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Course Measurement and Certification Procedures

APPENDIX B - Course Layout

If you are measuring an existing race course, consult with the race director to make sure you are measuring the correct course. Find a runner who has run the race to help determine how runners actually run the course.

If you are laying out a new course, find out what restrictions the race director and local authorities may have on where the race may be run. The finish area is especially critical since you will need a traffic-free area with enough room to set up finish chutes, medical and aid stations, results-processing areas, and often awards ceremonies. Many courses are laid out from finish to start.

The starting area must be wide enough to accommodate the maximum expected field. Trying to start more than 1000 runners on a two-lane road without shoulders creates substantial congestion and delays the back-of-the-pack runners. Never lay out a course with a sharp turn within the first hundred meters; the more starting straightaway you have, the better (and safer) the course. Likewise, leave at least a 100-meter straightaway leading into the finish so runners can have a decent finishing sprint.

Avoid crossing traffic where possible. During races, police prefer that runners run with the traffic. This makes it easier and safer for the police escort. If you can lay out a course that consists of mostly right turns, you avoid crossing traffic, and your measurement job is easier since you will have less traffic to contend with.

When laying out a course for a large race (more than 1000 runners), avoid multiple-loop courses and out-and-back courses. Do not lay out a course with three or more loops for large races since monitoring against cheating is nearly impossible. Likewise, a straight out-and-back course requires some type of recording at the turn-around point. This is difficult for large races and should be avoided.

Small races and ultra-marathons are conveniently held on small loop courses, with each loop being from one to ten kilometers (one-half to six miles) in length. Certify the loop itself as a closed loop course. Once the closed loop is certified, all integral multiples of the loop are automatically certified. Thus, you may be able to certify a 100 km course with 10 km of measurement (twice over a 5 km loop).

If the closed loop course can be made an exact standard distance such as 5 km or 5 miles, races of several different lengths may be held on it. Intermediate splits which are integral numbers of loops are also certified and considered valid for record purposes. To set up a closed loop course which is an exact standard distance, refer to the discussion below on laying out a course with fixed start and finish points.

It is important to lay out a reasonably accurate course before doing the actual measurement. One way to do this is to use large-scale maps with a scale of 1 to 5000 (1 cm = 50 meters) or 1 to 6000 (one inch = 500 feet). Such maps may often be obtained at a city or county office. You can buy (for about $12) a small tool called a map measurer which can be pushed along on the map to measure distance.

An approximate measurement with your (uncalibrated) bicycle is a good idea since it will give you a rough idea of start and finish points and will familiarize you with riding the shortest possible route. If your chosen course is way off, this is the time to make alterations.

Once you have a tentative course, consult with the race director and local authorities to determine how much of the roadway will be available to the runners. If the runners are to be restricted to following a longer route when a shorter one is available, it is necessary to include temporary barriers to keep them along the correct path. Instructions such as "stay on the right side" are universally ignored, unless enforcement exists. Note that it is easier to let them run wherever they want on the road and measure the shortest path they can take.

If you measure a restricted route, it must be coned and monitored, or the certification will be invalid. The restricted route must be marked in such a manner that cones and/or barricades may be properly placed on race day. The positions of barricades and cones must be clearly specified on the course map. Usually, painted lane markings are used as the basis for a restricted route.

If you need to adjust the course, small adjustments can be made by moving the start, finish or turn-around points. If the needed adjustment is large, you may need to reroute the course and make additional bicycle measurements. Making changes in the middle of a course is usually awkward.

If both the start and finish must be at fixed points, you should have a turn-around point somewhere on the course. The position of the turn-around may be varied to get exactly the desired length. Remember when you move a turn-around, the runners will run twice the distance you move the turn.

Mark all important points on the final course carefully and permanently. Determine their locations relative to fixed landmarks so they can be found again in case of repaving or other changes in the road surface. Make sure provisional marks are not confused with final marks. Provisional marks may be obliterated by spraying over them with black spray paint (on asphalt) or simply "block" them out in the original color.

The entire race course should be inspected just before the race by someone who knows the course as it was measured. Be sure the start, finish, and turn-around points are correctly located. Check the positions of course monitors and marshalls as well as the positions of cones and barricades. If there is a lead car, someone who knows the route should be in the lead vehicle. This person should also have a map of the course. In any complicated undertaking involving lots of people, there are likely to be errors. Anticipate them. Check and double check.

Go to Next Section:  Appendix C - Example - Setting Up Calibration Course
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