I design and measure courses for USATF certification. My typical charge is $200 for an extremely simple 5K in Johnson City, TN. And simple means that YOU have done almost all of the design work ACCURATELY. A half marathon will cost more like $750. Prices always include the $30 fee the USATF certifier gets for examining the paperwork and issuing the certificate.

The process begins with a discussion of the course. A lot of things are considered in course design. Some of these are:

Crowds in turns are a worry. Is the first turn within 100 yards of the start?

Fast and slow runners in the same place is a problem. Will course workers be able to tell 1st lap from 2nd lap participants?

Also: Left turns cross traffic so we avoid those. Try not to have runners going the wrong way on a one way street. Try to keep the course as flat and fast as possible. Avoid streets which will require hiring police. Avoid sidewalks to hold down conflicts with pedestrians. Too much drop or too much distance from Start to Finish keeps the course from being record eligible. And more.

After agreeing on a course, we start looking for a time to measure. Usually, traffic is lightest Sunday mornings. The race director does not have to be there but if you want to see the process and have some say in last minute decisions, you better plan to spend all Sunday morning on it. If traffic is really bad in the area, I measure around 3 a.m.

While waiting to measure, I usually make a web map for advertising purposes and e-mail it to the race director.

Measurement begins with calibration of bicycle with a device that resolves to less than 4″ per count. Then, the race director (who will have to ride guard if much of the course is in a 40 MPH or above zone) meets me at the course. The course must be ridden twice stopping at all mile marks. Then we return to the start, finish, turnaround points and mile marks, take pictures and describe them in enough detail that they can be found again. Then it is back to the calibration course praying that the tire did not have a slow leak.

With the information gathered, the USATF paperwork is completed and sent to the certifier for the state where the race takes place. When the certificate comes back, it and an invoice go to the race director. Included in this service is a “Locations Book” in Word with pictures and descriptions of the start, finish, turnaround points and mile marks.