiration, renewals and remeasurements became part of what we do. At the time I signed on, around 1980, certification was about recognition of accurate course measurement. Early on, certification was part and parcel of Ken Young’s National Running Data Center, the precursor to USATF’s Records Committee’s recognition of road records.

An essential part of the record process was, and is, validation. When a record time happens, the circumstances of the race are examined. This includes an examination of the timing of the race and the course used. If there is a serious error in either length or timing, the time does not qualify as a record.

While record performances occur on only a tiny percentage of the courses we certify, they remain the official reason why USATF supports the certification program.

The ordinary runner is not as picky as USATF. He or she merely seeks assurance that the course is reasonably accurate.

My proposal is this: eliminate the 10 year course life, and eliminate the idea of “renewal.” A course, once certified, stays that way. It is defined by the map. If the course run does not match the map, the certification is void.

There is nothing magic about ten years. Many of the courses I have measured have been changed more frequently than that. And many are run only once. We don’t know how our courses are used, only how they are measured.

When I oversaw the course list, renewals and expirations added work to the job. Our “status” column expanded to cover all sorts of conditions, all of which were rare. The only meaningful ones were the rare cases when a course passed or failed its validation measurement. I believe these should be retained, but none of the others.

The most recently certified course is readily identified by its certification ID.

As I have backed away from course measurement and its administration, I have no stake in what may be decided. I simply believe that simple is best and that no significant benefit is gained by trying to eliminate every what-if that may be imagined. The what-ifs are an insignificant fraction of our work, and are safely covered already by the validation process.

Perfect is the enemy of good enough. The cure is worse than the disease. In my view, all the bureaucratic hoops we are asking people to jump through do not lead to meaningful improvement in the system, and it would please me to see things return to simplicity.

So, in my view I’d like to see things get back to basics and for us to eliminate the busywork of trying to eliminate every possible bad thing. Eliminate expirations and renewals and their attendant unnecessary paperwork.
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Well said, Pete. I live in a part of the country (Upstate New York) where we don't have all that much construction on our courses. We currently have a number of race courses including our certification course which has nails driven into the road surface. And, due to the size of our races, it is unlikely that a record will ever be set in one of our races. So, as you said, what we are trying to provide to the runners is assurance that the course they are running on is reasonably accurate.

Our region of Upstate New York is well known to have accurate courses. But as our courses expire, it seems like an unnecessary chore to measure these courses again.

This was discussed at our meeting. The majority felt 10 years was a reasonable time for a course to be checked. All that one has to do is one ride as explained under adjustments to a course. That is not a difficult thing to do.

I know Pete was not happy with our decision about adjustments and the life of a course. Again, most felt the policy was reasonable. There aren't many courses that last 10 years. As registrar, I would say about 20 per year. I have seen many comments about changes that weren't documented by a race director. Again, one ride would clarify this issue.
If we did as some here have stated, what do we do with all certicates issued that have an expiration date?
Originally posted by Gene Newman:

If we did as some here have stated, what do we do with all certicates issued that have an expiration date?

I don't think any race director would be particularly disappointed if he or she was under the impression that their course certification was going to expire, and the certifier told them that it wasn't going to...
Not correcting a bad decision will lead to greater harm than fixing the problem. Our main product should be service to race directors and runners, and not to the creation of a perfect rational system. An imperfect course list and a bit of potential misuse is less of a problem than what we have decided to impose to fix it.

The RRTC meeting at the USATF convention is the absolute worst place to reach a reasoned decision. Time is short, and only a small minority of certifiers and those affected are present, usually those whose way is paid by someone else. The unfunded certifiers and affected parties remain unrepresented. We have the Bulletin Board where all may contribute their opinion. Let’s use it.

It should be apparent by now that the expiration/renewal process solves no problem that is not already covered by the existing validation process. This being the case, get rid of it.
I must respectfully disagree with Gene. The issue isn't how hard a ride is or how often a road is changed The issue is remeasuring an unchanged course. The RRTC dilutes its reputation with this illogical policy. Race directors see remeasurement of an unchanged course as busy work. Pete is right, there should be a full discussion, among at least the several hundred involved parties registered on this discussion board. Maybe some kind of poll or vote at the end of it
I agree with Pete (no, hell will not freeze over).

Once a measurer has a course Certified by USATF, his/her responsibilty ends. From that point on, it's the responsibility of the host organization to identify any changes in the route and request a new measurement/certification.
If the host organziation fails to have the course re-measured/certified it could jeapordize the ratification of any performances as well as it's Sanction.

In my opinion we have gone overboard with having a limit on the Certification - both here in the US as well as internationally where it is 5 years.

The IAAF issues Certificates for tracks with NO expiration date. It does require a new Certification if the track is rebuilt or resurfaces.
The consequence of expiring the certification of courses that have not been measured for 10 years is that handful of courses (Gene says about 20 per year) will have to be remeasured once. And of that 20, how many fit the scenario that everyone is sure the course hasn't changed? 5, 10 maybe? So each year 5-10 measurers have to remeasure a course once and 5-10 race directors have to pay for it.

What's the consequence of deciding that every course that was ever measured is now a valid certified course? There will be many, many more courses throughout the country that have been changed by construction but are still certified. Expiring courses gets many of those inaccurate courses "off the books."

Yes, it does seem a little silly that we have to measure a few courses that everybody knows haven't changed since the day they were first measured. But wouldn't it seem sillier if we keep dozens and dozens of courses as certified and record-elibible even though everyone knows they have changed and are no longer accurate?
In my experience with renewals, the RD did not have a copy of the certified map or even know where to go get it. My conclusion from this observation is that the RD is not checking course layout with the certified map in hand from year to year to verify that nothing has changed. An expiration date forces the examination between map and the physical course. It's a verification that all is well. In the majority of cases re-measurement of an existing course is not particularly time consuming. The course layout is already there, the measurer just has to go ride it. If nothing has changed, there's not even a need to draw a new map which for me takes significantly longer than the actual measurement.
I think part of the rationale for the 10-year expiration was to clean out the "deadwood" on the course list, and make the Registrar, VC, & state certifiers file cabinets manageable (although renewals tended to have the opposite effect).
We are now in the era of electronic document storage where space is not an issue - the entire course database can be put on a server, or burned onto a couple DVDs.
The average runner knows nothing about course expirations and cares even less, as long as the course is accurate. It should be the responsibility of the race director to make sure that is the case. A course that comes out significantly short (or long) will quickly be detected by GPS-wearing runners, and holy hell will erupt on the online message boards before the spilled GatorAde on the course has even dried.
My own opinion is in agreement with Pete; however, I am willing to compromise with a single ride and new certificate being issued (although that act defeats the purpose of Pete's proposal).
FWIW, I watched yesterday's Boston Marathon in the press room sitting next to Alan Steinfeld, former NYC Marathon race director and CEO of the NYRR. During the early part of the race I brought him abreast of this issue, and his opinion was the same - no new measurement should be required.
Mark and Matthew's posts point us back to the concept of either extending a certification or re-certifying a course based on data from the original measurement.

Maybe someone who was involved with the original decision to discontinue renewals- or more familiar than am I with the duties of the registrar can offer some insight into the administrative benefit of purging the course list once a year. If the course list was unwieldy ten or twelve years ago, I can imagine it being more so today, especially with all of the course maps being posted on the USATF website.

The discussion here is about a small percentage of the courses on the list. The question is one of philosophy. If we trust race directors to have their courses re-measured if they change, then there is really no issue with extending certifications indefinitely. If we don't, then shouldn't we be checking courses much more often than we do?

My guess is that there continues to be a benefit to purging the course list, so it makes sense to continue to let certifications expire. And if we want to have a sensible answer for the race directors who ask why they have to re-measure a course that hasn't changed, it would seem that allowing original data to be resubmitted would be a defensible compromise here.
Are we Wasting people's time? In my view I don't think that's the case.

There is a history of the renewal/expiration policy for all of you to read. I have posted the link at the bottom of this response.

This history goes back to 2000 where all were in favor of the policy. As a matter of fact, Pete was responsible for helping develop the new Certificate showing the 10 year expiration of course(according to Bob Baumel).

Again in 2009, we discussed the new adjustment policy at our annual meeting. We also had a series of emails to RRTC officers and some others in 2010. Some felt it was a bad decision and I respect their opinions. I sent these emails to 12 people and found nine favored the present policy.

I could agree with Jay's compromise proposal to allow the original data to be submitted and they would state the course is unchanged. Hence, a new certificate would be issued with no ride.
I can’t remember precisely the history of the expiration policy. I believe it may have begun when the course list was published as a book rather than online. This was done for several years before USATF got its website up and running. As I recall it was a practical solution to our inability to cope with fatter and fatter course books, and ever-growing masses of filing cabinets. These reasons no longer exist.

I’m familiar with the Columbus, Ohio certification scene because I was the most frequent measurer there. Here are some observations:

In Upper Arlington, the Columbus suburb where I live, there is a little one-horse 5 miler that has been held since the early 1980’s. I measured it as OH84011PR and again, after it expired, as OH06001PR. I thought it a waste of time, as the roads and landmarks have been unchanged since 1984. I intend no further remeasurements. The organizers don’t seem to care.

At the other end of the spectrum, Race for the Cure 5k has been measured just about every other year since 1993. Columbus Marathon has also had frequent course changes.

I have no knowledge of USATF web site’s ability to archive all of our courses, and have no problem with a ten year cutoff for listing on the USATF web site.

I also have no knowledge of whether the Records Committee has ever had a record application from a race held on a course measured over ten years prior to the race date. If they have, it’s certainly a rarity which could easily be judged on a case-by-case basis.

The question arises – why should the owner of an expired course care whether or not the course is still listed on the USATF site? They presumably still possess their original certificate and map and can show it to anyone who cares (actually, they probably have lost it).

The idea that almost every course more than 10 years old is unused is probably valid. There is solid justification for not continuing to carry the old maps on the USATF web site and search engine.

All these things swim in my head and the best thing for me to do is back off. I retain my original opinion that a certification should be valid until either failing validation or the route changing from what was originally certified. I have no problem at all with maps being unavailable on the USATF site after ten years.

Jay Wight’s solution would allow an old course to get a new certificate without undue stress. Original info from the original measurer would do the job. A new certificate is unnecessary if we consider that any unchanged certified route remains certified. After ten years, though, the burden of proof lies in the hands of those outside RRTC.
Last edited by peteriegel
Pete, here in New England there are many courses that have been used, unchanged, for more than 10 years, some as many as 30+.
I may be wrong, but I thought a record could be set on an expired course, as long as subsequent measurement/validation showed the length to be accurate.
As to whether runners care if a course is listed on the USATF website or not, I'm not sure. I know in the case of marathons they often search there to be sure the course is a Boston Qualifier. Personally, the Easter race I just directed listed the course as "USATF-certified (CT98003DR)." We all know that's expired, but the runners didn't seem to know or care. Frankly, I don't think a lot of smaller races do, either.
My only reason for starting this whole discussion was, does the fact a course's certification has expired make it any less accurate? That's what most runners care about.

You created some good conversation. Yes, most runners want an accurate course. The Elite athlete needs more as you well know. As for records being uphelp, that's up to records and Andy Carr. I doubt that they will be upheld if run on an expired course as the new rule passed at this years meeting.

Again, Jay's compromise is a good thing. In the next few days I will ask Bob to include this on our site. Hence a race can apply for another 10 years if they follow Jay's proposal. The race will get a new certicates and pay a small processing fee.
And to further Jim's line of thought, does the time that has passed since a measurement took place make it any less accurate? Does the fact that the measurement was previously submitted for certification make it any more or less subject to being changed?

We know some courses change. We know some do not. I think our charter here is to get the course measured correctly on the day that it's measured. What happens after that is in the hands of those to which we entrust the results of our efforts. If we try to appoint ourselves as the guardians of all certified courses, we're taking on too much.
I think the measurer should personally check the course. Without doing so, you're not going to see things like new curbs or turn lanes that might not be apparent on an online mapping application but would definitely catch your eye if you were right on top of them.

Another thing I would do is give the certifier absolute discretion on whether or not to approve the application. I would be inclined not to approve an application submitted by a measurer who was no longer active and not associated with the event.
I would strongly agree w/ Jay that an in-person eyeball of the course be performed by the measurer. The start/finish/turnaround needs to be accurately located, whether through finding the survey nails or measuring from the indicated landmarks (which can and do change). And it's good, although not required, to check the intermediate points as well.
If those, and/or road names, have changed, the map needs to be updated.
To sum up, is the current policy to be as follows:

A course expires after 10 years. At that time, the original measurer can apply for a new certificate. He/she can submit the original measurement data and map, or verify the course length through one ride, which must agree within 0.08% with the originally certified distance. Otherwise, a second ride must be performed, as if it was a new measurement. In all cases, a new certificate and course number will be issued.

Is this clear and acceptable to everyone?
I would change Jim's proposal to "A course certification expires after 10 years...". The course can still be used, but records would not be recognized.

If a race director decided to not get a new certificate, but everyone knew the course had not changed, everyone who has been involved in the race, whether runner or committee, would likely be accepting that the course is the correct length. However, our certificates indicate the length has been properly measured, and is the correct length. Since many courses change over 10 years, a 10-year expiration nudges the race director to have the course confirmed after 10 years. This is a reassurance to the runners that the course has indeed not changed, and they don't have to just take the race director's word for it.
A course expires after 10 years. At that time, the original measurer can apply for a new certificate. He/she can submit the original measurement data and map, or verify the course length through one ride, which must agree within 0.08% with the originally certified distance. Otherwise, a second ride must be performed, as if it was a new measurement. In all cases, a new certificate and course number will be issued.

What would RRTC's "official" position on this be? Is a "confirmation measurement" suggested? Are there circumstances under which it would be required?

Will we adopt (or continue?) a policy that courses whose certification has expired are no longer in the online database (and thus their course maps are not accessible)?

Is there a way to tie together sanctioning and couse certification?

In response to Duane's post I think it makes sense to formalize the relationship beteween a certified course and record eligibility. If, as Jim mentioned in a previous post, a record can be set on a course whose certification has expired (assuming the course hasn't changed and it passes a verification measurement), there is little or no incentive for race directors to go through the process to extend their course certifications.

Records can't be set on expired courses as far as I know(I will check on this).

As for tying sanctioning/certification together, we have discussed this and feel it's not a good idea. It is up to the race to know that a record will not be accepted unless the race is sanctioned and certified. We have asked our certifiers to inform the measurers of this.

As for the Policy, this will updated soon as I have been buried with maps/certificates the last couple of days.
Jay, I'm not sure what you mean by "tying together" of sanctioning & certification.
When I was sanctions chair for CT-USATF, I included an info sheet with every sanction request explaining the course certification process and its value to races. Most sanctioned races are run on certified courses, but not all.
OTOH, there are many certified courses used by races that are not sanctioned. Most of these are smaller events, who often obtain their insurance through a town parks & rec department or RRCA.
One thing I think we should push is enforcement of the existing rule that any USATF championship be run on a certified course. This is the case for all national championships, but I have heard of Association level championships whose courses are not certified.
As for maps/certs staying online, can't expired courses be accessed now by changing the search parameters? I feel this should continue, since expired courses' maps can be useful for historical purposes (I'm personally fond of citing the Pines to Palms Marathon as perhaps the most aided course ever designed.)
Finally, working back to front on your points, I would think it should be up to the discretion of the state certifier was to whether a confirmation measurement be required. I'm not sure whether this can or should be written into the policy without muddying things up too much. Common sense, although not very common these days, should be used here.
The point of my question was that I think we need to provide as many incentives as possible, positive and negative, to encourage race directors to keep their courses certified.

The race directors who put on long standing, low key events may not see any advantage to getting someone out to extend their certification. They know their course is the correct length and that it hasn't changed, and they may not want to invest in a new piece of paper that tells them what they already know. That's their call.

But if the benefits of having a certified course include such things as eligibility for sanctioning, eligibility for records being set, and the posting of the course map on the USATF web site, that's value added that we can continue to sell.
While many courses may not change over 10 years, enough do, and enough race directors vary from the map during setup, that I believe re-measurement or verification every 19 years is warranted.

Most of us don't murder, but there are laws against it, and penalties. Many courses don't change, but enough do to warrant a policy to verify that a course is still being run as originally measured. At least, that's what I think.
Why 19 years? How about 16 year or 12 years. There is no magic number for doing a one ride check. That's why at this years meeting we all agreed to 10 years.

Now, we have had some complain this was a wrong decision. I just don't know the magic number, but feel at some point there needs to be a ride check.

Jay offered a compromise and at the time it seemed reasonable. I do have some 2nd thoughts based upon some of the emails I've received.

This is never ending.
I think some people fear this compromise will open the floodgates for hundreds of certifications to be "renewed" (not the right word, but the meaning is there).
I don't see this happening at all. The number might be a dozen or so a year. Maybe that's not worth opening a "loophole," but there are enough highly regarded and experienced measurers who have expressed the opinion that they have courses that haven't changed that we should allow them alternatives to a complete remeasurement with 2 rides.
Duane, your analogy with murder laws isn't the best. Those are laws to prevent something ; what we've come up with here is a rule to allow something.
No one is forcing a race director or measurer to make the determination that their course is unchanged. Instead, we're allowing them to use their best judgement and observation of the immediate situation to do that. If you have some doubt one of your courses is unchanged, do a single ride, which will either confirm or deny the fact. At worst, you'll have to do a second ride, but the new rule will allow a single ride to suffice for a new certificate as well as putting your mind at ease. And if Pete Volkmar or Dave Katz are certain their course hasn't changed, they can resubmit the original measurement data.
The absolute worst effect of this I can envision is that a record gets tossed because an "unchanged" course is shown to be short on validation. Considering the small number records set each year, and the even smaller number of courses likely to fall under the new rule, I think the likelihood of that occurring is miniscule. As Pete wrote,
The ordinary runner is not as picky as USATF. He or she merely seeks assurance that the course is reasonably accurate.

The new rule allows us to meet that goal.

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