How a road race route gets certified - partial transcript from Audio for Week of July 29/13
I’m often asked how do you certify a route.
A simple question, but it’s a bit of a long winded answer…
I started measuring routes in the 90’s for certification purposes and found out why not that many races did it,and even nowadays, many still don’t. Why? It’s because it’s a hell of a lot of work.
Because, you have to do is measure the route according to a very exacting protocol that’s been established by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and then complete a very lengthy application for certification.
And then this is submitted to Athletics Canada for a review…and if all is good...abracadabra, the route is bestowed certification. So just to be clear: I’m the measurer, and Athletics Canada is the Certifier.
In Ontario there are only a handful of we crazy life risking course measurers that are deemed acceptable by Athletics Canada.
So, let me tell you what the steps are…
First thing you need is a bike and a gadget called a Jones Counter which attaches to your wheel axle. The Jones Counter simply displays increasing counts up to 5 places as you ride along. You can see a photo of it on the website...just go to the Course Measurement link on the Services page.
Next thing you need to do is calibrate your bike. And for this you need a calibration course - usually 300 m. in length. And these calibration routes have been measured according to strict criteria and approved by Athletics Canada. I won’t go in to the detail of how these are measured but there’s a few of these in the Toronto area and the routes are always on roads where on one side of the road there is no parking.
So now you go with your bike to the calibration course and you then ride it 4 times, noting how many counts each ride is. Then you take the average of the measurements and mathematically calculate how many counts are in a kilometer. And then to insure the route is not short, you multiply the counts by 1.001 (it’s called the short course factor). So basically you’re adding 1 meter on to each of your measured kilometers.
So now you go to your course site
Then it’s really math and paper time because you then record what your Jones Counter’s starting count is going to be and add on to it the number of counts you are going to be at each of the 1, 2, 3 etc. kilometer points.
And away you go, riding the route following the shortest line a runner would take, which can be somewhat hairy on a curvy 3 lane road going around a long bend…and as you go along you have to stop to mark each kilometer point.
And that’s the first ride. But you’re not done yet
As a double check you have to do it again to see how the 2nd ride compares to the first ride, noting the counts at each of the earlier marked kilometer points.
These two rides must be within a certain % of each other. If they’re not,you need to start over,
You’re still not done.....
Because now you have to go back to the 300m calibration course and do another 4 rides like before. This is because since you did the first calibration rides, the air temperature has likely changed during the course of the day and that in turn can change the diameter of your bike’s wheels which in turn affects the number of counts per km.
So you find out what the average counts are and if different you take the average of the before and after counts.
And you then recalculate the distance of the route you measured using the new counts per km. and if it’s different you will have to go back to the route site and add or subtract a certain amount of metres.
You can now complete the about 9 pages of application and submit it to Athletics Canada.
And things can happen that can cause you to question the meaning of life
For example, I’ve gone first thing in the morning to the calibration course because you want to do this sort of thing before many cars are on the road. And I’ve gotten there only to discover someone has parked on the road blocking the path to be be ridden. Then I’ve had to go knocking on doors to find the felon. And you know what? Some folks just don’t look that great that early in the morning.....
On a couple of other occasions – once measuring a marathon and the other measuring a half marathon I got a flat tire which meant the entire ride was eradicated…and I’m not going to tell you the new swearing combinations I invented on those occasions…