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I recently submitted some certs and listed the distance between Start and Finish as a number. Gene fired back, "I assume this is in meters. Next time please specify."
I thought the form requested that, but upon examining it, I noticed that while the Elevation field has an italicized meters, there is none on the S/F Distance field.
While that line is somewhat crowded, with Drop & Sep fields, I think an italicized meters could fit.
Bob, assuming this receives sufficient approval, I think you should do this for the PDF master that is sent to FSs.
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Interesting, the spreadsheet I've been using for many years is a copy of the form and the formula's I have put it in feet. I haven't ever used a PDF copy because one wasn't available when I started measuring so I created the spreadsheet that matched the format (so I could create my own custom PDF). Paul never mentioned meters in those fields, so I assume I need to update my spreadsheet.
I'd hesitate to add "meters" to the blank form as for a long point to point course you might want to use km.

When I get an application that lists this distance in anything but metric units, though, I convert it to meters or km. For a 1000 foot calibration course, I enter "304.8 meters" into that blank.

I'd definitely vote in favor of a STRONG preference for metric units in that space on the certificate.
In the past I have just done evrything in inches, feet, yards or miles. Since I have been working with Mike Wickiser he wants me to do everything in meters or kilometers. I made my own forms and I have both metric and imperial on my sheets I send to Mike. I still have a hard time with it and this way I know it is correct and I am slowing learning metric and maybe one day I will do it all in metric only but for right now I am just way more comfortable doing it in imperial measurement.
I have been asked by Gene to make sure all certs show meters in every field except Length of Course, which normally should show length in kilometers, or, in the case of even-mile distances, miles. Even Distance from S to F should be in meters, even if it is a long distance. When a formula is written for converting distance into percent, multiple formats of distance must be converted to the standard the formula was written for.

Therefore, I have asked all the certifiers submitting to the West VC, to state distances as indicated above. Most do it all the time, and the rest do it most of the time. I change those that are still in feet or yards, and remind the certifier of the policy.

Since Gene must submit them to the USATF database as stated above, I don't see why each certifier can't state them as Gene is required to enter them. This saves Gene much time. What is 15 seconds of calculation to 50 certifiers, versus 15 seconds 50 times for Gene to convert incorrect submissions? I think we can save Gene some time.
Just coming back to J.A. Wilhelm's point about having everything in meters or kilometers. I understand that the overall course length, elevation and start-finish straight line distance should be stated in meters. However, in my opinion it's crazy to do 1 km split points when measuring a metric (5K, 10K, 15K) course. I have yet to run in a US road race that offers km splits and I've run a bunch. So unless I'm missing something here, why go to all the extra work to do km splits to satisfy a regional certifier when RD's want mile splits?
Matthew I think I may not have explained it as good as I should have. I mark just the mile splits but all the paper work measuring has to be in kilometers. Since I have been doing both I have noticed the kilometer courses are just a little bit longer. I think I am partly to blame because say my pre calibration comes to 17977.1 I will round it up to 17978 counts per mile because I would rather be a little long than end up short. So usually the metric calibration has a lower number after the decimal than the imperial number so than when I round up it does make a difference. If I use the exact calibration number whether metric or imperial I end up with the same number of counts for the entire course distance so the las couple of races I have done I started doing this.
Okay, I'm here to join this discussion. I sense some confusion on a couple of levels. For one thing, I'm pretty sure that when Jim started this thread, he was referring to the Certificate that certifiers fill out when issuing a certification. However, at least one other person in the discussion seems to be referring to the paperwork that measurers fill out when measuring a course. Now, assuming we're talking about the Certificate, different certifiers may be using different versions. Some use the "standard" version that I distribute, which is a PDF file with form fields that can be filled in using Adobe Reader and saved after filling in the fields. Some certifiers use a PDF form that has been modified somewhat (compared with my "standard" version), since anyone who has a full version of Adobe Acrobat, or various other third-party PDF editing programs, can make changes. And some use certificate forms in other software entirely, such as Microsoft Word.

Since many versions of the certificate abound, I'll focus the discussion by displaying an image of the "standard" certificate that I distribute:

Note: This is a low-resolution image of a blank certificate. I don't want to provide a high-resolution editable PDF through this board, but any certifier who wants one should send me an email.

Jim wrote that on his certificate, the Elevation field has an italicized meters. The image above shows that in my standard certificate, the text "meters above sea level" appears next to the word Elevation, but it isn't italicized. It should also be noted that in my standard editable PDF certificate, the (non-italicized) word "meters" appears by default, but it's an editable field, so if the certifier wants to, they can change it to feet (or other similarly old units, such as cubits, rods, fathoms, etc.).

Also in my standard certificate, the four individual elevation fields (Start, Finish, etc.) do not include unit designators. While I would encourage all certifiers to always include a unit symbol (i.e., "m") for each of the individual elevation values, it wouldn't make sense to include these in the background text of the standard form, given the possibility that some certifiers may enter elevations in feet instead of meters.

As for the "Straight line distance between start & finish" field, this also doesn't include a unit designator, because it may be entered in a variety of units. Assuming that only metric units are used, it may still sometimes be entered in kilometers instead of meters.

As for which numbers are submitted to the USATF database, the "Straight line distance" isn't included in that database, as only the "Separation" value (in %) is entered in the database. Similarly, the individual elevation figures (Start, Finish, etc.) aren't in the database, as only the "Drop" (in m/km) gets entered in the database. Thus, the Straight line distance and the individual Elevation figures are written on certificates but Gene doesn't enter them in the database.

The question of which splits are laid out in a race course is, of course, totally separate from these issues about writing numbers on the certificates. Nevertheless, for those who say they've never seen a US road race that offers km splits, you ought to come to Oklahoma, where you'd find that many, probably most, metric races are marked entirely with km splits. This includes the Tulsa Run 15 km, the biggest race in the state.

A couple of other issues on certificate forms: A few days ago, I received an inquiry from a certifier who wanted greater flexibility in choosing the font and size of entered text. To accommodate that request, I designed a variant of the PDF certificate that doesn't use editable form fields but, instead, can be completed using the "Typewriter tool" in Adobe Reader. Filling out this version may require greater care in lining up the fields, but lets you enter text in any font and size you like. It also lets you type comments anywhere on the certificate, not just in designated form fields, which may sometimes be useful. Certifiers who would like a copy of this PDF certificate should send me an email. You can find my email address in a link near the top of the page at

Finally, given the movement to change the term "Validation" to "Verification," we'll need to change the fixed text near the bottom of the certificate sometime soon. This will require distributing new certificate forms to all certifiers. Before doing this, we can decide if there are other changes we ought to make in the certificates. For example, if certifiers will be required to always enter elevations in meters, we can include "m" unit symbols to the right of each of the 4 fields for entering elevation values.
At one time I was routinely changing submitted elevations and S-F distances to meters; Paul Hronjak recommended leaving them in the units as submitted (usually feet). I think there is merit to that, as it preserves the original information a little farther into the process. At that time I believe a lot more of us were figuring elevations from careful study of topological maps; I am guessing that most people now use Google Earth or the equivalent.
With the maps, it made sense to submit elevations in feet because those were the contour lines that were available. You can set Google Earth to give you elevations in meters, so this option is now a bit more "accessible" for folks who are a little shaky with metric units.
I don't know what the best policy is but I think the value of recording original information as submitted should not be overlooked.
As for metric splits in races-- they are great and in my experience are well-liked by longtime serious runners. I have marked km splits for a number of the DC Roadrunners' courses, and have heard only positive comments. Personally I enjoy getting time information a little more often. But I haven't been as successful in convincing race directors to use metric splits-- and when they do buy the idea, they usually come back the next year and say that the runners wanted miles so could I mark the miles. My hat is off to Bob Baumel and what he has done in Oklahoma!
While Bob & Bob comment that units on a cert may be stated in metric or imperial, I am suggesting that elevations and splits be submitted on certs in meters, as we (Vice-chairs and Gene) do the math to check the figures. If we have to convert from feet to meters to do the math, that adds time.

While I hear Bob's point of keeping the original info a little further into the process, I would ask "why does it matter, if it must be changed by the end, anyway?". I would rather see the conversion done earlier in the process (even by the measurer - now, don't get me going on 'measurers may make a mistake'! That's a lazy answer. We are all capable of doing the math. Even one-off measurers can be expected to do the math - we have all conversions in the Manual!), as it saves time as it moves up the chain. Gene sees every cert issued, and checks the math. Please, Paul, don't make Gene do the conversions while he is entering data into the database.

I convert all to metric, so Gene doesn't have to. I don't feel he should bear the burden of converting cert units. Just my (strong) opinion.
It is crazy that we live in the only country in the world that does not use the metric system in everyday life. Yet, as Bob T. says, RDs want miles marked, not kilometers. Bob has encouraged me to "go metric", which I understand. I just encountered an excellent object lesson in converting counts to feet or meters - I had to replace a Jones Counter after the first measurement of a half marathon this summer when it broke while I was measuring another course in between rides one and two of the half. The only way to make sense of the data, of course, was to convert everything to the common denominator.

For those of us who are not aware, there is a handy little free tool called "CONVERT.exe" that instantly converts feet to meters, kilometers to feet, and anything else you might want to compare. it is available at CONVERT.exe Download Site .
Hmmm. It seems to me that it would be much simpler to set up one's own Excel spreadsheet, and use it on your phone. The spreadsheet would have all the items we need.

Have a cell for Length of Cal Course, in feet and/or meters. Have it calculate the other value (meter or feet).

Enter each of your rides, and have it calculate the rest. You can put as many variations as you want in there. I do it with the Excel sheets I have on my RaceMeasure site.

A free Android app can be found at I have downloaded it, and put my Excel sheet into it. Seems simple. You can zoom the screen, for all the old eyes out there (Lyman).

To me, making our own spreadsheet allows us to customize completely, and to have all of our conversions as precise as we desire.

Just my opinion.
Last edited by duanerussell

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