By Colleen Snyder

As more and more people get GPS devices to use while running, it seems that there has been increased discussion about discrepancies in distances between GPS readings and course markings. I recently received some information about course certification provided by USA Track & Field (USATF), the national governing body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. I thought I would pass this policy on as part of the dialogue about how to best obtain accurate course markings since so many of SVR’s courses are USATF certified courses. In addition, I would like to point out that the certification procedures manual is available online at Click on “Procedures Manual” and then “Statement of Requirements” for details on how a course is certified through USATF.

From Gene Newman USATF/RRTC Chairman/Course Registrar
“Policy on GPS Measurement: In response to requests to formulate an RRTC policy on use of GPS (Global Positioning System) for course measurement, Gene Newman announced the following: GPS is never acceptable for measuring a race course. GPS may be used for measuring a calibration course, provided that the GPS device used is a professional surveying-quality instrument (these typically cost $30,000 to $60,000), and is actually operated by a licensed surveyor. Coordinates determined by GPS may be useful in documenting positions of points along a race course, although only as a supplement to the distances from landmarks which are specified conventionally for documenting point locations.”

For an ongoing discussion on the use of GPS, the USATF Road Running Technical Council (RRTC) has a section on its bulletin board ( under Electronic Measurement) that goes into more depth on the use of GPS measurement. As the use of technology increases and more mapping tools become available (check out google earth, or the USTAF’s own America’s Running Routes at for cool tools to figure out distances), I am sure the discussion will continue on how best to determine course distance.