The Ins & Outs of USATF Course Certification

If you’re new to race directing, you might be wondering: what is a USATF-certified course and do you need one for your race? The short answer? Maybe! Getting your course USATF-certified has numerous benefits, but it does take some work. The real matter at hand is deciding whether or not the process is worth it for your type of race.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the ins and outs of USATF course certification for race event management.

The Benefits

The USATF certification officially verifies that your course is the distance it’s supposed to be. This has benefits for both race directors and runners! For athletes, having an accurately measured course allows them to train properly, compare their performances, and set true PRs. And we all know that for race directors, happy runners are key!

With a USATF-certified course, your race will be able to attract more runners (especially if your course can serve as a qualifier for bigger races), which means more revenue. Besides boasting participation rates, a USATF certification might make your race event management easier in the long run. Each certification lasts for ten years, so it might be worth it if you’re planning on using the same course over and over again.

The Process

This is where the work comes into play. Measuring your course is by far the most complicated and time-consuming part of the certification process. Luckily, you can hire someone to do it for you! It’ll cost anywhere from a few hundred to $2500 depending on the company and your course length. If that price tag makes you wince, think about what’s included.

If you were to do it yourself, you would first need a 10-speed bicycle and a Jones Counter, which can cost up to $160 plus shipping. Then, you need to find a calibration course. This is not your race course, but rather a straight, reasonably level paved path at least 300 meters long. You can check with your regional certifier to see if a calibration course already exists in your area.

Then, you’ll have to ride your bicycle a total of four times over your calibration course before running it twice over your race course. Then, it’s back to the calibration course for another four rides! You’ll have to follow the USATF guidelines for handling course temperatures (which affect the pressure in your bike tires, which affects the count) and obstacles like pedestrians and parked cars.

Finally, after a little math to account for the shortest route possible, you’ll submit all of your measurements and a detailed course map for certification, which can cost up to $30. Then, just wait! Keep your certification on hand and pay attention to any future changes in your course.

Final Thoughts

It’s never a bad idea to certify your course, but for first-time races and local fun runs where the athletes aren’t serious about a PR, you can probably get away without a USATF certification. But if you’re looking to attract a more competitive market, it’s worth spending the time and effort to have your distance certified.

Just make sure you submit your paperwork early on in your race event management to give USATF time to process your request and make up for any errors. If you choose to measure your course yourself, USATF has a detailed guide on how to do so.

But, if you’d rather save the sweat and stress, nobody will judge you for hiring a certified course measurer. We’d all like to have one less thing to worry about in race event management!

Now we’d like to hear your thoughts! Is your course USATF-certified or have you thought about it? Did you hire a company or measure your own course? Let us know what obstacles you encountered in the comments below and contact ChronoTrack for all of your other race management needs!