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What does it mean when a road course is USATF certified?


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  • What does it mean when a road course is USATF certified?

    I ran in the Bradley Airport 5k this morning. The course is certified. It is an out and back course with the starting line and the finish line in the same place.

    However, the 1 mile marker and the 2 mile marker were both off. I ran 22:45 or so which is about 7:20 per mile pace. Yet, I went through the "1 mile" at 6:55, the turnaround in 11:30, and the "2 mile" in 14 flat. Something doesn't add up.

    When a course is certified, is it just the total distance, or are the mile markers certified also?

  • #2
    Here is the USATF course certification page

    which includes this definition of a USATF certified course:

    "A USATF-certified course is a road race course whose distance has been certified for accuracy."

    No claims about intermediate markers in this definition (though course certifiers will often do this and mark it in certifying a course).

    Once certified, a course is still subject to the scrupulousness, or not, of a particular event's race organizers in terms of starting/finishing at the right place, and following the certified route. In my own experience as a road race director, I tried to pay attention to every bit of this, but what mattered most (naturally) was matching start/finish and route to the certified map. I would try also to make sure that intermediate markers were placed accurately, knowing how important such data is to runners, but sometimes I think those markers might get misplaced in a particular event.


    • #3
      Having certified a few race courses over the years going back to when Ted Corbitt was in charge, I can tell you the main focus is getting the race distance accurate. You try to get the split points right, but, especially in a new race, signs get put into wrong places, etc..

      When I raced a lot years ago, I always took splits with a grain of salt. Once I was with the leaders in a 10k in Eugene, and we went through the first mile in 4:32, which if it had been accurate would have been my mile PR at the time!