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The original MS Word document on which the following three messages are based may be found at: Wight 2008

Illinois Course Measurement Update for 2008 January 8, 2008

It’s the beginning of one of those years with an extra day. A year in which we elect a President. That also makes it a year we have the privilege of watching a Summer Olympic Games. I haven’t written one of these in a number of years, so it seemed like the beginning of an Olympic year was the right occasion. And since the majority of the courses that were measured in 2007 in Illinois were measured by people who weren’t active measurers the last time I sent one of these, it makes sense to engage in some communication with those who are carrying the course measurement load across the state and other stakeholders in the process.

The warm weather of the past weekend reminds us that the measurement season cannot be far away. Accordingly, this letter is being sent to measurers who have submitted a course for certification during the past few years, running organizations in Illinois and adjacent areas of adjoining states, as well as to individuals who have simply made an inquiry regarding course measurement over the past couple of years.


• I’ve been phasing in an increase in the certifier’s fee over the last year. It had been $20 for as long as I can remember, but the cost of everything involved in producing and delivering the certificate continues to go up, so I’m raising the certifier’s fee to $25 per course, effective immediately. That’s still a bargain- and $5 less than what RRTC authorizes me to charge!

• In November, 2006, David Moore was appointed the USATF Certifier for Wisconsin. I had handled those duties and had certified over 150 courses in Wisconsin since the beginning of the year 2000, but it made sense for Wisconsin courses to once again be certified by a certifier in Wisconsin. So those of you who measure “north of the border” should now be forwarding your applications to Dave.

• In July of 2006, the Post Office changed my zip code. Please send applications to me with the new zip code, which is 60192-1185.

• If you haven’t downloaded new application forms in the last couple of years, please do so. The forms now include a space for your e-mail address, which I will enter on the front of the certificate along with your address and telephone number.

• It’s not really news, because it’s been going on for a few years now, but I found no reference to it in my last letter, so please forgive me if I’m stating the obvious. The course maps that comprise the reverse side of the USATF Measurement Certificates are now scanned and posted on the USATF website. Only the map side is scanned so all the data on the certificate side isn’t available on the web unless it’s been placed there another way. The process takes a few weeks from the time the certificate is issued before it’s online- which is an additional motivator for your race director to have the course measured as early as it makes sense to do so.

• You will also note that a “find a measurer” section has been added to the USATF website. The site now lists each measurer who has measured a course, an e-mail link to the measurer, and a link to a list of courses measured by each measurer, most of those with a link to the online map of that course.


• 90 courses were certified in Illinois in 2007. This compares to 83 in 2006 and 91 in 2005. The record is 110 courses certified in 2003.

• The 90 courses were measured by a total of 14 different measurers.

• Winston Rasmussen opened the year. His documentation shows that he measured the year’s first course, the Explore Joliet 8K, on 11 March. The year’s last course, Quincy’s Bridge The Gap to Health Half Marathon, was measured by Jake Goldsborough on the 13th of November.

• Double Digit Measurers (10 or more courses in 2007) were: Jay Wight (32), Winston Rasmussen (22), and Neyl Marquez (14 in Illinois plus one in Wisconsin).


• The Jones Counter model JR. The original Jones Counter married a Veeder-Root counter with a gear assembly from a mechanical bicycle speedometer. While the counter unit is still in production, the mechanical bicycle speedometer has largely given way to electronic cyclocomputers and, as a result, the supply of the speedometer gear assemblies had pretty much dried up. The latest of the Jones-Oerth counter models, which uses a plastic drive unit, has proven to be less durable than the older units. Recognizing this, Pete and Tom Riegel have designed a replacement for the Jones Counter, to be called the Jones Counter Model JR. The counter will be different from the original Jones counter in a number of ways but will function pretty much as the original did. The Model JR should be available in late spring. Pricing is yet to be announced.

• Electronic measurement. As it became obvious that one of the critical components of the Jones Counter was becoming harder and harder to come by, some Road Running Technical Council (RRTC) members developed a way to use an electronic bicycle computer as a revolution counter. A short summary of the method is that the computer is programmed to count complete revolutions and the measurer marks his or her front wheel to count partial revolutions. I’ve hooked one up on my measurement bike and played with the method a bit, but still prefer to use the mechanical counter. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method compared with the Jones Counter. If you would be interested in pursuing measuring with an electronic bicycle computer, please contact me.

• Course Measurement Bulletin Board. RRTC Chairman emeritus Pete Riegel has established an Internet bulletin board at It’s probably the best place for course measurers to share ideas and experiences. When the new Jones Counter Model JR is available, it will be announced on the bulletin board. I visit the board at least a couple of times a week.

• You might also notice that since late last year the map side of the certificate has included the expiration date of the certification. We’ve now also been asked to include the measurer’s e-mail address on the map side of the certificate, so if you don’t add it I’ll start to do so.

Lessons Learned over the past few years:

• Use the right constants! Remember that 5 kilometers is NOT 3.1 miles. 3.1 miles is a little less than 4989 meters so if you measure a 5K course as 3.1 miles it is SHORT. My suggestion to you: Dump the Imperial system and start thinking metric. Calculate your constant in counts per meter or kilometer instead of counts per mile. If you buy a steel tape to measure your calibration courses, buy a metric tape- 30, 50, and 60 meters are common lengths. Any surveyor’s supply store (including mail order and online) should have them, because the US Government now requires federally funded highway projects to be designed and built using metric units. Convert back to Imperial units for mile splits and those rare occasions when you measure a course defined in miles.
• Transmit the application documentation before the race date. A course is not considered certified for an event if the application is not postmarked or transmitted electronically BEFORE the date of the event. Period.
• There are issues involved in measuring tracks! Tracks can be certified for road events longer than 10000 meters but the procedures involved in measuring them are different. If you are asked to measure a track, please contact me and I’ll attempt to walk you through it.
• Follow the Shortest Possible Route! One course failed validation a few years ago, largely because the validating measurer was able to measure it a lot more closely than the original measurer did. Make sure you measure no more than 30 cm (1 foot) away from the curb on corners and follow the tangents between corners. It’s no fun having someone tell you that your course is short and the records apparently set on it can’t be adopted.
• It’s OK to measure just part of a course- but be careful! If, for example, you need to change only the first mile of a 5K course, it’s OK to do so. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to re-measure the affected sections of the course (twice, of course) and then measure the new course route (also twice), then add or subtract the distance at the start or finish, and adjust any intermediate split points that might also be affected. Be conservative when you determine how much you adjust the length of the course; if you are adding, choose the longest value for the length of the old course and the shortest value for the new course and if you are subtracting, choose the longest value for the new course and the shortest value for the old. Another way to do this is to measure (once again, twice) from a known point (such as an intermediate split) to the start or finish, and set that point anew. If you do this, you should have a copy if the measurement data on the old course, since you will need to be sure that the intermediate split point is in the correct place. You also need to know if and how the original course was adjusted; intermediate marks might not be at exactly the right place along the course. Bottom line: if any of this is not clear to you, please contact me before you attempt to modify a certified course in this way. It’s a lot easier to do that than to do anything like this twice. My personal opinion: If the course is 5K or shorter, measure the entire course again. It’s not that much more work, and there’s a lot less chance that you will make an embarrassing mistake.
• Need it in a hurry? If the race director waits until the last minute to have the course measured and you need me to turn it around quickly, please:
1) Turn it around quickly yourself. Don’t sit on the application for a month and ask me to turn it around in a day. Won’t happen.
2) Make sure it’s right. Check it over an extra time to make sure I don’t have to take the time to go back to you for corrections or additional information.
3) Let me know in advance that it’s coming. I’ll look for the application and do whatever I can do to make time to give it the necessary attention.
4) Send it electronically. Don’t waste time putting the documentation in the mail. Fax it or scan it and attach it to an e-mail note. If everything’s OK, I’ll send you the certificates electronically, and follow up with hard copies in the mail.


The requirements for a calibration course are pretty simple: It needs to be straight, reasonably flat, and at least 300 meters in length. At one time, the requirements were more onerous, and that led measurers to lay out a calibration course close to home and do their pre-calibrating before they left home to measure and their post-calibrating after they returned. There are advantages to doing this- the biggest one being that you don’t have to set out a new calibration course each time you measure. Personally, I prefer the other approach, which is to set out a new calibration course in the vicinity of the race course on the day you measure it. There are a number of advantages to doing this, and they are:

• You calibrate immediately before and after you measure, and at pretty much the same place. Thus the conditions present during the calibration are more likely to be present during the course measurement.
• The proximity of the calibration course allows you to recalibrate between measurements. This is a particularly good practice when measuring races longer than 10K, where conditions (and thus measurement constants) can change significantly from the start of the first measurement to the completion of the second, and a lot of data can be lost if you experience a problem before recalibrating.
• If you’re measuring in a place where there are naturally a lot of races (downtown Chicago and Lincoln Park come immediately to mind) you can apply for certification of the calibration course and, once it’s certified, other measurers can use it.

Most Chicago area measurers are aware of the half-mile calibration course on the sidewalk east of Lake Shore Drive in Grant Park. It’s been there since 1985, was re-measured in 1996 (it’s IL-96058-JW and thus needs to be renewed) and many a course has been measured with a bicycle calibrated on it. I briefly looked for the ends of it this summer and couldn’t find them, but they may still be there. I haven’t calibrated on it for years, though, because my experience has been that the section of sidewalk on which it’s located is often simply too crowded with cyclists, runners, and tourists to make an effective calibration ride possible.

In late 2003, Mike Wickiser and I set a new calibration course on the east sidewalk of Columbus Drive south of Balbo. The course is 300 meters long and is certified as IL-03114-JW. It’s almost never congested. This past summer, Winston Rasmussen and I set 300 meter calibration courses on the sidewalk just north of the entrance to the South Shore Cultural Center (IL-07072-JW) and on the south side of Montrose Avenue east of Lake Shore Drive (IL-07073-JW). The maps for all of these courses are available on the USATF website, or contact me and I’ll send you a hard copy. I would encourage you to calibrate on these courses if you are measuring near them, and if you are interested in measuring another calibration course to fill in one of the gaps between these, please feel free to do so. I might even volunteer to help you measure it.

When submitting an application for certification for a race course:
• If you’re calibrating on a previously certified calibration course, answer question 7 with “YES” and provide me with the certification number for the calibration course you used in the space provided. You don’t need to send me a copy of the certificate as the chances are good that I already have at least one copy. If for some reason I do decide I need a copy, I’ll ask you to send me one.
• If you answer question 7 with “NO”, please enclose a completed Application for Certification of a Calibration Course with your Application for Certification of a Road Course.
• If you want to use the calibration course again, mark the endpoints permanently and draw a map of the course, and send the map with the application. If everything’s in order, I’ll issue a certificate for the calibration course. This will get the map posted on the USATF website and make it available for other measurers to use.

One last thing regarding calibrating. Your four calibration rides should pretty much end up with the same number of counts. On a 300 meter or 1000 foot calibration course, if the four rides differ by more than two counts, keep riding until you have four rides, including two in each direction, that are within two counts of each other. It doesn’t take all that much longer, and your measurement will be better for it. If your calibration course is longer, adjust that tolerance accordingly.

Is there a shortage of measurers?

A couple of years ago I would have said that there was. Now I would say maybe. There are certainly parts of Illinois where there is little or no course measurement activity.

Although numbers are not at record levels, I don’t know of an instance where a course went unmeasured because nobody was available to measure it. The fact that we had fourteen different measurers active in Illinois each of the last two years indicates that we’re in pretty good shape. That being said, there is always a need for additional trained and experienced measurers. People’s lives change, and they, for many reasons, choose to enter and leave the course measurement community. There are parts of the state where there aren’t many courses on the certified course list, and within the next few years many of the certified courses that are out there will have to be re-measured. Personally I’ve made three trips to Quincy to measure courses, and it’s a long drive there and a long drive back.

If there is someone in your running organization who can ride a bicycle, sketch a course map, and is not afraid of numbers, consider training them to measure courses. The updated course measurement manual is posted on the Internet at; if you prefer I’ll send you a printed copy. If, after reading through the manual, you still have questions, please contact me. You might also, as a club, purchase a Jones counter and a steel tape. Practice by measuring some of your club’s running routes (and find out how long they really are) or better yet, certify them! Let race directors in your area that you think a certified course adds to the quality of their event, and that the reasons they often give for not certifying courses simply do not measure up. And if you have race directors who aren’t receptive, please feel free to pass them a copy of the “Course Measurement and Certification for Race Directors” document that I have attached to this letter- or send me their names and contact information, and I’ll do what I can do.

Clarification of the USATF Road Running Technical Council (RRTC) Certified Course Renewal Procedure:

This is taken directly from the RRTC website- and should serve as the final word on the subject:

USATF certified courses expire after ten years from original certification. Course certificates issued prior to 2001 contain renewal language and may be renewed. Courses certified in 2001 and later may not be renewed.

To renew an expired course, it is necessary to complete an Application for Renewal of Certified Course form. Forms are available for download at or from your regional certifier.

The renewal application states clear questions for the race director, original measurer or technical director (i.e., person in charge of setting up the course on race day) to answer.

The completed Application for Renewal of a Certified Course must be sent to the regional certifier along with a copy of the original certificate & map. Applications that are sent without original maps are not to be renewed.

Once the certifier is satisfied that the course is as originally measured for certification, he or she produces a new certificate for the course, using the original course number. Using the original number allows for historical identification and proper sorting of the course list.

The expiration date for ALL renewed courses is twenty years after the year of original certification but not later than December 31, 2011.
A 1985 course being renewed would expire at the end of 2005.
A 2000 course renewal will expire December 31, 2011.

How does this affect you, as a measurer or race director?

• Any course certified before the end of 2000 can be renewed for another ten years- or through December 31, 2011, whichever comes earlier, if the course has not changed.
• If a course is measured and the documentation postmarked between January 1 and the date of the event, because certifications expire at the end of the year 10 years after the date of certification, the course is considered certified for 11 runnings of the event. If the postmark is after the date of the event, the certification is valid for only 10 runnings of the event.
• If you measure a course in the fall for a race the next spring (which I encourage) and want to hold the application until January to take advantage of this quirk in the procedure, please feel free to do so, but you run the risk of not being able to correct a mistake before race day...
• If you send me the course renewal form, be sure to attach a copy of the original certificate, including the original course map. I will send you two copies of a new certificate (with the original course number) that incorporates the original map- and clearly states the expiration date of the course certification. I will also update the course name and any contact information if either has changed. Please note that if anything changes on the course map, a new certificate with a new number will be issued, and the course with the original number will be moved to the inactive list.
• There is no fee for a course renewal.

Elevation Data:

Elevation data is necessary because the ‘drop’ in elevation from the start to the finish of a course determines whether or not it’s record eligible. The best source for this data is USGS topographic maps, which are generally available at local libraries. Another source is, a web site that has patched together almost 59,000 USGS topographic maps and is definitely worth a look. Don’t worry about getting this data to the tenth of a foot. If you can estimate to the nearest contour interval on the map (usually 10 feet in Illinois), you’ve done well.

Course maps:

By and large, the quality of course maps has been good. In a few cases I have re-drawn the measurer’s course map based on information provided to me by the measurer. It’s far from my favorite task, simply because it is difficult to draw an accurate map of a course you’ve never seen.

A well-drawn course map should allow someone who has never before seen the course to locate the start and finish and navigate the route between them. The standard which measurers should pursue is course maps that:
• Are drawn on one 8.5” x 11” page
• Are drawn in one color, suitable for photocopying
• Depict the streets, paths, etc. on which the course runs by parallel lines and the path measured by a single, unbroken line, and show the approximate locations of intermediate split points.
• Include the name of the race, the city, state, measurer’s name and e-mail address, and date(s) measured
• Include a north arrow
• Include, on the one page, descriptions of the start, finish, and any turnaround points, with distances to landmarks, and sketches if appropriate.
• Identify, by name (or description) EVERY street or path the course uses.
• Include (especially for 10K and shorter) descriptions of intermediate splits, including metric splits in multiples of 5 km.
• Include distances from the start to turnaround points, and, if a loop course, the length of the loop, in both miles and meters.

When I receive a course map that is more than one page I take it to a copier and reduce it and paste it together until it and the necessary narrative fit on an 8.5” x 11” sheet. If I can do it, so can you. If the course is long or complicated, try drawing the map on a larger sheet and then reducing it.

Another observation: Trying to put a race course map on top of the copy of another map can lead to a very cluttered map with a lot of information not germane to the course itself. If you are tempted to do this, please consider tracing the necessary information from the map you were going to use, and drawing, by hand, a map using the above guidelines. You should end up with a better result.

I’ve added a “course map checklist” as an attachment to this letter. I hope you find it useful.

Contacting me:

Address: 4556 Opal Drive
Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60192-1185

Telephone: 847-359-4598

Fax: 847-359-4448


E-mail correspondence usually elicits the quickest response. Applications for Certification are best sent by mail, fax, or as scanned attachments to an e-mail note. The fax is always on.

If you are measuring a course in another state and you would rather work with that state’s certifier, a list of certifiers by state is available at
Document Flow and Fees:

Your application should include:
• Application for Certification of a Road Course (2 page form)
• Bicycle Calibration Data Sheet (one for each measurer for each time each bicycle is calibrated)
• Course Measurement Data Sheet
• Course Map
• Application for Certification of a Calibration Course (if applicable)
• Calibration Course Map (if applicable)
• Certifier’s review fee of $25 per course (no fee for calibration courses or course renewals). Checks should be made payable to Jay W. Wight, and all documentation should be sent to me at the above address.

How I work:

When I receive an application, I review it for completeness and accuracy. If it’s in order, I prepare and issue a certificate, which consists of the USATF Measurement Certificate form on the front of the certificate and the course map on the back. If things aren’t in order I will either contact the measurer to secure the missing information, or return the entire application by mail if things need to be seriously reworked. My goal is to do this within a week of my receipt of the application.

When I issue a certificate, I make six copies. They are distributed as follows:
• Two copies go to the measurer. Please note that I do not send copies to the race contract unless the measurer specifically asks me to do so.
• Two copies go forward to the RRTC Vice-Chairman. One of these is eventually scanned and posted on the USATF website.
• I retain one copy and put it into a book I keep for reference. Your application documents are filed in the event they are needed for future reference.
• I send the sixth copy to the Illinois Association of USATF.

In Conclusion:

As in past years, I will attempt to answer any questions you have about course measurement and certification and give you as much help as possible as you work through the process. The goal is simple- have as many races run on certified courses as possible. I will continue to work to turn around applications within a week wherever circumstances allow (and they usually do).

Please contact me with your questions and comments. Have a happy and prosperous 2008. I look forward to working with you in the coming year.


Jay Wight
National Certifier USATF/RRTC
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Course Measurement and Certification:
The “Who, What, When, Where, How, Why, and How Much” for Race Directors and Organizers

By Jay W. Wight, Illinois certifier,
Road Running Technical Council, USATF
8 January 2008

Are you or your organization considering conducting a road race? One of the components of a successful event is a properly measured race course. While USATF’s course certification program began as a way to insure that road racing records were meaningful, today race directors choose to have their courses certified because race participants report better experiences when courses are measured in accordance with USATF’s course measurement and certification procedures.

HOW are courses measured? The vast majority of race courses in the USA are measured by the Calibrated Bicycle Method. This involves measuring a straight course of known distance (called a “calibration course”) with a steel measuring tape and using it to calibrate the front wheel of a bicycle equipped with a device that records the number of times the front wheel revolves. The bicycle is then ridden over the race course using the shortest possible route the runners could cover without cutting the course. The race course is then measured a second time to insure errors weren’t made on the first measurement. The bicycle is then returned to the calibration course and recalibrated to determine what, if any conditions have changed since it was originally calibrated. The measurer completes a set of USATF forms documenting the measurement and draws a map of the course. The documentation is sent to the Regional Certifier for review. If everything is in order, the Certifier issues a Measurement Certificate, and the course is considered certified.

WHO can measure a course for certification? In the United States, anybody can measure a course for certification. No special training or experience is required. The complete USATF Course Measurement Procedures manual, including all of the application forms, is available to all on the Internet at
WHAT is required to measure a course? The Course Measurement Procedures manual lists items you will probably need, but the only ones you probably won’t find in your garage or basement are a Jones Counter and a steel measuring tape. The measuring tape, usually 30 meters (100 feet if you prefer) or longer in length, is used to lay out the calibration course and measure the distances from important points on the course to nearby landmarks. The Jones Counter mounts to the front hub of the bicycle and counts partial revolutions of the front wheel. In the measurement process you will develop a constant that will equate a count of the counter with a distance on the ground. A certain number of those counts will be the length of your course.

WHEN should you measure a course? USATF requires only that the documentation be postmarked before the race date. On a more practical note, however, it makes sense to measure the course a month or more before the race date to allow time for the certifier’s review and any necessary adjustments and corrections. Since winter weather in at least the northern part of Illinois is not conducive to course measurement, it would be prudent to measure the courses for spring events the previous fall.

HOW MUCH does it cost to measure and certify a course? That depends on how you approach it. The certifier’s fee is $25. If you measure the course yourself, you will have to acquire a Jones Counter ($80 new) and steel measuring tape ($30-80, depending on length and quality) and a few miscellaneous supplies. If you prefer to have someone more experienced measure the course, in most places you should be able to hire an experienced measurer to measure it. Measurers set their own fees (which are not regulated by USATF) so your cost will differ, but $200 is a good budget for the costs to measure and certify a 5K course.

WHERE do you send the documentation and fees for certifying a course? Send them to the state certifier. For courses in Illinois, send them to me:

Jay W. Wight
4556 Opal Drive
Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60192-1185

Voice: 847-359-4598 Fax: 847-359-4448 Email:

Please direct questions about the process to me as well.

WHY should you conduct your event over a certified course? Here are some of the best reasons:
• The course will be the length you advertise it to be. Participants will be able to make comparisons of their performance in your event those in other events at the same distance.
• Even if the course itself is over an infrequently raced distance, the intermediate split points will be the right distance from the start, finish, and each other.
• While there are other ways to measure a course, the Calibrated Bicycle Method has proven itself to be faster and/or more accurate than the other methods.
• The measurement and certification process requires you to document the course in a way that allows the documentation to be a resource for future years’ events.
• Any records set on a properly measured and certified course will be honored by USATF, which is the organization that maintains the record book.

There are many good reasons to measure and certify your course, and no good reasons not to.

Good luck with the planning and execution of your event. Please contact me if I can be of assistance in any way.
Last edited by peteriegel


 Drawn on one 8.5” x 11” page?

 Drawn in one color, suitable for photocopying?

 All streets, paths, etc. the course uses are depicted as parallel lines and the measured path by a single, unbroken line, and the approximate locations of intermediate split points are shown?

 Includes the name of the race, the city and state, the measurer’s name and e-mail address, and the date(s) the course was measured?

 Includes a north arrow?

 Includes, on the one page, descriptions of the start, finish, and any turnaround points, with distances to landmarks, and sketches if appropriate?

 Identifies, by name (or description) EVERY street or path the course uses?

 Includes descriptions of how runners are restricted on portions of the course where they do not have use of the entire road or path, and where the race director must place cones or barriers to enforce the restriction?

 Includes (especially for 10K or shorter) descriptions of intermediate splits, including metric splits in multiples of 5 km?

 Includes distances from start to turnaround points, and, if a loop course, the length of the loop, in both miles and meters?

 For calibration courses, included references to nearby landmarks or cross streets so others can locate the ends of the course?
Last edited by peteriegel

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