Guidelines for Setting Records in American Ultramarathons

Note: This guide is meant to assist runners and race directors in meeting the criteria set by USATF for recognition of record performances in ultramarathon events. It is NOT meant as a substitute for the official rules.  While every effort has been made to ensure that these guidelines are all-encompassing, no guarantee is made as to this document's completeness.  Additional questions regarding record ratification should be directed to the AUA statistician.

Note on Setting American Records in Foreign Ultramarathons:  Any American ultrarunner attempting to set an Open or Age-Group American Record in a foreign ultramarathon is advised first to contact the Mountain/Ultra/Trail (MUT) Council of USATF. Some foreign venues may not be eligible for setting American Records.


In order to be eligible for record ratification, a performance must meet certain criteria:


All record-setting performances MUST occur in a bona-fide competition. That is, the performance must occur during an organized ultramarathon for it to be recognized. Solo ultras organized for the sole purpose of setting a record are not considered bona-fide competition and marks set in such events are not eligible for recognition.

The event must be USATF sanctioned.


The performance MUST be run on USATF-certified course or track.  Some courses are certified but then the race is not run on the course AS CERTIFIED. Performances are then not eligible for record ratification.  When in doubt about the status of the course, it is best to go to an event where you know records have been ratified in the past.  The year and the location of the race are listed with all current ultra records.  You may contact the AUA statistician for additional information if needed.

Point-to-Point Courses

The straight-line distance between the START and FINISH lines should be less than 30% of the total race distance.  If the START/FINISH separation is greater than 30%, then the course is considered to be "point-to-point," and the burden of proof is placed upon the recordsetter and/or race director to provide evidence that there was not a significant prevailing tailwind.  Since such evidence is usually difficult to provide, it is recommended that record attempts not be made on courses whose START/FINISH separation is greater than 30% of the race distance.

Significantly DOWNHILL courses are ineligible for recordsetting.  In order to be record-eligible, a course's FINISH line altitude must not be greater than 1 meter per kilometer lower than its STARTING line altitude.

TRAIL courses are uncertifiable and hence are not eligible for official national recordkeeping.  Official national records can only be set on certified tracks or road courses.


The record setter should be a USATF member athlete.

Performance Rules

No pacing or unfair assistance is allowed.  That means a runner must run the entire distance without the aid of a pacer.  A pacer is any person not officially entered in the event who accompanies the record setter during the race.  Pacers on bicycles or on foot, or by any other means, are prohibited.  A handler (or crew), who provides legal assistance (food, beverage, change of clothing, massage, etc.) at regular stopping points (approved by the race director or race referee) along the course IS permitted, but the handler or crew is not permitted to accompany the runner for any substantial length of time or distance.  Accompaniment by handlers or crew should only last for as long as is necessary, e.g., to exchange water bottles, items of clothing, etc.  Handlers on bicycles or in cars are allowed, but after providing aid at each aid station they must drive or ride ahead to the next aid station.  They are not permitted to accompany the runner along the course at the runner's pace.

Documentation Requirements

Documentation requirements exist to ensure that the record setter has complied with the rules of the event, run the distance noted, and has otherwise met the requirements for age group recognition. Should documentation be lacking or if the available documentation provides some uncertainty as to the validity of the performance, the record will not be recognized.


For age-group records, the record setter must provide a birth certificate to USATF. This can be provided after the performance and will be requested by either the AUA statistician or a member of the USATF Road Running Information Center (RRIC).


The course must be certified by USATF. The certification number must be provided when applying for record recognition.

The course must be run as it was certified. The race director must be able to provide reasonable evidence that the course was run AS CERTIFIED.

Timing Requirements

Fixed distance races and fixed distance performances run in the course of a fixed time event (i.e., 100 km split in a 24-hr run) require documentation of the official finish time in the form of TWO SEPARATE AND DISTINCT finish times, obtained using TWO SEPARATE AND DISTINCT timepieces and witnessed and signed by TWO SEPARATE AND DISTINCT scoring officials.

Fixed time races or fixed distance performances set on multi-lap courses require official documentation of each lap run. These may be provided in the form of written lap sheets or their computer-generated equivalent.  Computerized lap-recording systems must be approved by USATF.  Split times (to the hour:minute:second) must be recorded for each lap and should show both the total elapsed time of the event and the elapsed time for each lap. Abnormalities in the lap split times (i.e., the occurrence of a very fast or very slow lap) should be explained by the scorekeeper to eliminate vagueness or doubt by USATF officials when laps are officially checked by recordkeepers.


AUA 2014 All Rights Reserved.


Last modified: 03/20/2014