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USATF Course Certification - Tools for Course Measurers

Course Measurement Manual

* View or download the Course Measurement Procedures Manual

Measuring Equipment

* Jones/Riegel (JR) Counters – This newest version of the Jones Counter, officially referred to as the “Jones Counter model JR,” was designed by Tom and Pete Riegel due to unavailability of parts used in making previous versions. For full details, see Here is a photo of the first production copy of the JR counter, assembled on March 28, 2008:

First JR Counter, assembled March 28, 2008

Note that the numbers can be read from left to right for easy reading, unlike previous axle-mounted Jones Counters which had the numbers rotated 90 degrees. Current prices of the counters are:
    5-digit model: $120 + shipping
    6-digit model: $135 + shipping
For more information, see or contact Tom Riegel to order.

Mapping Information

* The National Map is an online interactive map of the United States from the US Geological Survey (USGS) billed as "The Nation's Topographic Map for the 21st Century." Get precise coordinates, including elevations, by just clicking a point (no need to interpret contours). Includes lots of satellite imagery so you can zoom in and see landmarks that you can almost touch with your bike. It tends to be slow, but it's totally web-based, so doesn't require installing software on your computer and can be used from any computer. (And even if it's slow, the elevations and coordinates from USGS must be considered the most accurate available.)

* Google Earth is a sophisticated tool with high-resolution streaming imagery that lets you "fly from space to your neighborhood." You can find elevations by simply hovering your mouse over a point, and find course lengths using its "Ruler" tool. Google Earth is available in a basic free version as well as a $20 "Plus" version with more capabilities (e.g., GPS data import and better printing) and a $400 "Pro" version for professional and commercial uses. All versions require installing software on your computer, available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

* Google Maps isn’t as sophisticated as Google Earth, but it’s totally web-based (no software to install on your computer) and includes satellite imagery (you choose between a standard map with drawn streets, satellite imagery, or a hybrid view containing both). It does not, by itself, allow measuring distances or elevations, but third-party tools built on top of Google Maps add those capabilities: America's Running Routes on this USATF site and the independent sites and (aka are all based on Google Maps and allow finding route distances and elevation profiles.

Tip: If you use, its “Auto Follow Roads” feature may be helpful for quick, gross comparisons of routes, but tends to significantly over-estimate course lengths. To obtain reasonably accurate course lengths using MapMyRun, turn off “Auto Follow Roads” and trace your route manually by zooming in using Satellite view so you can see road edges and pick points to follow a reasonable approximation of the SPR (Shortest Possible Route). Similarly, if you use Gmap-Pedometer, choose to draw your route “manually” instead of “automatically.”

* Traditional USGS Topographic Maps (which require interpreting contour lines to find elevations) may be viewed for free online at TopoZone or at the Microsoft Research Maps (MSR Maps) site. Hard copies of these maps may be purchased directly from USGS or from Map Express, or you may search for a map dealer in your area. Unfortunately, these maps are getting out of date; USGS officially completed their series of 7.5-minute quadrangles in 1992 and has replaced them now with the National Map project.

Map Drawing Tutorials

* Open Office Draw Basic Tutorial – A short description by USATF Certifier Mark Neal (YouTube video) explaining how to use the (free) OpenOffice Draw software

* Open Office Draw Tutorial for Map Drawing – A short description by USATF Certifier Mark Neal (YouTube video) explaining how to use the (free) OpenOffice Draw software to draw simple course maps suitable for USATF certification.

* Open Office Draw Tutorial for Map Drawing – A detailed description by USATF Certifier Nathan Porch (YouTube video) explaining how to use the (free) OpenOffice Draw software to draw more elaborate course maps suitable for USATF certification.

* Free Open Office Draw Download


Certified Course Lists & Certificates

* Searchable Course List (with Maps) – use the USATF Search Engine to search the active domestic course and display or print course maps.

* Downloadable Course Lists – The Active and Archived course lists are no longer available as tab-delimited text files from this page because you can download course lists directly from the Certified Course Search Engine. To download a list from the Search Engine, choose Format: "download (tab-delimited)." The Search Engine includes Archived as well as Active courses. We still provide Foreign and Historical course lists for downloading below:

  • Foreign list (Excel format, 35 kB) - foreign_courses.xlsx (updated July 1, 2015)
  • Historical list (Zipped text files, 55 kB) - (created Dec 30, 1999)

Notes: The Foreign lists consist of USATF certified courses outside the United States. The Historical list was assembled by Malcolm Heyworth from material published by the National Running Data Center in 1982-1984. Most courses in that list were measured under different rules than we use now.

Course Measurement Bulletin Board

* RRTC Road Race Course Measurement Bulletin Board – A message board for discussing all aspects of course measurement and certification. This is currently RRTC’s main communications vehicle. Moderated by Mark Neal.

* Index to topics on Bulletin Board – Maintained by bulletin board moderator Mark Neal on his own website.

RRTC’s Own Website

* RRTC has its own website at Much of the content which was once on has been ported to this USATF site. However, we continue to maintain, primarily as a handy, central set of links for everything related to course measurement and certification.

More Publications and Tools from USATF Road Running Technical Council

* Measurement News was published until 2006 as RRTC's official newsletter. It was a meaty journal, loaded with information for anybody interested in course measurement. Archived issues of MN are still available for downloading.

* Extensive Collection of RRTC Historical Material (on site): Includes a complete archive of Measurement News issues, all issues of NRDC News from the National Running Data Center, and a large collection of Technical Articles by RRTC personnel.

* More Historical Course Measurement Information – We've assembled monographs written by course measurement pioneers, a History of the Jones Measuring Device and, perhaps most importantly, an account of the Measurement of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Marathon course, the first major international course measured using the calibrated bicycle method - includes commentary on Procedure Changes since 1976 and the Evolution of the Shortest Possible Route (SPR) concept.

* Course Measurement Video: a concise introduction to course measurement, intended as a supplement to the Course Measurement Procedures manual. See how it’s done! Version 2 of this video, completed in May 2001, can be viewed on YouTube (as of August 2012). Copies are also still available on VHS tape by sending $10.00 per copy (shipping included) to Tom McBrayer, 4021 Montrose, Houston TX 77006-4956.

* Certifier’s Drop & Separation Calculator – A handy tool for calculating the “Drop” and “Separation” of a course, based on its length, elevations, and straight-line distance between start and finish. Intended mainly for certifiers, but measurers may wish to check their numbers here too.

* USATF/RRTC Position on GPS used by runners – Why the distances recorded by runners’ GPS devices often differ from the certified lengths of courses.

* Certified Course Expiration/Renewal Policy – Certified courses expire 10 years after the year of certification and are not renewable, but must be re-measured to obtain a new certification.

* Effective Date of Course Certification – The rule defining the effective date of a course certification, including cases when the measurer is and is not a certifier.

* Pre-race & Post-race Verification Guidelines – Policies for the “Verification” remeasurements performed after a race when records have been set, or before the race when requested by the race organization.

* Policy on Adjustments to Certified Courses – Adjusting a portion of a certified course will not give the course a new 10-year life unless the complete course is remeasured at least once. Read the full policy.

* Policy on Changing Name of a Certified Course – Policy on when a race may request a name change with new Certificate for an existing certified course.

* Listed Measurer Standards – Criteria for measurers to be listed in the USATF Course Measurer Search Engine.

* USATF Insurance Policy as it applies to a measurer – Insurance issues for course measurers.

* Measurement Calculation Computer Program – an aid for doing the calculations when measuring a course.

* How to Tape a Track (PDF, 33 kB) – a one-page summary explaining how to check the length of a track for LDR running events if you don’t have a surveyor’s certificate for the track.

* USATF Rules Relevant to Course Certification – find out which of our measurement procedures are specified formally in USATF rules and regulations.

* Historical Material on CD-ROM – The history of course measurement is now available on two CDs:
  • The first contains every issue of Measurement News to date.
  • The second has 106 articles containing history, notable course measurements including Olympic Games and World Championships Marathons, various measurement manuals and seminars.
Both disks are available from: Peter S. Riegel, 3354 Kirkham Road, Columbus OH 43221; phone: 614-451-5617. Cost (postpaid) is $3.00 US for one disk or $5.00 (US) for both.

* Road Race and Finish Line Management – An updated, although incomplete, version of the Finish Line manual originally prepared by RRTC in 1985. The original 1985 version is out-of-date and no longer distributed by USATF. The updated version linked here was an initial draft prepared by Jim Gerweck in 2001. We don't know if it will ever be completed, but you may nevertheless get good ideas from it.

* Measurement Seminar Material (2014 edition 2, PDF 3.45 MB) – Instructional material for conducting RRTC Course Measurement Workshops.

More Measuring Related Links

* Some More Links Related to Course Measurement – includes links to course certification organizations in other countries and some other sites that may be of interest to course measurers.

USATF/RRTC Road Course Certifiers

* Please contact the USATF/RRTC Road Course Certifier in your state for any additional questions you may have about measuring your course and getting it certified.

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