What is Course Certification?
If an entry fee is charged for a road race, runners have a right to a properly measured course. USATF certification is an assurance to the runner that times will be based on a properly measured distance.
The purpose of the USATF Course Certification Program is to produce road race courses that are accurately measured distances while using the calibrated bicycle method of measuring. Course certification is the runner's only assurance that the course was measured accurately by uniform standards.
For any road running or race walking performance to be accepted as a record or be nationally ranked, it must always be conducted on an active USATF Certified course. The Certification Program is equally important to the average runner, jogger, or walker. Most runners, joggers, and walkers like to compare performances from different courses, and such comparisons are difficult if course distances are not reliable. No one can truly establish a personal best if the course distance is not accurate. USATF Course Certification should never be confused with USATF Event Sanctioning, the two are not directly connected: a Sanctioned Event can use an un-Certified course and an un-Sanctioned race can use a Certified course. Yet many quality events are both USATF Sanctioned and run on a USATF Certified course. For more Event Sanctioning information go to our Event Sanctioning page.
Please read the following four great articles; one on a marathon measurement, the second on GPS measurement errors,the third on course route design errors, and the last about a course measurement to get an idea about the work involved:
The Calibrated Bicycle Method of measuring can be accomplished by anyone with the necessary equipment who is willing to put in the required time following the step by step guidelines in the Course Measurement Procedures Manual.
After measuring a course, preparing a detailed map (which includes all key measured points: start, finish, turn-arounds, traffic cone positions, etc.), and completing the necessary application paperwork, the paperwork and map must be sent for final review and approval to a Regional Certifier.
The regional certifier will either approve the course application or, if the measurer made a mistake, notify the measurer and explain how to fix it. Once the course is approved, a Course Certification ID number like NY09100KL will be assigned, a Measurement Certificate issued, and mailed to the course measurer. There is a $30 Certification Fee for all road courses and no fee for calibration courses. The final signed Measurement Certificate is combined with the course map on the front and back of one sheet to become the official documentation for the newly Certified course.
All active USATF Certified courses are listed online and their course maps can be viewed and downloaded at the USATF Certified Course Search website. Additionally, the Niagara Association also hosts an online list of all Active New York State Certified Courses (link).
Course Certifications carry a 10 Year Expiration because road courses often degrade over time due to repaving or changes in the road. All course Certifications expire automatically 10 years after the year of issue. Once a course has expired, it must be re-measured and re-Certified.
There are a few good measurers who live in the USATF Niagara Association area and are always willing to assist in measuring your course. Most measurers welcome event directors willing to learn how to measure their own course to accompany them on a course measurement. Please contact an active course measurer regarding course measurement for USATF certification. Be sure to review samples of the measurer's work and look for quality and experience in the course maps listed. It is always good idea to talk with other event directors for their recommendations for a course measurer.
If you choose to measure your course yourself or hire a measurer, it is always best to start the process by planning your new course route. USATF has a very good route mapping tool entitled America's Running Routes.
America's Running Routes is provided by Google Maps, which allows event directors and runners to design and measure any proposed course route. After your course is created you can save it, share it with others, and will be saved a our online America's Running Routes database.