Course Measurement & Certification
A certified course means that it has been accurately measured according to procedures established by USA Track & Field. The measurement data along with a detailed map of the course is then reviewed by a USATF State Certifier to ensure that the correct procedures were followed. If everything is in order, a measurement certificate is issued by the USATF State Certifier. Once a course is certified, the certification is good for 10 years providing no changes of any kind are made after which the course must be re-measured and re-certified to maintain certification status.
World and national records only qualify if run on a certified course. This situation is also true for most state records, including TN and VA. There are several local runners who have TN state age records. New records are set in the TriCities every year. A database of state age records can be found at www.staterunningrecords.com. Not all certified courses are record eligible, however. The eligibility requirements are (1) the elevation difference between the start and finish points is less than 1 m / km and (2) the staight-line distance ("as the crow flies") between the start and the finish is less than 50% of the overall course length.
On occasion comments maybe heard that a certain course was short or long; many runners do care that courses are of accurate distance and have even considered suing the race organizers if the course length is not as advertised. A runner's personal record ("PR") for a certain distance can not be truly claimed unless it is obtained on a certified course. There are many certified courses in the TriCities area. It is a requirement that all King & Queen competition races are held on certified courses, except for trail races.
Courses are measured using a bicycle fitted with a special type of odometer called a Jones counter. No other method is currently approved. Anyone can measure a course and submit the application for certification providing the measurement procedures are followed. There are several people locally with measurement experience: Dave Rogers, Matthew Studholme, Bob Townsend and Oscar Wagner. Matthew is also the State Certifier for Tennessee; Dave is a former State Certifier.
Further information on course certification can be found on the USATF website. USATF maintains a database of all certified courses in the U.S..