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A few questions to ponder:
  • Just how well do race organizations attend to the course details specified in course certification maps?
  • Do all race directors actually read and disseminate the official maps?
  • To what extent are courses actually monitored in critical places (knowledgeably I mean)?
  • What recourse and/or preventative measures might be effective in dealing with cases where the answers to those questions might be "not so well" or "not really"?

Quite a few times and again recently I've found that people setting up and managing course setup and operations have not been given a copy of the official certification map-- greatly reducing their chances of getting it right.

I'm thinking that the lack of proper course monitoring may be tied primarily to races that are nationally rather than locally based-- perhaps they feel they don't have enough contacts in the local area(?). On the other hand they seem to find enough volunteers to man their water stops.

The most egregious lack of staffing I have seen is this: an out-and-back section set up only by placing cones along a centerline and a curved cone line sitting almost right ON TOP of the "+" sign marking the TA point. Setup wrong, but not even a person to direct the runners?! This was truly a "choose your own turnaround" setup, with most turns likely to cut at least 10-15 yards off the course! I was there in time to correct the coning and tie surveyor's tape across the last 5 or 6 cones.

OK the cert map didn't actually say you have to place a course marshal at that point; I guess I thought that could be taken for granted. Stupid me! Now I'm wondering if it would be going too far to put a statement to the effect that the course certification is NOT VALID UNLESS certain spots were monitored to ensure compliance?

Thoughts, observations, solutions?
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Mark, I agree. But WHY do we certify courses? Not, I think, just to have a certified course, but to help ensure that runners have a correctly measured course to run. So to the extent that race managers don't pay attention to key details, they are not only cheating the runners, but also making our efforts that much less meaningful.

But anyway, I would really like to hear from you and other measurers on the questions I posed. I'm curious to know whether it's a widespread problem or perhaps more the exception than the rule.
Bob and I are hired by another mega-race in D.C. every year to ensure course layout is performed properly, according to Bob's excellent certification map. It is never completely right until we step in. We always need to schlep around a lot of cones in the early morning hours, correcting the configuration. The Ops director of this race just knows the course will be laid out as certified only if Bob and I are on site to make adjustments, despite dozens of course layout volunteers out there, and he knows we'll earn our stipend every race day. We wish there were more like him.

In my experience, few race organizers and course layout staff understand that going around a traffic circle, for instance, on the side it was measured, is not the same as just going around it any old way. They don't understand how laying out cones to allow runners to take the tangent instead of causing them to run to the "wrong" side or down the middle of the road matters.

I understand Bob's frustration about races taking the trouble to certify and then do a sloppy or downright incompetent job of course layout. Especially when we measurers hear about it from participants in a screwed-up event, those participants not grasping that they did not run the course as measured. I hate to seem as though I am discriminating when I say it matters more in some races than others, but I suspect most of us agree, if only in private. Duane includes a disclaimer on all his maps that the course is valid only if laid out properly. A good CYA practice, I suppose. But does doing this actually result in fewer shoddy layouts on certified courses?
The New York Road Runners are very good about making sure their courses are set up as measured. To that end someone from their events staff usually accompanies Dave Katz and I when we do a measurement. It's extremely crucial in Central Park races since the lane restrictions may vary from race to race and even within the same event.
I am glad to hear that, having done a validation ride in the 90's that resulted in record claims being rejected-- exactly because the lane restrictions in Central Park were not really enforced.

I suspect that a locally-based organization like NYRRC is more likely to get these things right than a nationally based operation. One thing I've noticed about some of the out-of-town races is an obsession with detailed plans for the start-finish area, where all the tents and trucks will be, with local measurers more or less expected to measure the course to fit into those plans. It would be good if organizers were willing to pay detailed attention to the course, even if it may be rare to find folks willing to follow you and David around in the middle of the night!
There's a race local to me that I measured and certified a few years back at the request of the RD. Every year he sends out one of his volunteers to mark the course which is done using a truck, ignores my marks which are still there. The truck marking always comes out short and different from year to year. Makes me wonder why I was asked to measure it in the first place, but all the runners are pleased with their fast times!

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