Skip to main content

Playing Devil's Advocate here:

I directed a race yesterday on a course I measured back in 1998, whose certification therefore expired 4 years ago.
The course hasn't changed a whit since its original measurement; in fact, I can still locate the PK nails at the start and finish lines. It is extremely unlikely any records will ever be set on it - the drop is probably outside the limits anyway.
It would only cost me the $5 VC & Registrar's fee to get the course recertified for another 10 years, but I feel little motivation to do so. I know the course is as accurate now as it was 14 years ago, and to me, that is what's important, especially to the runners.
So if I feel this way, can we expect race directors, who might have to pay several hundred dollars to get a course recertified, to view this as a worthwhile expense? Won't most say, "Our course is accurate, what difference does it make if its certification has expired?"
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Jim, I sympathize with your view, and about the only answer I see is that they cannot advertise they are using a certified course. That could cost them runners, if someone who has not run the race before bases their decision on which race to run on the course being certified.

This is why there was a strong argument made for the original measurer being able to submit their original measurement paperwork, if they could confirm there were no changes, and the course is being used as originally mapped. That idea didn't stand up to the RRTC board, though. I would still advocate for this particular scenario being accepted, and only have the race pay $25, or something nominal, for the resubmission of paperwork for a new cert.
I think I piped in on this before. I don't understand how a measurement changes over time. If the original measurer confirms that the roads are the same, what difference does it make when the measurement was performed? This question applies to measurements of entire courses as well as to segments. It seems easy and logical to change the rule to something better than it was when a simple submittal was the only requirement, without ignoring actual historical measurements. The word of the original measurer and a request, by the original measurer for recertification, accompanied by the original measurement data should be sufficient. The integrity of the course certification program is diminished when race directors perceive that remeasuring an unchanged course is performed simply to generate money for the measurer. The rationale that a new map will be a better map falls into the same busy-work for extra money category, certainly as far as race directors are concerned.

I voiced my opinion on this last time this question was addressed. The RRTC decided then to establish a lifetime for measurements. I didn't agree, but followed the rule. Now it seems this may be addressed again. If so, the accuracy of historical measurements and the review of a course by the original measurer should be given further investigation.
First,Cerification of a race course provides more than an accurate course. I'm not a fan of insurance, but a certified course that's sanctioned provides insurance to the race and members of USATF particaptiong in the race.

You guys don't think landmarks change. Yes, maybe one measurement could be done, but a second measurement is no big deal. Cost, what is the actual cost to a race over 10 years? Say, you have 1000 runners over that time period. They pay an entry fee, which recovers the cost of certification in a very short time.

Do races make money? Some are there for a charity, while others are there strictly for making a profit. Why not have no entry fee? Just joking.

Jim, I suggest you look out for the people participating in the event and get the course certified.
Gene, I definitely plan to do that, even for courses I measured gratis in the past and will do so again. But my point is I have race directors saying, "So what if the certification has expired? The course is still accurate, and that's all 99% of the runners care about." You're right that it's a small expense over 10 years but most race directors look at the here & now and when the cost of timing, shirts, cops, etc. are all going up saving a couple hundred bucks by foregoing a recertification seems like a good move, even if it is penny wise and pound foolish.
In terms of insurance, it's possible to have an event sanctioned without the course being certified (or vice versa, thankfully) unless it's a USATF championship.
If all I had to do was one measurement of an expired course and submit only that data (no new map), I could charge very little.

As a certifier, if all I had to do was review one set of measurement data and then change the measurement and expiration dates on the certificate, I would also charge much less.

We could greatly reduce the cost of "re-certification" of an expired course if we take a careful look at what parts of the certification process aren't really necessary for expired courses.
To be honest, the biggest hassle in the certification process for me is making the map, esp. the S/F detail, rather than the ride itself, which I often find enjoyable (assuming the weather is nice).
Since I make all my maps electronically, all I have to do is modify the date(s) and any landmark descriptions that may have changed and it's ready to go.
That said, I wouldn't do a re-ride for next-to-nothing - probably not as much as a from-scratch measurement, but more than a nominal fee. And I wouldn't be surprised if some race directors, especially of small, shoestring budget events, decided to forego remeasurement to save money.
Here's an analogy (maybe not a good one):
Most of us renew our vehicle registration with little complaint because we can just mail in the form with the fee, and you get your new sticker in the mail a few weeks later (at least that's how it works in CT - I recall in NJ having to actually get your car inspected, which always meant long lines at the end of the month).
With driver's licenses, you have to appear at the MVD (or AAA in CT) and get a new photo taken. A little more onerous, but we still do it.
But imagine if you had to go through all the paperwork of registering a newly purchased car every time you had to renew the registration, or take a driving test (or worse, sit through hours of Driver's Ed classes) whenever your license expired. I'd wager a large number of people with expired licenses would be driving unregistered cars.
That's what the directors of most mom & pop races might feel - the odds of someone setting a record in their event is probably far lower than getting pulled over by a cop for driving without a license. It's a risk they're willing to take.
Gene, good to hear. And I think new events recognize the value of certified courses.
I am just getting some pushback from directors of races whose certifications are expiring. When I tell them they need to have them redone, their response is, "Why? If the course hasn't changed, the distance is still correct, why should I pay a couple hundred bucks so I can put a 'USATF Certified' logo on the entry?" In fact, I've seen some races listing expired cert. numbers on their forms - most runners wouldn't be aware of the 10-year limit, and would think if a course was certified in 2000 it is still OK. And the majority would feel that if the distance is accurate, it's all they really care about.
I guess I'm echoing Mark, Pete & Duane's feelings here - we should make it easier and less costly for recertification, which would encourage race directors, not vice versa.
Don't take this the wrong way, but, why do you care? If you believe the course is the same as the day it was measured and there is no point in remeasuring it to prove it is still accurate, what does it matter if the certification gets updated?
I realize that if someone sets a record on the course it won't count, but anyone who has a chance of doing that should know the 10-year limit on certifications, just like they should know the drop limit and the separation limit.
That being said, I think we really should find a way to change the "Record Eligible" status in our database of any certificate older than 10 years to "No"
Mark, I guess my point is that my main concern is that a course is accurate (which is how the whole course certification business got started years ago, thanks to Alan Jones, Ted Corbitt & others). But it is nice to have the official USATF Certified imprimatur as the "Good Road Running Seal of Approval."
There are a whole series of races in nearby NY state that are advertised as "certifiably accurate" meaning they have been measured to our standards, but the race director doesn't want to bother w/ the paperwork/fees to get the final certification. Do they lose runners because of this? I don't know.
I am and always have been a huge advocate of races being run on certified courses, and have measured at least 2 dozen low key events for free just so they can have that feature.
But, as you say, if I have to do 2 rides to confirm what I know to be true, I'm less likely to do so. To me, it falls in the category of bureaucratically induced busy work.
We want to encourage certified courses, and I think we are doing an excellent job of that, which Gene's note that we are on record pace this year bears out. But I worry we have a policy in place that deters, rather than encourages, recertification of expiring courses.
I'll admit to being unsure of what the current policy is, after all the discussion that went on. Two rides like a new measurement, one by the original measurer, or can the original measurer resubmit his figures from the original ride? I would favor a single ride, or even a statement by the original measurer attesting that he has driven the course and been able to locate all the salient landmarks on the original map.
Gene, can you clarify what, if any, consensus was reached on this issue? Thanks.
At the risk of being a broken record (does anybody else remember those?) I stand with Jim on this.

How do we, as certifiers, explain to a race director whose course has not changed that he has to have is course remeasured, and how do we defend this as something other than, as Jim says, "bureaucratically induced busy work" that simply generates fees for measurers and certifiers at the expense of race directors?

And who is the RRTC "board"?

This could be solved EASILY by allowing the original measurer to re-submit original measurement data. We impress on the measurers that they're on the hook if the course fails, and we leave it up to them whether or not they need think they need to re-measure the course- even once.

We need to make this consistent and easy to explain to our customers- the people who promote and administer road races.
Gene, Jay, Jim, Mark, et. al.: Can we divide this discussion into 2 parts? One being the issue of a lifetime for a course certificate and the other, recertification of courses that have not changed. The latter seems to be the subject here. The only situation I am concerned with is where the original measurer has confirmed that there have been no changes to the course. In this case the original measurement is every bit as accurate as a new measurement and therefore the new measurement, whether it be one ride or more, is busy-work and only needed because a regulation demands it. Race directors realize this. When the RRTC officers discuss this, please discuss separately, the issue of recertification of an unchanged course. I realize this requires relying on the integrity of the measurer, but our whole certification system is built on that integrity.
I would tend to agree w/ Pete here. I've done remeasurements of several expired/expiring courses and found agreement with the original distance of a foot or less.
I have, however, found several instances where the landmarks have changed - utility poles and mailboxes renumbered, driveways and storm drains relocated, and in one case, the actual name of a road was changed. All of those, however, would be readily noticed during a drive or ride over the course, and would not affect its overall length.
So, I feel an on-site inspection might be justifiably mandated. But to treat an essentially unchanged course as a brand new one, except in the numbering process, is for the most part unnecessary.
Wow! Some discussions are like Lazarus. "Just when you think it's safe to go out at night", etc.

Okay, my two cents.

I think the key has been mentioned by Pete (Guido Bros.) and it is integrity. If the original measurer states that there have been no changes to the course I believe that we should be able to renew the course forever. If the original measurer is no longer involved, I would accept a single ride by an experienced measurer for renewal (assuming that the ride shows the course to be at least the advertised distance ... if it doesn't, a second ride would be required).

Fortunately, this does not yet seem to be a big problem in NC. So far this year I have certified 52 courses (well ahead of last year which set an all time record) and not one of them is a re-measurement of an expired course.

My biggest argument against the new policy is on calibration courses. Usually a calibration course is used multiple times by the original measurer during the course of a year (unlike a race course which is used once and usually not observed by the original measurer) and he/she would be immediately aware of any changes in the course. That being the case, why does it have to be re-measured after ten years?

As I recall, in the original discussion concerning this at an RRTC Annual Meeting, the main reason given for the change was basically mis-use of the renewal process by many people. Pete Riegel related that many times he would get a renewal request that swore that the start & finish nails were still in place and that there were no changes to the course but the person requesting the renewal did not even have the original certificate/map in hand when making these statements. Consequently, they may or may not even know what the original marks/route were. IF that is the main reason we did away with renewals, it could be fixed by requiring the original measurer be the only one who could request a renewal.

The argument that many (or even most) courses have road changes during ten years may or may not be true, but even if it is true, why should courses which DO NOT have changes be required to re-measure?

As a state certifier and vice chair, renewals are/were a pain in the butt; however, I am still in favor of them under controlled circumstances.
Paul, good points. When I was West VC renewals were the bane of my existence. To make life easier from a clerical standpoint, my thought would be that any unchanged course be resubmitted by the original measurer (he/she could use the original map, and original calculations) with an attached note stating that the current course is the same as originally measured. The VC would then issue a new cert. number as if it was a new course, noting the old course number in the "Replaces" field on the cert.
This would keep things a lot cleaner clerically for the VC's and Registrar.
So technically we would NOT be allowing renewals again, but rather allowing courses to be reCERTIFIED using the original paperwork and data, as Jay proposes, with the stipulation that some sort of in-person inspection be performed.
Last edited by jimgerweck
While I understand the race directors wanting to save money, the re-certification after 10 years is a confirmation to runners (and race directors) that, truly, nothing on the course has changed.

A popular race had to be re-certified when the city replaced curbing in one intersection on the 10k course. Most people wouldn't even notice, I think, but the measurer happened to drive by the intersection regularly. Had he not done that, a remeasurement by another measurer, would have shown the course to be short. This would have triggered a complete re-measure, which, in my book, is a very good reason to have courses expire.

While many race directors insist their course has not changed, I have measured a few in my 6 years of measuring, that are not what the original map showed. Yes, most courses for established races stay unchanged. But, I see no reason to not verify every 10 years. IAAF requires re-measurement every 5 years. Our 10-year policy is reasonable, I believe.

One measurement, by a measurer with at least 20 courses under their belt, to me would be a good requirement. If the measurement was at least as long as the stated distance, and the landmarks are as noted on the map, it is good, and the original map can be re-used. VC would have to download the map from the USATF site if the original measurer didn't submit the re-measure, and change the expiration info, but that is not hard to do.
Wow! First to allow a lifetime Certification is not a good idea in my view. Many have pointed out their experiences with change that occur on a course route that would effect the course distance. The original measurer or an experienced measurer may not even know of the changes.

To me again one ride should be done and the original map could be resubmitted. Justin Kuo has pointed out this ride could follow the process in place for validations. As for cost, that is really up to the measurer. Would it save money to a race? I doubt it!
My argument for requiring only a single ride for re-certifications of expired courses was based on the fact that the second ride serves no purpose in this case. You are already requiring the first ride to closely match (within 0.08%) the ride that someone else did of the course long ago.

But if you change the requirement of that one ride to be that it only has to confirm the course is at least as long as advertised, then my argument no longer stands. Someone who does a very poor ride of the course will always confirm the course is at least as long as advertised, even if it is a bit short!!

If we are going to allow a single ride to re-certify a course with the at-least-as-long requirement, we need to be very careful about who we allow to do that single ride.
I have an idea that might solve the problem without too much additional verbiage.

Suppose we said that a successful verification of a course results in a new certificate, good for 10 years from the date of verification ride. So for a race that had a record set in its third year, and received a verification ride courtesy RRTC, they get an extra 10 on their lifespan. If it's a course that is expiring or has expired, the 10-year meter begins ticking from that year. The requirements would be the same as a verification, including distance agreement and adjustment to bring the course up to the required distance (that would cover a course that had a "hidden" change such as the new curbing Duane referred to - if the new measurement came up 3m short, the distance could be added a the start or finish, without requiring any additional rides).
Most of the time this ride would be performed by the original measurer, but it would not preclude someone else riding it. If it's the original measurer, the ride shouldn't take very long, given familiarity with the course - the main point of such a ride would be checking the landmarks (I wouldn't even bother calculating and relocating the intermediate split points, just ascertaining that a landmark for locating them was still in existence).
Not sure if we want to require that he/she be a certain level measurer or at least "experienced" to preclude the scenario Mark laid out.
This would seem to be a good compromise between simply taking someone's word that there has been no change and requiring a full from-scratch remeasurement.
All good stuff.
I have mixed feelings about all of the above and I think it boils down to integrity.

Some thoughts:
There are many of us who not only measure the course(s) but also work at the races run on them. For those races run on these courses where the measurer has been out there every year since the course was certified, I say just submit a new Certificate with the old map. No additional measurements are necessary unless of course the measurer thinks there was a change. Any new notations due to changes in landmarks would be noted in an updated map.

If the original measurer HAS NOT been involved but is very familiar with the roads (hometown - traveled on them daily), then I say apply the above.

If the orginal measurer HAS NOT been involved and is not familiar with the area, then I think a single measurement should be required and new Cert and Map submitted.

If a new measurer (different then the original) is measuring the course for renewal, then I think that a single measurement is required unless it is greater then 0.08%. The two measurements should be required.

I have had situations where I went out to remeasure I course that I worked on over 15 years ago. I was sure that the roads were the same but I got a significant difference (40+ meters). I measured the course several more times - always coming up with the same difference. I was going nuts! I called my buddy Jim G. to come over to Long Island (Visa required) and fortunately he confirmed my measurement. After I contacted DOT and found out that a long stretch of the course (service road of the Long Island Expressway) had been altered about 10 years ago!

Just today, I went out to remeasure a 5k course that has expired. It was measured by another measurer who is no longer in the business. My measurement was 4 meters longer then the original! So, thinking we do I screw up, I measured it again, then again (total of 3 times) all measurements within a meter or two of each other.

Why bother?
There are several talented age group runners around here, I we owe it to them to get it right.
Good points Dave. (You know I am always looking for an excuse to visit the Island Across the Sound).
Some of this has to do w/ the length of the course. I don't feel a big reluctance to do one or even two rides of a 5k course in the next town. If it's a 10 miler 100 miles away, it's a different story. And I know Rick Recker had no real desire to ride 26.2 miles on a busy highway full of speeding logging trucks to recertify the Grandma's Marathon course.
That said, the rules should probably be the same for all courses - the simpler we make them, the better, and the more likely they are to be understood and followed.
Originally posted by Gene Newman:
Original measurer? What about IAAF "A" measurer? How about an IAAF "B" measurer?

Do we require courses to be measured by IAAF rated measurers? We do not.

Jay, why did the RRTC do away with renewals? Landmarks change - streets have name changes - curbing change-ect.

My understanding is that this is NOT the reason the RRTC did away with renewals. The RRTC did away with renewals because (1) the course list was getting long and letting old certifications expire was a way to purge it, and (2) enough applications for renewal were coming in from people who were not in a position to know whether or not the course has changed that the decision makers decided enough was enough.

I can agree with one ride, but by who? I will put this out to the RRTC officers.

If we're going to have one ride, by someone unfamiliar witht he course, we need to move forward on a system for rating measurers.
Again, I’d recommend resolving one issue at a time. The issue is remeasuring an unchanged course. Here is a perfect example that can be used. We have a calibration course nearby, not in the hometown. The nails are in place from 10-years ago because they have been repainted each time the course is used and the course has been used at least once per year since creation. Why should this course be remeasured? Remeasuring it is busy-work.

Moving to a less definitive example, the New Haven 20K Road Race. It was measured 10-years ago by Jim G. and the Guido Bros. Under the current rules, it needs remeasurement. It has been validated once since the 10-year old measurement, but no new certificate was issued. We have measured at least one course per year in New Haven since the 20K was certified and can confirm anecdotally that the roads have not changed. Leaving aside the issues of cost, remeasuring time, number of rides, 0.8%, maps and intermediate landmarks, why remeasure? The original data is still accurate, the original measurer has it and is still active.

I think it would not be hard to specify conditions such as described above where recertification of an unchanged course, requested by the original measurer, based on original 10-year old data would be OK.
I think a single ride for a road course, or a single tape measurement for a calibration course, should be be the absolute minimum acceptable, no matter who measured it. If the agreement is not within 0.08% then a second ride or measurement must be done to find out where the problem is to correct it. Stuff happens. Screw ups occur at one time or another even with experienced measurers. Doing a single ride or steel tape verification confirms that everything is good.

Paul makes a very good point - how big really is this problem? How many renewals were there before the end of 2011? From my experience it was about 1 - 2%. If this is the case nationally, let's not worry about it, move on and continue with the 10-year expiration rule.
We have had some interesting thoughts on this topic. I refer all to look at the following link as to what was decided at this year's convention.

Look at the bottom of the page concerning this topic. Basically, we decided that one measurement would be necessary for any expired courses.

At this point in time we will go with the established policy.
Last edited by genenewman
Gene, I followed the link provided, and read the policy on Adjustments. That is a different topic than re-certifying an expired course, but that isn't my concern.

The link to the Adjustment policy indicates it should be under the Certification topic, but nowhere on the Certification page is there a link to the article you have linked to. Where does one find the link, while using the USATF site? Is there some back-room path I am not aware of? I have found the link on the RRTC site, so are we just keeping it accessible through the RRTC site, and not visible on the USATF site?

I will ask Bob if he can do something about the USATF site.

As for the topic of discussion, I feel this does address the concerns for an expired course that hasn't changed or has a minor adjustment where a 10 year extension would be granted.

Here is what I was referring to:

To obtain a certification with new 10-year life
If it is desired to extend the course’s expiration date then, after applying the adjustment procedure indicated above (including addition/subtraction of distance with intention of keeping the course length unchanged), the entire course must be remeasured at least once. Thus, all portions of the course not involved in the current modification must be given at least one new measurement. This will result in a remeasured length for the full course, calculated the same way as for any normal certification measurement (including the SCPF in riding constants). If portions of the course have been remeasured only once, the remeasured length must be within 0.08% of the intended race distance, and if it comes out shorter than the intended length, distance must be added to the course to bring it to the intended length. If agreement isn’t obtained within 0.08%, or if the measurer thinks the course should be shortened, then a second measurement is required, as for a new certification.
Duane and all,

The USATF site already includes links in two places pointing to the Adjustment policy, and I don't consider it such a "back-room" path. One place is the Measurement Tools page at in the "More Publications from USATF Road Running Technical Council" section, which also includes links to many other RRTC policy statements (validation guidelines, changing name of a certified course, expiration/renewal, etc.). The other place is the Committee News area at where the item from 2011-02-02 titled "Refinement of Certified Course Adjustment Policy" includes a link to the adjustment policy.
I have no way of knowing whether most of the routes I measured 10 years ago have changed. I ran 10 K route ND02039PR this morning and run it often. It has not changed. I also often run 5 K route ND02038PR which appears unchanged. However, part of it was repaved last year and may have changed slightly. I only know this, because I saw the repavement being done. ND02038PR and ND02039PR expire in December. I plan to measure them again.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.