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Course Measurement and Certification Procedures

Course Maps

The course map is the most important documentation of your course. Its purpose is to provide, ideally on a single sheet of paper, all the information a race director needs to run the race using the course as certified. This documentation is of great value in case a record is set on the course and a “verification” measurement is needed.

Be aware that after a course is certified, its map is scanned and posted online. So, your work will be on display for all to see. These online maps may be viewed by runners who wish to run the race, by race directors who are setting up the course on race day, or by race directors who are thinking of hiring a measurer and want to see what kind of work they’ve done.

Without good documentation for the course, mistakes could easily be made in laying out the course on race day. By the time of next year's race, there may be a new race director who knows nothing about the original course measurement. In addition, all the marks you've painted on the road may have faded into oblivion by the following year!

The map should fit on a single sheet of US Letter size (8.5x11 inch) or A4 paper along with any blow-up or detail maps. The map need not be drawn to scale or include every single cross-street or landmark. In fact, the best maps enlarge sections where more detail is needed to show how the course is to be run, and shrink sections where less detail is needed. Do not use colors, as the map will be photocopied in black & white onto the notice of certification. The map must indicate the direction of true north.

It is important when creating your map that you make sure all drawings and text are black, and not gray (no pencil). The reason for this is that the map will eventually be scanned for the purpose of posting on the USATF website. This scanning process will be in black and white, which means that gray shades in your map will be converted to either black or white, and the result may not be legible. This is the reason why pictures and images, even grayscale images, are not permitted in maps. The following example shows what can happen when a grayscale image is scanned to black & white:

Map in grayscale
Original map in grayscale
Map scanned to b&w
After scanning to black & white

In short, black or white on your maps, no color, no gray and no pencil.

The map should include a line representing the actual measured path through the course. Use this line to show how you angled between corners and how you took each turn, including turn-arounds. In order to show the measured path, "widen" the streets or roads relative to their length. You may need to further distort the scale to display all relevant detail. (But note: If you did an "offset maneuver" to deal with traffic as explained in Appendix A, do not draw it on the map, as this could be very confusing to race directors; instead draw the desired diagonal path that the offset maneuver was intended to approximate.)

The line representing the measured path indicates the very shortest route that runners may be permitted to take during the race. If the race director chooses to restrict the runners' path in such a way that they have to run farther, that is OK. But the runners may not be permitted to run any shorter than the measured path or the certification will be invalid.

If your measured path was not always the shortest possible route that a runner could run using any part of the street or road, then traffic barricades or cones must be set up to ensure that the runners cover at least the distance you measured. Your course map must indicate exactly where such barriers are to be placed and also show where monitors are to be stationed. If this seems like too much trouble, just measure the shortest route assuming no barricades and you'll be safe.

Your map must include descriptions of the exact locations of the start, finish, and any turn-around points. This is done by giving precise tape-measured distances from nearby permanent landmarks. In writing such descriptions, do not assume that your painted marks on the road will still be visible. Instead, think of your descriptions as instructions for re-locating the marks without having to remeasure the entire course in case the road is repaved. In complicated cases, it may be necessary to include detailed blow-up maps of some or all of these points.

In addition to your start, finish, and turn-around points, you should provide documentation for your intermediate splits so they can be relocated when necessary. It’s best to include all documentation directly on your map, but if this would make the map too cluttered, you may provide your list of split descriptions on a separate sheet.

Clearly label all streets and roads used for the course. Indicate kilometer/mile marks with circled numbers and units. Use arrows to indicate the direction of the race.

Some important requirements to remember in drawing your map:

  1. Maps should not contain Pictures or Photographs.
  2. Maps should be done only with Black print on White Paper.
  3. Maps should have a margin of 1 cm (3/8") – although if you use A4 paper, increase top & bottom margins to 2 cm so map will have adequate margins when copied to US Letter size paper.

Several examples of course maps have been included in Appendix C for your reference.

Sample Course Map


Sample List of Measured Points


Go to Next Section:  Appendix A - Supplementary Tips
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