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Earlier this week I measured the race circuit at the Autobahn Country Club near Joliet, Illinois for a foot race they're going to have this November. The Autobahn is a private race track where the members can run performance cars at the speeds for which they were designed. Much like a golf country club, the race track is surrounded by housing. There's a north circuit and a south circuit and they can be combined to form one circuit which they say is over 3.5 miles.

The race in November will be one lap of the complete circuit, starting and finishing at the the start/finish line for the south circuit. It measured out to almost 5508 meters.

The 5508 meter measurement includes the SCPF. My question is "Does it need to?"

Given that the course is the length that it is and that the distance is not one at which any kind of national record would be kept, I'm not sure it needs this particular precaution we take against courses being short.

Something like this almost seems like a cross between a regular measurement- where we set a course up to be a certain length- and a validation measurement- where we offer an opinion as to the length of an existing course.

I'm not advocating any changes, and this course is going to be the length it is whether we say it's 5508 or 5513 meters, but I thought this was worth putting out on the forum for discussion.

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Pete makes 2 good points.
First I agree that the SCPF should be included. No records will ever be recognized but comparisons will be made to other times at 5k or 4 miles.
Tracks are measured without the SCPF and track records are kept completely separate from road running performances. Therefore if this is a road race, the SCPF gets my vote for inclusion.
I'm in the process of remeasuring all 10 races in the Westport (CT) Summer Series, as the original certifications have expired.

All but the concluding 10 miler are odd distance races (3.7, 4.1, etc). When the Series began 49 years ago, the courses were measured by the town police car at nominally correct distances of 3, 4, 5 miles and so forth. They weren't accurately measured for several/many years, and by that time the records had gained intrinsic value & history, so the odd distances remained (in fact several courses have been re-routed due to traffic, etc. and the original distances were maintained in the replacements).

I measured all of these using SCPF. Here in New England such non-standard courses are common, but we should use the same methodology so we're not comparing apples to oranges.

Here's one other possible exception (as I don my Devil's Advocate cap): A straightaway road mile that's measured using a steel tape or laser transit. In theory this could be considered an overdistance cal course, and we wouldn't require SCPF on that.
I don't have any problem with the logic behind telling the client that the course may be as long as 5513 meters- but USATF can only certify that it is at least 5508 meters.

This obviously gets back to why we do this and how we sell it. At one point we measured courses so USATF could keep records. While that is still a benefit, now it's more so courses are the distance the race director says they are and the intermediate marks on the courses are the right distance from the start, finish, and each other- regardless of whether records are going to be set- or not. Course measurement and certification is an essential part of putting together a quality event- regardless of the quality of the athletes in the field.
I would respectfully side with Duane over Pete here. I'm not sure how the 5th Avenue Mile was measured (Dave Katz might) but assuming it was steel-taped, I think no SCPF should be included. When athletes are racing over a short, straight distance the extra 1.6m might be the difference between a course record and the attendant bonus money.
The Fifth Avenue Mile is certified as NY05043AM, measured by Paul Hess. There is nothing in either modern or pre-SCPF RRTC records to suggest that the course was ever certified before that time.

The strength of the certification system rests in part on the fact that it is understood that an SCPF is applied. This is true worldwide. The frequently-occurring assertions that there are special cases that do not require an SCPF only weaken the acceptance of what is now a worldwide standard for the measurement of road races. We’ve now had the SCPF in place for almost thirty years. It’s now the international standard. It is not a perfect system, but it has proven its worth. Arguments for special cases are without merit. To assure fairness, the layout goal of any course must be the same length for each distance.

Our RRTC methodology has been tied to records since its inception. The SCPF was seen as a way to avoid short courses, and it has proved its worth. Without records to justify the measurement system it is doubtful that USATF would support road running or its measurement as they do. It is politically necessary to include records in the mix.

Steel-taping of a course is generally more accurate than is bike measuring, but only by a small amount. Allowing steel-taped road race courses to escape the SCPF ignores the fact that steel-taping also has uncertainty. How do proponents of eliminating the SCPF for steel-taped road courses assure that they will not be short? Do they suggest any sort of steel-tape SCPF to apply? If not, half of the steel taped courses will be short of the nominal length. This is the nature of measurement. Like it or lump it.

We’ve seen the arguments that the poor runner is diddled out of his record because of the SCPF. This is spurious, because all present road records were set on courses which include it. Why give a bye to shorter courses because they were steel-taped?

There is nothing to prevent opponents of the SCPF to set up their own organization and to certify courses. The trick is to get anybody to choose their setup against those of recognized governing bodies.
Pete, I would argue that steel-taping or surveying with professional-grade equipment and operator are definitely more accurate than riding a bike. Plus, taping or surveying would still only be for short, straight courses. I can't imagine taping a one-mile course, but surveying may be viable. I think it would still be much faster to do the Jones method.

However, if the accuracy of steel tape or surveying is within two inches, or even 6 inches (surveying is much more accurate), why add 5.28 feet to that mile? One foot would be more than any inaccuracy in measurement.

I do think this is an academic discussion, due to the time factor. Much faster to do two bike rides than to survey a mile, and I would not tape a mile. But, it is a good discussion of what the SCPF was meant to do, and how that applies to measurement methods demonstrably more accurate than a Jones measurement.
I think one of Pete's points is that we've been defining the road mile as 5285.28 + or - X feet for the past 30 years. Just because "X" has now become "x" due to more accurate steel taping doesn't mean we should change the nominal definition of what a road mile is.

We've been defining a track mile as 5255.26 feet for at least as long. The decision that running around turns is 24.74 feet harder than running straight was somewhat arbitrary, but it was made. If someone does a study that determines it's actually 30 feet harder to run around turns, should we shorten all our tracks? Of course not. Everybody has been running 5255 feet for many decades and we should continue to make them run that same distance. The same is true for the 5285-foot road mile.
Duane's right, this is probably an academic discussion, probably the result of my brain being addled by riding in the high heat & humidity we've had the past week Wink

That said, for a straight course measured by tape or laser, is it necessary to add the SCPF? For that matter, how necessary is it for a biked straight course? There might be some wobble, but IMO SCPF is more to cover the inability to ride the tangents as tightly as a runner might cut them. That's not a factor in a straight road mile (in fact the runners generally run LONGER at a race like 5th Ave as they weave back and forth looking for better footing and/or tactical positioning).

I've heard of several courses (longer and curvier) in Japan that have been steel-taped for their entire distance, using a crew of men to carry and place the tape. But I wouldn't advocate eliminating SCPF for those.

OK, off to put down some mile marks while it's "only" 80F - temps predicted >100F here today! Eeker
We've been defining a track mile as 5255.26 feet for at least as long. The decision that running around turns is 24.74 feet harder than running straight was somewhat arbitrary, but it was made. If someone does a study that determines it's actually 30 feet harder to run around turns, should we shorten all our tracks? Of course not. Everybody has been running 5255 feet for many decades and we should continue to make them run that same distance. The same is true for the 5285-foot road mile.

Was such a decision made?

Seems to me the decision that was made is that we could measure the length of a track much more accurately than we could measure the length of a road course. Accordingly we don't leave as much slack in our track measurements than we do in our road course measurements.

I'd also challenge the 5255 number. The question is "what part of the body are we measuring?" If one is running counterclockwise around a track, one's left side travels a shorter distance than one's right side does. Parts of us travel 5255 feet or less. Parts of us travel more.

Another bit of information on the Autobahn course: The official PR information about the course states that it is 3.56 miles in length. My SPR measurement showed it to be closer to 3.42 miles. The racing surface is 40 feet wide, and it appears there are about 1800 degrees of curvature on the course I measured. The difference between measuring on the inside of every curve and down the center of the track should be:

6 meters (half the width of the track) x 1800/360 x Pi x 2 = 188.5 meters or 0.117 miles.

This ignores the changes on the straight sections of the course but they tend to be negligible anyway.

I don't know how the owners measured the course, but the above calculations give us some insight on how they might have.

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