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.