Chapter Three

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Once the sponsoring or organizing group has decided to conduct a running event, the next step is to determine a course. This obviously must be done before an entry form can be developed, but it may be even more important to gain approval of the course from city officials and/or the police before proceeding with additional planning.

Three Basic Types of Courses

  1. Point to point: the course starts in one location and ends in another.
  2. Out and back: the course starts and finishes in the same location and participants run all or at least a major portion of the race, on the same roadway.
  3. Loop: the start and finish are at or near the same location, but runners do not retrace the route on the course.

Three Basic Concerns

1. Control

  • Ability to control the course with marshals and police
  • Ease of setting up aid stations (access to water, etc.)
  • Width of the roadway or trail to handle the anticipated number of participants
  • Size and configuration of the start and finish areas

2. Security

  • Protection from "traffic" (cars, bicycles, etc.)
  • Ability to reach all areas with medical assistance

3. Difficulty

  • Terrain (flat vs. rolling vs. hills)
  • Surface (asphalt, concrete or dirt)
  • Number of turns
  • Keeping track of laps


  • Ease of following the route through use of signs, cones, chalk, marshals and mile markers.
  • Theory of "staying straight:" runners should be told to stay on course--not to turn regardless of other potential routes--unless specifically instructed otherwise by signs, cones or marshals.
  • Instructions/course descriptions should be provided in advance. in the entry form, race packet or race day handout.

Requirements for Records

  1. To qualify for "unaided" age, national or world records, courses must not have a net decrease in elevation exceeding one part per thousand, e.g. one meter per kilometer. This USATF rule eliminates the Boston Marathon, Fontana Half Marathon, St. George Marathon, etc. from record consideration.
  2. Start and finish must lie closer than 30% of the race distance apart, as measured along a straight line between them, except when it can be shown that the average component of the wind direction for the duration of the race did not to any extent whatsoever constitute a tailwind. This USATF rule eliminates the Crescent City Classic 10k and other "point to point" races from record consideration. (The method of determining the wind direction may be specified by the Road Running Technical Committee of USATF. Some races have used wind direction gauges or flags at various locations along the course and then reviewed the gauge information or videotapes of the race to view the effect of wind on the flags.)
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