When, in the space of three days three contacts ask questions about the same topic...that's a message to the "ol' coach." So, this week I'm going to take off the "coach hat" and put on the "measurer hat." Honestly, there is a relationship between coaching and course measurement. If I had a dollar for every person who announced their latest personal best performance (on a race course which was not certified) in social media, I could buy a few nice things.
I'm not going to dwell long on my measurement/racing philosophy: I don't spend money participating in events which are contested on courses which are not USATF certified. Period.
Let me answer a few "external" questions about course measurement:
Q: The website for a race says the course is certified. How can I tell?
A: The easiest way to tell is if the certificate number is on the website, or the printed advertising. A USATF course certificate number will have a series of letters and numbers; the first two are the state, next two are the year certified, next four are serial, the last two (or three) are the reviewer's initials.
If the first two digits are ten years beyond the date of the event, the course might still be accurate, but it is NOT certified.
Q: If the information is not on the website or advertising, how can I tell a course is certified?
A: All active certified courses - including the maps - are posted on the USATF website. Individuals can search by course distance, course type, state, even by measurer. Expired courses can be sought out, too.
Q: Does anyone enforce the use of certified courses, say, in the case that a race director says their course is certified and the number is not available/found?
A: In the case of RRCA or USATF sanctioned events (which tells the participant the event agrees to follow the organization's guidance) a certified course is required. A record-setting performance, especially a national open record, could only be verified on a certified course.
But there's no regulatory body at the level of USATF or RRCA who are charged with enforcing the Stephen Colbert-like "truthiness" of a particular event. What is an individual runner to do? If that race performance is so important to you - and in cases like the Crescent City Classic, could mean the chances of a seeded entry - then it will be important to look the information up and ask questions of the race director. In the case of individual running clubs, it could mean ensuring that all event courses are accurate by a nationally-recognized standard.