Skip to main content

Below is the Policy.

The question is if a course is unchanged then do we allow just one ride to verify the course as we would do in a validation? We did discuss this at the meeting and decided to treat it as a new course. Could there be exceptions is the question?

USATF Course Certification - Expiration/Renewal Policy
Because courses degrade over time, the USATF Road Running Technical Council decided in 1992 that all certifications would expire automatically 10 years after the year of issue. Initially, expired courses could be renewed upon testimony that the course was still in use and had not been altered. Then, in 2000, RRTC decided that such testimony is not adequate to overcome the uncertainty that inevitably creeps into every course; therefore, all courses must simply expire after 10 years, without any possibility of renewal.
The non-renewable policy adopted in 2000 was phased in over a 10-year period. That period ended at the end of 2011. All courses that were renewed at any time have expired. Expired courses are no longer renewable, but must be re-measured in order to be recertified.
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Personally I don't feel courses degrade over "time". There is nothing about the passing of time that invalidates the initial measurement. There are events that occur that alter the course, but those events could occur the day after the measurement or 10 years later. Time period itself is irrelevant, so the thought that some magical time period governs the course validity really makes no sense.

So courses shouldn't "expire" based on time. Uncertainty doesn't "creep in", it shows up with a road grader at totally random intervals. Courses don't get over ripe through gradual deterioration, they are either destroyed in an instant or remain undisturbed.

So the question of "life events" affecting a course should be asked every time results are submitted, and active courses without life events should never expire. Those with those events expire immediately and require recertification. The only place a time period has any value is to keep the list clean, no results come in, after 3-4 years the course should go inactive and require recertification. If people don't submit results then their courses expire quickly.
My argument against requiring a second ride in this scenario is that it is extra work that will probably never serve any purpose. In order for the second measurement to matter, three very unlikely events have to happen for the same expired course:

1) The course has changed since the original measurement without anyone realizing it. (Unlikely, but it happens. That's why we expire courses. Let's say it happens in 1 of 4 expired courses that are being remeasured.)

2) The measurer rides the course inaccurately. (Let's say this happens in 1 of 10 measurements.)

3) Assuming #1 and #2 both happen (a 1 in 40 chance) then the inaccuracy of the measurement has to exactly match (nearly) the amount the course has changed distance. Let's say something has changed about a 5k course so that it is actually 4950 meters long now. The bad measurement would have to end up being between 46 and 54 meters long for him to come up with a measurement of 4996-5004 meters. If his inaccuracy is not within that range, he will have to measure the course a second time anyway. What are the chances that his inaccuracy will match, to within that small range, the amount the course has actually changed? 1 in 10? 1 in 20?

So the chance that all three of those things happening, which would result in an inaccurate course if we don't require a second ride, is 1 in 400 cases, at worst. How many re-measurements of expired courses do we have in a year?
I would be interested to know what has been our practical experience when remeasuring old courses. In general I have found very good agreement with old results-- I haven't kept a scorecard but I can think of quite a few re-checks where the old courses were just fine.
I can also think of a lot of "not quite re-measuring" situations, where you don't get a chance to compare because something has changed-- e.g. road restrictions.
While I will somewhat agree with Keith, in that courses don't degrade over time, courses have been re-routed from the originally-certified course.

One reason courses expire is that IAAF has a 5-year expiration, from what I understand. RRTC didn't want to go to 5 years, so 10 years was enacted.

I thought the discussion at the meeting concluded with: if the original measurer measures the course, and comes within .08%, then one ride will satisfy the re-measurement requirement. If the original measurer is not the one doing the measuring, then two rides are required.

I would still advocate for anyone doing the re-measure, if they were within .08% of the certified distance, that should satisfy the re-measure requirement. As Mark points out, the chances of multiple errors yielding a satisfactory-length, yet incorrect, ride are very slim.

When it comes to some courses, when police have to be used, or roads closed for the measurement, sometimes a single ride is more prudent, and cost-effective, and will verify the length of the course. I don't see why a single measurement cannot fulfill the remeasurement requirement, especially in this situation. But, that's a discussion for later.
There is a lot more to the 10 year period, but the question stil remains - what do we do as far as certifying a course that hasn't changed?

Mark's point is a good one. I don't know how many fit this situation, but my guess is around 200 that would be remeasured. Duane's comments about our meeting decision are good, but I couldn't find that in the minutes.

I think one ride would work without the short course prevention factor. If the course is not short then it would pass and a new certificate would be issued. Say the course is a 10,000 meters. If the measurement was perfect the course would be 10,010 meters. When riding this course one must get at least 10,000 meters for it to pass the one ride test.
I've measured a bunch of courses that have expired or are soon expiring, and remeasured some of them last year.

I found I had very good agreement w/ the overall distance.

I also found that, unlike the major, all-or-none changes that Keith describes, there were several instances of landmark changes: a utility pole renumbered, a driveway relocated, houses repainted and/or renumbered, and this January found a road that had been completely renamed (sounds like something out of the old Soviet Union).

While I was a big opponent of expiring courses, I think they do need checking from time to time, for the aforementioned reasons.
In my experience, courses do "degrade" over time. The "degradation" I refer to is for courses where race directors/organizers can't find the start/finish/turnaround/mile marker nails or paint marks will make a new mark where they remember them to be which might or might not be correct. Over a period of 10 years the mark may move every year. This situation is not fantasy. It really does happen even with the best of intentions by race organizers many of which are not runners.
Matthew, I'm curious whether this "degradation by race director" is happening when the RD's are using the certified map and description or when they've misplaced it? I've seen this kind of thing happen also, only usually it can be corrected by reference to official certification map. Not always-- a point in a remote area with only sketchy reference points might be an exception.
This relates to a "pet peeve"-- race organizers that treat the cert map as almost an afterthought, rather than a guide to setting up their course.
At the risk of reopening some old wounds, I feel obliged to toss in my two cents here.

A year or so ago we had a rather spirited discussion regarding the life span of courses that had been "adjusted"- that is, for which only a portion of the measurement was new. The policy that was adopted was that the life of the course certification was only as long as the life of its oldest measured segment, and the determination of the age of a measurement was by the date that the application was first submitted for approval.

So to address the issue Keith raises, I know a way to have the life span of a course certification be 30 years. Instead of measuring the course twice, measure it six times. Submit two of the measurements for certification every 10 years. If the measurement has never been part of a submitted application, the clock does not start ticking on it. For a 5K, that requires about another hour and a half on the course.

To those who argue in favor of a validation style single measurement I ask "does that mean that each measurement in a previously submitted application now count as half a measurement?" If a certification requires two measurements, then it should require two measurements.

I argued a year ago and will argue now that our procedures need to be clear, consistent, and friendly to the running community. And I go back to the proposal that Pete Riegel submitted and I agreed with then, which is that the original measurer ought to be able to re-submit the data from an expiring measurement. We probably want to put some parameters on this, and give the certifier some leeway. But we can make clear to the running community what they have to do, and we can be consistent in our enforcement.

My understanding is that the main reasons for discontinuing renewals included that the course list was getting too long, and that the people submitting the renewals were not in a position to know if the course had changed or not. As the number of renewals were quite small (5%?) this won't come up often, but it will address those cases where a course has truly remained unchanged for ten years or more. We could treat adjustment essentially the same way.

I think it's important that the people we support think what we do makes sense, and I'm not sure either the current renewal policy or the current adjustment policy does. We want race directors to seek us out- not to look for ways around engaging us, and we especially don't want to look like our rules generate more measurement work and/or fees.

we need something robust and consistent. Let's work on getting there.
We shouldn't require a second measurement just because we always require a second measurement. We should look at the context of every situation and determine if a second measurement serves any useful purpose. It does in an original measurement of a course, but does not in a re-measurement of an expired course.
In the region Bob Thurston and I measure, roads and "fixed" objects change all the time. Some old certification maps I have document courses that could no longer be laid out for the reasons Jim mentions.

I can "second" the "pet peeve" of Bob's that some race organizers do not use the cert map for course layout. In fact, I signed up to run a 10K I certified a couple of years ago only to find the RD was directing runners to the old start line. I had laid down a colored tape line across the road at the certified start line. Despite cries of a few runners who knew where the "real" start was, the RD started the race from a point that left the course about 1/10th of a mile short. Who knows what RDs do when no knowledgeable person is around?
I agree with Mark. If the integrity of a course is in question, a single ride should be sufficient to validate the course. If construction has altered the layout, that should be evident on a single ride. And although is is aggravating, there really is no way to insure that a course will be set up on race day according to the certificate map.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.