Thursday, July 11, 2013

Diagnosis: Certifiable

My Facebook news feed blew up yesterday as running groups posted link after link to the course for the brand new Walt Disneyworld 10K. The race will run in January as part of the marathon weekend, and I'll participate with Abby and Karen as a runner in the Dopey Challenge. Seeing these numerous posts attached to a rudimentary "hand drawn" map of the certified course made me question the certification process. How does a course get certified, and why do race directors go through the trouble? In my mind, I pictured mapping a course online and digitally figuring out the distance. Boy, I was wrong.

USA Track & Field (the USATF) is the governing council on racing, and they are the organization that race directors must go through to sanction their event. The purpose for this certification is for a road running event to be able to verify record breaking performances or for an athlete to rank nationally. The certification process confirms the distance of the race and allows athletes of all skill levels to gauge their performance at given distances.

USATF provides a list of skilled course measurers on their website, but for those who may think they can spare the expense and measure the course themselves, here's a list of equipment needed to certify a course: Jones Counter Measuring Device (pictured), bicycle, steel tape, spring scale, thermometer, notebook and pencils, pocket calculator, lumber crayon, nails and hammer, spray paint, and masking tape. Once you have all of the equipment needed and know how to use them, multiple rides on the course are required (to my best count, a minimum of 12) for both laying it out and actually measuring. Several recalibrations of the bicycle and the measuring tools are required, and numerous markings must be made along the course. There also appears to be a certain amount of physics  needed to figure out the shortest possible route, and that is one tangent I'm not willing to go off on or calculate. There's percentages and numbers with 3 decimal places. Forget it.

Once the appropriate paperwork and course maps have been submitted and a course is certified, it can be used for up to ten years. The course receives an ID number from the USATF, plus a certificate is issued to be combined with the course map to make the documentation official.

After what I would call a "thorough skimming" of the certification process, I have a new appreciation for what race directors go through to make sure everything is on the up-and-up for their events. It also makes sense why runDisney took their time announcing a 10K course for this race. Now the fans and critics can decide what they think. Personally, I'm just glad someone else is doing the work and I can leave my calculator at home.


  1. Cool, I didn't realize there were different ways they could measure turning corners. I definitely have respect for the race directors who ensure a course is certified, and even less respect for runners who whine about Garmin mileage being off! We know there's plenty of reasons for that, and it's good to know just how much detail goes into certifying a course.

    1. The detail that goes in to determining a course is ridiculous. I had considered all options, including multiple runs with a Garmin watch, digital mapping, driving a course with a car, etc. Who knew it would require so many measurements and excessive time requirements? I changed majors in college because of Physics classes. If I could have paid someone to take those classes for me (like paying someone to measure a course for me), you would be addressing me as Dr. Fred right now.

  2. I cant believe how fast the Disney races are selling out lately.
    Makes me scared how much they will go up in price next year.
    I would love to return for 2015.

    1. You're right, Nicole. That Tink half sold out in less than a day or two this week, didn't it? As long as there's endless demand with a limited supply, the sky's the limit on pricing. I can't wait to see how I fair during Dopey in 2014! It'll be my 5th consecutive Goofy, so I'm excited.