Skip to main content

There is a new version of the Calibration Course Map at the link below.

Calibration Course Map

On that map green circles indicate the street-level location of the calibration course, while purple circles show the location of the calibration course as near the center of the town listed for it (no precise location).

Most of the "purple" cal courses were certified in 2013, so I didn't bother finding precise locations since they will expire in just a few months. A smaller number of the "purple" cal courses were ones that I could not identify a precise location from the certification map. Below is a list of these "purple" courses.

Purple Cal Courses (unknown locations)

If you are familiar with any of these courses and know the precise location, it would be a big help if you would provide an explanation in the "Location Explanation" column on the right side. This could be a cross street, GPS coords, of even a google maps screen shot with a location icon.

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Personally, I'm a bit worried about a resource like this posted without concern for calibration course ownership. While I'm certainly comfortable sharing when asked, I have never measured a calibration course for free public use. Ultimately, the person doing the calibration course measurement owns the course. Separating courses into a locator like this without contacting the owners for permission OR providing any clear indication that those using this resource should contact the measurer first inherently implies no ownership rights.
In my mind, it's the same principle as road course ownership. I always recommend that events seeking to use an existing course reach out to the original organizers, as they're the ones who paid for measurement. This small act of seeking permission or offering to share the expense avoids a lot of confusion and shows respect to those who put in the work.

I can see this issue from both sides. My introduction to measuring cal courses in the mid-eighties was with the understanding that RRTC/USATF wanted to promote the sport of road running by establishing national quality criteria for footrace courses. By most measures, IMO, we have been highly successful in this endeavor.  I know two long-time measurers who between them have effectively donated dozens of cal courses over the last 5 decades, as have some of us who are actively measuring today. In the D.C. area, where I live and work, I have witnessed a virtual explosion of fitness running and running events in this era. These two measurers have played a huge part in the growth of our sport in this region, as have others all across the U.S.

What has never been discussed, at least in my experience, if not universally, is that the only person or entity who pays for cal courses is *us* - we, as measurers. So, when we sign on to measure a course, we must either use an existing cal course or create a new one, thus submitting our work to be used by anyone - no charge, and on this point, I feel Kevin makes an argument worth discussing.

Maybe some measurers include some fee bump in their calculation for a course certification when the work requires establishing a new cal course. Does anyone here know anyone who does? I do not. Questions of personal data being potentially broadcast online via Mark's map aside, should all cal courses still be in the public domain, free for anyone to use? My guess is that USATF officials would reply "Certainly". But are they doing any of the work to support this? Is USATF contributing to or otherwise being helpful other than providing web space for our cal course database? Do we still need to require measurers to in essence donate their work in this way?

I have had issues using active cal courses over the past few years, and I expect I am not the only one:

  • The course could not be located (Mark's map is addressing this quite well)
  • The course endpoints were missing
  • The endpoints were missing and the cal course map lacked enough detail to recreate these points, resulting in long drives to known workable courses

Having a 10-year life for cal courses is of no help if the course is not maintained sufficiently. Laying out a new cal course without a helper can be challenging and time-consuming. Even with a helper, creating a new cal course takes time, tools, and expertise - and this is before we even start creating the map. Don't get me started on the quality problems of some of our cal course maps online.

I can't say whether Kevin would be in favor of some fee-based system to handle these concerns. If we were to make cal course info available online only for some fee, would we then need to start including this additional cost in our charges to our certification clients? Copies of cal courses could then be passed around with no controls, but at least some of the cost of creating and mapping cal courses would then fall on the ultimate users - certification clients - which seems to me to be the appropriate place to allocate this cost.

For me, this discussion tends to bring considerations of the entire amateur vs. professional approach to our work to the fore. For instance, I believe establishing minimum national fees for course certification could conceivably take a step towards chartering our work as a respected profession rather than as an amateur enterprise. We know that course certification is an endeavor that can sometimes fail to validate record performances due to unacceptable work by inadequately trained individuals as well as by certifiers who apparently aren't paid enough to do more than simply "rubber stamp" a flawed certification application.

Measuring a 5K on a paved rails-to-trail path and measuring a 5K in a densely populated urban area are obviously two different animals. The potentially far greater work required for the city 5K would require a higher fee. The fee for measuring a course of any length in certain states and in rural areas where the cost of living is lower than in our large cities would likely need to be lower than in downtown areas.

Yet, having some national standard for minimum fees, which would include some partial remuneration for the associated cal course cost, would, in my view, potentially go a long way towards helping us abide by better measuring and certification procedures. It would provide our regional and national registrars with more reasonable compensation for their work. It could help fund the maintenance and upgrades for our online submission system. It could incentivize cal course measurers to maintain their endpoints and renew the associated certification. I think most, if not all the roadblocks to presenting ourselves to the world as well-trained professionals, while not trivial, are not insurmountable.

Thanks to Kevin for bringing up his concern. IMO, this is a topic worthy of serious contemplation and discussion. Our measuring community includes skilled individuals, some eminently skilled in all aspects of course certification. Many of these folks have donated innumerable hours of their lives and their considerable expertise to bring greater respect and popularity to our sport. Mark Neal and Jim Gilmer are two of many who deserve our recognition and thanks.

Road running is, by participation numbers, the most popular sport in the United States now. Whether we and/or the greater community should continue to expect to benefit from the largess of highly qualified individuals while offering meager compensation to these expert providers of course certification is something that I feel all of us should weigh in on.

Last edited by Race Resources LLC

I want to share a recent experience with someone using a 3-year-old calibration course I set up for one-time use to measure an out-of-town 5km course route.

On May 13th, I received a phone call from a measurer telling me he broke a 100-foot tape while setting up a calibration course. The measurer asked if I knew of any existing calibration courses nearby that he could use. Wanting to help, I directed him to a calibration course of mine about 15 miles away.  After being unable to procure a second 100-foot tape, the measurer decided to call it a day and go home rather than calibrating at the nearby course.

On June 17th, I received another email from the measurer asking if the calibration course I suggested on 5/13 was marked with PK Nails. I informed him that I mark all calibration course endpoints with PK Nails and spray paint, as is standard. The following day at 8PM, he called to tell me that something was wrong with my calibration course. He said that my calibration course was 30 counts (approx. 10 feet) longer than his. He discovered this apparent “discrepancy” after calibrating on his home course, then driving 70 miles to calibrate at my course. It is unclear why he felt he needed to calibrate twice. He then measured the 5km re-certification once and drove 70 miles back to his home calibration course to recalibrate a 3rd time.

Naturally, I asked him if he found and verified the calibration course endpoints. He responded that he did not verify the endpoints to the landmarks indicated on the map, and the paint marks had faded away. Additionally, temperatures had been decreasing since 6pm that evening, so depending on what time he calibrated, his tires may have influenced his recorded counts.

Given these factors, I consider this a typical result of using someone else’s calibration course without doing at least one taped measurement to verify the distance. In performing validations, I often locate poorly mapped and marked calibration courses then remeasure to establish or verify the distance. I certainly do not claim to be infallible, but I disagree with this discrepancy due to the number of uncontrolled variables and lack of verifiable endpoint data.

While talking to the measurer, he told me his home calibration course had been remeasured at least three times to account for various changes over the years. While this is commendable, most calibration courses are not customarily remarked, at least not at regular intervals.  Coordination with the original measurer is the best way to reconstruct old, seldom-used calibration courses.

The calibration course location map is only a resource when a calibration course has been well-documented and maintained.  How many calibration courses on the location map truly meet these requirements?   The benefits of a nearby, one-time use calibration course are many, far outweighing the bother to measure them.   

Good topic, Kevin. I also have had problems accessing cal courses when one or both endpoints have disappeared due to repaving. One recent cal course I needed to use had clear endpoint descriptions that allowed me to carefully measure to these points and drive in new nails. Another paved-over cal course I recently needed to use was impossible to recreate because the description of one endpoint was based on fixed objects that weren't - fixed - it seems, because they were nowhere to be found.

I haven't attempted to set up a cal course on my own, though I know there are practical methods (described in this forum) to do so. I believe that the probability of establishing a fairly exact cal course improves with 2 people on the job. However, I would be happy to be convinced otherwise.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.