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Cincinnati, Ohio – May 2, 2008
by Pete Riegel – Seminar Leader
Commentary by Duane Russell

Mike Wickiser was contacted by RRCA and asked to provide a speaker for a one-hour seminar at the RRCA Convention. RRTC has done this annually for many years.

Mike contacted me, and I agreed to come and work with him at the seminar. A few days before the seminar, Mike found himself unable to come, and asked me if I could handle the presentation. I said I could and would.

I drove to Cincinnati the morning of the seminar and arrived early. I spent some time socializing with those few of the RRCA people who I knew. I was pleased to find Duane Russell, RRTC’s Idaho and Nevada Certifier, who has been active with his postings on the Course Measurement Bulletin Board. He said he would be at the seminar.

At 11:15 AM I went to the meeting room, bringing along my measuring bike as part of a show-and-tell. About 20 to 25 people were present. I introduced myself, and expressed the hope that at least a few of the attendees would become course measurers. The sport needs more measurers.

Then, since there was obviously not time to completely educate the group, I asked them to write down the web site I explained that this web site contained links to everything they might want to know about course measurement. I also gave them my email address, and promised that any inquiries would be answered.

At that point I asked for questions, as I had no clear idea exactly what they might be interested in. Some of the questions involved:

1) The distinction between a measurer and a certifier
2) How to use the USATF course search engine to evaluate the mapwork of a prospective measurer
3) Measuring fees
4) The value to a race to have a certified course
5) The value of measuring it yourself vs hiring a measurer.

Duane Russell provided some valuable answers to some of the questions, as did an experienced course measurer who recounted some personal measurement experiences.

People seemed interested in my bike, and I pointed out the Jones counter and the electronic counters that I also have mounted.

At 12:15 the seminar was over, and I went home.

Since the seminar I have not been contacted by anyone except Duane. I asked him to comment on this report to fill in anything I may have omitted. His comments follow:

Following comments by Duane Russell:

I feel Pete did a good job with the time constraint, and his idea for a very broad overview followed by accepting questions is probably the best way to handle a 45 minute slot. For this reason, I would suggest the following in a similar setting:

If only allowed 45 minutes per session, host an informational session, in which more details are given about measuring and certification. Basically, instead of a 30,000-foot view, give a 10,000-foot view, in which many questions would be answered strictly by presentation. There may be time for a few questions from attendees at the end of this session.

Then, have a follow-up session scheduled, where, if new people arrived, a 60,000-foot view would quickly be presented, then attendees could ask more specific questions, based on what they heard in the previous session.

I offer this format as a result of 4 attendees talking to me in more detail after the presentation, with questions that were more specific to their situation. If we listed the two sessions as one being a more complete presentation, then one open for specific questions, I think we would have 75% overlap, but the other 25% at each session would not attend the other presentation. They can choose which/both session(s) depending on their current understanding of measurement and certification.

I would be happy to assist in developing the presentations, or take the entire presentation on myself. I am comfortable speaking in front of groups, and have made somewhere in the range of 30 presentations covering various topics in the last 10 years.

As of now, like Pete, I have not been contacted by anyone, despite distributing over 100 pens with contact info on it to RRCA attendees.

That’s my 2-cents worth,

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Sounds like the same sort of crowd we had in Houston two years ago (15 people), and exactly the same questions. And not a new measurer in the bunch. We were talking to Race Directors as it turned out. I was fortunate to have two experienced measurers along to help. Will RRTC do this again next year? And is anybody taking notes?

I learned alot about the RRCA while at the convention this year. As you mentioned, there are Race Directors there, but that could be a good thing.

It seems that some of the clubs put on many races themselves, while other clubs help various groups with timing, and still other clubs have other focus. I think one of the methods we can get more measurers is by pitching the simplicity of the process, and encouraging clubs to have a couple of designated measurers in their group.

The Colorado Springs club has a couple measurers in their group, so I never go to Colo. Springs to measure a race (I measure lots in Denver). If we can get through to the club reps that are there, they may have the club buy a couple JR counters for the club. It only makes sense that if they are assisting other groups with races, they could measure for them.

I do plan to go next year, and hope to be able to present. I will add to my notes the aspect of clubs measuring for other groups as part of their support.
I've been grappling with this question for years.

It seems to me that Duane's approach should work; work with running clubs and encourage them to develop a couple of measurers within their ranks. With some clubs it's worked, but with others it hasn't. I suspect the clubs that haven't bought into course certification as of yet still measure their courses with a measuring wheel. If they do, their courses are off but not so much that it's egregious and generates complaints from runners.

That approach appears to be better suited for the smaller markets than it is for metropolitan Chicago. In smaller markets, running clubs put on races. In the Chicago area, races are generally promoted by charity groups as fund raisers or by park districts. Neither has the engaged membership that a running club does. Here it makes sense to have a stable of measurers who measure on a fee basis. Our efforts are aided by the Chicago area Runners Association which requires a certified course of all events on its calendar.

I don't think the RRCA convention is the place to recruit measurers. It might be the place to sell the concept to race directors or to continue to make efforts to create a "ground-up" demand for accurately measured courses from the running community in general. I think new measurer candidates come from the ranks. I just wish I knew the way to identify them.
I think I posted this under a different thread - I'm doing a presentation on course design at the Road Race Management meeting in December. This meeting is attended mostly by race directors and staffs.

The intent isn't to create new measurers and I'm not going to explain the method except in passing, but I'm hoping to get across the importance of having a certified course, and putting some thought into designing a course before it's run.

Anyone with any good "war stories" to illustrate those points, please post or email to me.
I don't think trying to get RD's and club presidents to also become a measurer is going to be very productive, becuase most serve in a voluntary capacity and already have too much on their plates.

I think you have to sell the value and importance of having a measured course, even in the age of GPS.

Then suggest they target someone in their ranks to become a course designer and measurer.

If some one is just a measurer then, as we know, it is a time consuming and not very glamorous position. On the other hand, becoming the 'course designer' has a bit more glamor. They can even credit the 'course designer' on the race apps.

You are mainly talking to RDs. What good RDs do is delegate. Encourage them to promote within their staffs, to encourage and develop a 'course designer' within the talent pool.

We have to keep stating that a well designed course is an essential ingredient in a successful race so having some one in their ranks who has the advanced skills is a good thing.

Maybe they can in turn sell it to their members by saying "Have you ever had the thought, running through this place would make neat race? Here is how you go about becoming a course designer and measurer."

An RD does not need to know how the ears on a Champion chip system work, or how to cook the pasta. Nor do they need to know how a Jones counter works. They need an understanding of what skill sets and temperament the operator needs. Then they need to find that person in their group and encourage them to take on the role.

P.S. Is there actually a shortage of measurers?
The rate of remuneration does not seem to reflect that.

I agree that club officers are not going to be measurers, for the most part. My intent is to inform them of general methodologies, so they can then be informed when they recruit from within their ranks. It does little good for someone to attempt to recruit for any position without knowing what skills and activities that position entails. I think that was borne out by the number of attendees that asked me about methodologies after the session in Cincinnati.

I will also try to impress on them the value of certifying every road course they use, not just the "important" races. If some of their courses are not certified but others are, the non-certified may not be of any value in tracking individual training progress. At the least, even if they don't get the less-important courses certified, if they have a measurer (or two) in their ranks, they can have every course properly measured.

Your comment on course design is a good one. I should also include that as part of the session.

I differ with your comment that RDs don't need to know how a chip works. Maybe it is just the depth of knowledge that they need. If they are aware that ChampionChip and Winning Time are susceptible to interference from nearby metal objects, and that the "reading" field is only 2 feet tall, they will look at their timing locations more closely, and be more aware of announcements and instructions to the runners to wear the chip on the shoe. If they don't know why chips are to be worn on the shoe, they may not put forth the effort to educate the runner. Then they may blame the timer if chips aren't read.

As to the shortage, it depends on where in the country you are. Some places have no measurer for over 100 miles, but have 15 or more races a year.

Thanks for the suggestion about course design.
All I can say, guys, is keep pressing. Unfortunately, I did not see the measurement seminar on the agenda, or it was held at a time which conflicted with one of the state representative business meetings. I continually have to educate clubs and races (especially those who want me to "certify" their course) on the difference between measurement and certification. We've done mini-seminars at state-level meetings, both in Louisiana and in N. Florida, this year, since the respective reps are also course measurers.

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