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Email from Bernie Conway to Gene Newman

I received an email from Pierre Weiss of the IAAF commenting on Athletics Canada's 10 year certification.

"I am surprised: for me, the AIMS (IAAF) policy of a 5 year validity should also be implemented on all national levels !"

I know that the USATF-RRTC had a length of more than 10 years and that the USATF and Canada now use a 10 year as a maximum for the life of a certificate. According to Pierre he believes that all countries should be following this same regimen. I have also had contact with Jean Francois Delasalle who is responsible for certification in France indicating that they also use a 5 year maximum.

Personally I was happy with the 10 year maximum at least for races in small towns as there is less likelyhood of courses being changed due to street work. The larger the city and the longer the course and the longer the time the more likely that changes will occur to the length of a course.

In order for records to be accepted by the IAAF the certification must be within this 5 year window. For this reason I believe that we should seriously consider the possiblility of moving to this 5 year maximum. I know that all marathons that had runners qualify for the IAAF Marathon Championships in Osaka this year and for the Olympics next year in China had/have to be remeasured within this 5 year time limit. This caused some flurry of remeasurements last year for marathons dealing with elite runners wanting to qualify for Osaka. What are your thoughts?

Moderator Note: Comments, please
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Mike Wickiser Responds

Actually I like the 5 year expiration over the current 10 year.
When the decision was made to eliminate renewable course certifications, I felt going to 5 years would cause too much ruckus. There were some loud complaints to any expiration at all.
10 years went along with the generally accepted road surface life expectancy. Most roads are on a 10 year cycle for resurfacing. I have also seen courses change from year to year in parks and along scenic areas where the road edge degrades due to erosion and freezing. That type of erosion lengthens the course of course, but the SPR does change.
I would support going to 5 years but be braced for complaints that we are building in job security for the measurers. Since we are almost all measurers it would be easy to cry foul.
Best regards,

IAAF, until recent years, was indifferent to road running. When they came to realize the size of the sport they seized upon the only worldwide organization that dealt with it, investigated, and began to provide support, thus gaining some control. The golden rule - he who has the gold, rules.

The organization was AIMS – the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races. Its web page may be found at: A history of AIMS may be found at the web page.

AIMS is basically what it says – an association of about 230 distance races. They tend to be mostly big-city races with large fields. They have rules of measurement that are similar to ours, which is not surprising, since they are based on our early work.

AIMS requires that their courses be remeasured each five years. Unlike the US and Canada, AIMS courses are not open to public scrutiny – detailed course maps and measurement data are generally unavailable. No information is available concerning these things. Although AIMS courses have been measured for over two decades, no record of the measurements exists. AIMS and IAAF have no documented history as regards road course measurement.

When a course changes in the US, its certification automatically becomes invalid, and this can be checked by anyone, as our maps are available online.

IAAF’s interest has always focused on the elite races, and has not historically been concerned with the ordinary, common races which are the bread-and-butter of the sport. Our USATF system deals with the entire spectrum of road races.

I believe that the US is presently well-served with the ten year expiration period. Decreasing it to five years would require a lot more measurements to be performed. To do these measurements on courses that have remained unchanged would be wasteful of time, effort and money.
Last edited by peteriegel
Since this thread is on the international section, I feel it is not out of place to mention my views, whereas I should be a bit more hesitant on intruding in US domestic aspects.

My qualification to comment is partly from the fact that I was one of the first certifiers to introduce a requirement to have a course checked after ten years after the original measurement. I think it was around 1997 that I introduced the practice in the South England. I would have liked to have specify 5 years as the limit, but it was clear we should use the longer time (10 years) as an initial step for fear of overloading our accredited measurers.

This has worked very well for the last ten years. Of course only a modest fraction of courses actually last ten years unchanged, so the load is not high. What is interesting is of those that are inspected then measured by a measurer under my ten year rule, a significant fraction of courses are found to have changed, either (A) before an actual remeasurement is has been made, or (B), rather rarely, when a check measurement is made on a course which to all appearances to a skilled measurer is unchanged.

The adjustments that have to be for (B) are usually quite small - the worst one I can recall recently is a 2mile 104 yard course which was remeasured(twice) at 2m 90y. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the paperwork on both measurements by different highly experienced UKA grade 1 measurers (equivalent to IAAF grade B standard) The race director swears that there have been no race boundary changes. We can't discover the reason for the change but we go forward with the latest measurement.

I find the the main problem we pick up by the ten year check is slack race directors, who make changes - start/finish/marshalling - but still say the course is unchanged. Very often this is associated with a change of race director. Let me quote a (typical) recent message from a measurer when attending a ten year old course that has been declared each year as unchanged and therefore issued with an annual renewal of the original certificate, until this year.
I rode the course with the race director using the start and finish that he advised me were those used last year. I found the (10k) course to be 106m short. He is new to the job of organising the race and he did think that whilst the finish has always been in the same place the start has varied for some reason.

This problem should never arise if each year the race director consults the original measurement report and lays out the course as measured. But they clearly dont....

The conclusion of this ramble is that I am ready to try and move the UK measurement procedures to a five year check by a qualified measurer. But, just as now with our ten year checks, I would say the following
For 2007, I will not renew Certificates of Course Accuracy originally issued before 1 Jan 2002, unless an accredited course measurer with current knowledge of the race is prepared to vouch that remeasurement is unnecessary. This will involve him checking that the present race director still has a copy of the original measurement report, and possibly visiting the course with the race director to confirm that no changes have taken place. In this case the measurer's out-of-pocket expenses must be reimbursed by the race director according to the normal arrangements. I will then issue a new certificate based on the original measurement and the measurer's inspection.

In the event that the measurer is not satisfied he should recommend that a remeasurement be carried out.

My view is that the AIMS/IAAF 5 year remeasurement rule does not target the problem with lax race directors as precisely as my inspection rule, and I argue that my proposed slightly lower standard of check after five years will save some unnecessary measuring when it is clear to a qualified measurer that all is OK.

Of course things may be a bit different in those countries such as the USA which allow unqualified people to measure, so we are unlikely to achieve a fully worldwide standard.
All this is very interesting, but my feeling are simple.

In the US we allow anyone to measurer, but their work is submitted to a Regional Certifier who has many years of experience. The system we use has been in around for many years and has proven to be a success.

Most races that are certified are not done for records purpose, but are certified for accuracy to the runners. A redo after 5 years is not a good thing in my view. The RTTC should inform any race of this rule and it is up to do a redo after 5 years if they so desire.
US "Unqualified Measurers"

Many validation measurements have shown that courses measured by inexperienced US measurers pass muster 90 percent of the time.

When an experienced measurer does the initial measurement, the pass rate is in the 98 to 99 percent range.

The success rate of other systems employing vetted and experienced measurers is unknown, as data is not available.
I think the public availability of race cert maps is a good thing, and leads to people being able to check the correct course is used.
Most of the time the errors are human, RD uses the wrong start or finish marks. Some times paint marks fade and the wrong nail is assumed to be the correct mark.
I live in a city where popular venues have nails all over the place, some from other races, some from property or road surveyors.
One thing that could help maintain the integrity of the race length is a better method to identify the start and finish.

We have all been out there with some one who is going 'is this the mark or that the mark?'.
We have all seen mile mark splits being off because the wrong nail was assumed to be the mark.

I have thought about marking the start and finish with a unique maker, for example a bronze triangle set into the tarmac. If we were to develop a punch that with the application of a hammer could cut out the shape, and then have a bronze plate that gets set in the hole and held in with a 'tapcon' or similar hardened screw.

If we can build a measurement counter just for measuring the course length, then we can figure out a way to more positively identify the start and finish so that the marks are more permanent and less likely to get confused.

While changes in along the boundary of a course are possible, most errors are at the ends. This would help to fix them better and so the course is more likely to remain intact and the correct length over the years.

We may also want to consider the fact that a course that is 26 miles long is far more likely to have changes along the sides of a course than one that is 3.1 miles long. It is just statistical fact. Therefore I think it rational to argue that courses of 10K and under should have a different lifespan than marathon courses.
Interesting topic. As I read the entire thread, I was forming a similar opinion as JamesM; Courses of 10k or less are more likely to be un-changed over 10 years. But (I usually throw in a point for discussion), my experience with Marathon directors is that they take care to cross their "t"s and dot their "i"s. Thus, if the course changes, they get it re-certified.

Regarding marking of the points, as of this year, I am using a punch to mark my washers with a race indicator (El Paso Marathon is "EPM"), and the point, whether it is Start, 1M, 2M, etc., or Finish. This way, I (and someone laying out the course) will be able to discern if I am at the correct marking. By including a GPS track and waypoint file, that should also assist course people. I realize many course folks don't currently use a GPS, but they may learn, if the tracks are available.

Another way to monitor accuracy of course layout is, as Pete alludes to, for runners to check the map available from USATF against the actual course. Then, they should let us know if a course is not run as mapped. Daunting, though, to educate runners of that resource.

Ultimately, I think that the shorter, local races don't need re-certified in less than 10 years. If I succeed in educating runners to the value of a certified course, someone will be anal enough to check the course map prior to the race and notice if it is not run accurately. Other than that, I don't believe there is a feasible way to ascertain that every certified course is still being run as mapped. Maybe, in the course of people meeting with connected people, one may suggest that when a race asks to be a qualifier for any race (such as Boston Qualifier, etc.) the race that is being qualified for may request a local measurer obtain a course map FROM THE RACE DIRECTOR, and compare the course as run, with the map obtained from the USATF site. Cross-checks may reveal shortcuts or changes.

With a loose set of rules, I don't believe we can expect 100% compliance. All we can do is try.
One thing I've noticed is that I've measured many courses where the roads haven't changed (save repaving, perhaps) in well over 10 years.

What HAS occasionally changed is some of the landmarks. Houses get torn down and rebuilt, driveways relocated, and this weekend I noticed that many telephone poles had been replaced or relabeled. With the conglomoration of phone companies, what was SNET #314 when I measured the course may now be labeled ATT #1207.
I believe that we should maintain our current, ten-year system in the US but make sure that race directors who have international aspirations for their race are made aware of the international rules.

As for "not finding the nail or too many nails in an area", the simple solution is triangulation. If a drawing is made of the start and finish wherein the nail is shown to be a certain distance from two or more fixed objects it is not necessary to find the actual nail.

I had a situation a number of years ago where the road at the start had been re-paved. Fortunately I was at the race and had a copy of the original certificate and map prepared by AC Linnerud (his maps were terrible but his start/finish detail was superb). The race director and I did the measurement and drove a new nail half an hour before the start. We actually hit the original nail in attempting to drive the new nail!

Sometimes triangulation is not even necessary. For instance, I measured a course yesterday and the finish was 39' before the last utility pole before Water St. on the left side of Bonner St. It is unlikely that a utility pole will be moved.

I am less comfortable using signs becasue they DO change. I am really uncomfortable using lines on the pavement because they frequently change.
One of the issues that I have recently experienced is that utility poles are being added between old poles and the old poles are still used also. So making a description such as a 39' before the last utility pole before Water St may become inaccurate in future years. One possible way around the re-numbering / re-placing / addition of new poles is to mark the pole that's being measured from in some unique way that will be recognized by the measurer and the RD.
Utility poles usually have some inventory number already on them.

I measured a road race a few years ago. Race day was less than 3 weeks after my measurement, but when I showed up on race day I found the timing people scratching their heads. In that short timespan the power company had put the distribution circuit underground and all the poles were gone. Fortunately, I also knew the distance to a manhole.

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