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Rodolfo Eichler writes:

Dear Pete,

How are you?

Thanks to your support and lessons learned years ago, now, we have many measured races in all parts of South America, measured by our old group of "B" measurers ( Gabriel, Fernando, Suzana and Ivan ) and by a group of 12 very dedicated new "C" measurers (through 3 seminars conducted by myself and Suzana, 2 in Brazil and one in Santiago del Chile).

Few weeks ago, an IAAF manager asked me if I had read anytime about a possible % limit of the total distance in a diferent surface (not paved) in a measured course,

I remember I could not find any "quantification" about this, because as we always calibrate in paved surfaces, we would be introducing some error in the total distance. Have you defined something about this for the Entities of the Sport?



from my readings:

the best I found was from "IAAF Measurement of Road Race Courses" manual (You and Disley on the cover) refered to the old IAAF rule 165 paragraph 3 in the "IAAF Handbook"

“”- are there any places where the course crosses a Grass or gravel área?”

todays` 240 rule in the "IAAF Competition Rules"

“the course dully marked may be on a bike path or footh alonside the Road, but not on soft as grass verges or the like”

NOTE: sometimes when I have to cross a turning point over the grass or something unpaved, I use to measured it with the steel tape ( Pi x r formula)

Pete Replies:

Dear Rodolfo,

It's wonderful to hear from you again, and to see how far you have advanced course measurement in Brasil and South America. I remember with pleasure working with you and the others, and your fine hospitality.

Course measurement in the US was set up before IAAF became interested. It was set up so that ordinary runners would have credible courses on which to run. Later, records became important, but the basic motivation remained the same - make accurate courses available to everybody.

We have quite a few certified courses in the US that have dirt, gravel, grass as part of the course. I suspect that they are not as accurate as those that are entirely on pavement.

Limiting the amount of non-pavement has been discussed here, but no conclusion has been reached. I hope things do not change, as each course has its own character, and sometimes a bit of off-pavement is included.

I have always thought that going off the pavement makes the course slower. I could be wrong, as I know of no tests that have been made.

I would prefer to let any sort of course be certified, and let the records and federation people worry about whether it is allowed or not.

Best regards, Pete
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Pete, you hit on two very important considerations when discussing courses with non-paved setions. The non-paved sections are slower, as there is less stability on the non-paved surface to anchor the push-off of the trailing foot. Thus, the non-paved section is a hinderance towards a record.

The other important factor was discussed last year, which is that the non-paved sections will be longer for the same measured distance than a paved section, provided the calibration was done on a paved surface. To support this, I have ridden on a concrete surface which is straight, and next to both a cinder trail in one location, and grass/dirt in another. In both instances, the concrete yielded a shorter course for the same number of clicks than either the grass/dirt or the cinder trail.

Therefore, a course with non-paved sections will be slower than a course which is all pavement, and it will be longer through the non-paved sections than a paved course measured to the same number of clicks. Any records set on a course of this type will have been earned.
In UK we have a rule about the amount of off-road surface that is acceptible for a certificate of course accuracy. Up to 10k we allow a maximun of 10% off a metalled road surface (or concrete or other absolutely solid, hard surface). For longer races 1km plus 5% of the course length in excess of 10km is allowed.

The rationale for these figures, introduced in the 1990s, was that a bicycle calibrated on a metalled road surface might be inaccurate by upto about 1% when used on other surfaces.

At a recent meeting of our UK Course Measurement Working Party it was reported that the IAAF measurers recently discussed off-road surfaces. Apparently the existing rule is that a road race must be entirely on metalled roads for IAAF races. The minutes of the IAAF measurers meeting is quoted in this pdf file as follows,
Rule 240.2
There was some discussion regarding the question of the amount of a road race that could be
held on a surface other than a standard metalled road surface (grass or an allweather
synthetic surface such as the track in a stadium). HJ said that UKA (RunBritain) admitted 10%
of the distance for races of 10km or less and 5% for the incremental distance for races over
10km. It was agreed that this amount was excessive for international races and that the
proportion of the race distance should be no more than 5% for races up to 10km and 3% of the
incremental distance for longer races. This would be proposed to the Commission for

This would be a relaxation of their present rule, but not as far as that in the UK.

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