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A local race director is considering running his certified lollipop (keyhole?) course in the opposite direction. The out and back part will remain the same, as will the start and finish lines. It is only the direction of the loop that will change. There are not any measured splits on the course. Runners have use of the full road width for the full length of the course, so SPR remains the same.

My newby understanding is that we measure and certify courses, not races. Since no changes would be made to the course, it seems that this could still be advertised as a certified course.

This course has significant hills and it's nice to change things up once in a while to have long gradual climbs versus short punchy ones.

Do I have this right?



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So, they're at year nine on the certification and I just became involved.....

However, the course is run completely on dirt forest roads. The certifications to date did not include any calibrated. For a lot of the course, there are few permanent fixtures off of which to make calibrated points. Historically, the RD had driven the course to place representative mile marks.

As we prepare to remeasure the course next summer, I am working with the RD to figure out where he would like points or king and queen of the mountain climbs, etc. It's not likely that any point would be an integer of an mile or kilometer, but we'll see what we can work out. My suspicion is that there are a lot more drain culverts under the roads than we imagine, and could be used as reference points.


BTW, Tom - welcome to the measuring community.

It seems coincidental to me that you are posting about a certified course on an unpaved surface. There is a discussion about this very topic today in another thread on this board. There is some resistance to certifying "off road" courses by some of the more senior members of RRTC, though this is by no means unanimous in RRTC generally. To my way of thinking, we should be able to offer a category of certification for courses that are 100% off pavement, but this contention remains somewhat controversial.

The questions I have about this particular course is, how was it originally certified, and whether RRTC will accept this course for recertification. If you are asked to recertify it, I would ask your state certifier to inquire with RRTC before you do the work.

Hi Lyman, I had been following that.

Yes, my question is coincidental, but only time-wise. I haven't been around this community long enough to have an opinion on XC-like things, other than "that sounds hard".

I'm trying to front load getting ready for this 50M re-certification, in building my spreadsheet tools and such. In doing the 50k that I mention below, I had not anticipated the time intensive challenges in a two day measurement. This longer course will also be two days, but it will also require two sets of calibrations because there is enough paved road to require it.

If you've run any of the gravel roads up where the Catoctin 50k is held, that is the type of roads we have for the 50 miler. They're very hard packed gravel, but with good edges. I built a calibration course last summer on part of the course, so we don't have to go running all over. I'll be making a paved calibration course this fall or in the spring.

I don't have the original certification number for this course, but the current one is PA13057WB.

Earlier in the year, we were able to certify a half marathon (PA22015NP) that largely overlays this course last year. Aside from problems with my map file, it went through without any questions.

This month we received certification (PA22022NP) for a 50k that uses a large portion of the 50M course as well.

It was almost eight hours just to ride each of the measurement days for the 50k. If there is growing push-back against non-paved courses, I'll be all over making sure I'm not pushing a rope uphill before I put the time into the 50 miler.

Thanks for the thoughts.


The rules for unpaved courses are clearly stated in the Procedures Manual. There is a section devoted to it.

Generally, it's okay to certify a course on unpaved roads as long as you calibrate on a similar surface. If the road surface deforms significantly under the bicycle tire, like with loose gravel, mud, sand, or grass, it can't be measured with a bicycle. Also, where there are turns, the edge of the road must be clearly defined.

Finally, descriptions of mile/km mark locations are now required to be on the map, although those descriptions can be just GPS coordinates if there are no permanent landmarks. This is also in the Procedures Manual.

Tom, you now have the authoritative word since Mark Neal replied. I believe you are saying your cal course is set up on the hard packed gravel road and that you also have a cal course nearby that is on pavement. If I understand correctly, you are saying that you will measure or you have measured the paved section with the paved calibration cal course and the gravel portion with the gravel surface cal course. Do I have this right? If so, your procedure is valid.

The controversial off-road measurement type I was referring to is the grass surface, such as is commonly encountered on XC courses.

BTW, I know those roads and trails enough to understand the extreme measuring challenge you have tackled. I sympathize.

Lyman, your first paragraph is just what I'm going to do, with the minor correction that I have not yet built the paved calibration course.

My thought that is in my calculations, I'll use the paved and gravel constants of the day for their respective pieces of the course and sum the individual segments of paved and gravel to get the preliminary distance. After the second measurement, we'll adjust a turn around point to get the desired final distance.

It's hard, but frankly, I'm loving the challenge and intellectual rigor of the process.

Thanks to all for the thoughts and apologies for completely changing the subject of the post.


No apologies to me. That is Mark's department as board moderator! 😄

If you are truly the "measuring noob" you say you are, I am impressed with  your grasp of the techniques you need to employ to obtain a valid certified course. Your plan to measure in segments as you describe it looks exactly right to me.

I suppose the one bright spot in tackling this challenging terrain for certification rides is that, at least there will be little traffic, and the tangents on the dirt roads should be relatively easy to sight - and more so on the single-track - where there are few if any tangents to begin with.

Best wishes for a successful measurement. Please take a moment to post your experience here about how your measurements progressed.

The main problem with off-road courses (specifically XC) isn’t the surface but the lack of defined borders.
FWIW we used to run a “Freedom of Choice 5 Mile” (nod to Devo) on an out-loop-back course where the runners could run the loop in either direction. It never really took off since 90% of the field just followed the leader. We do a similar concept Figure 8 race as part of our Summer XC Series where we split the field in half and assign them the direction they’ll run.
Lastly, the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in DC was originally run in the opposite direction. I suggested to the race director that the runners would enjoy running through the Cherry trees on Hains Point near the end of the race rather than the beginning.

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