How Important Are Our Race Route Maps to You?

Courtesy Running Ahead


I received a notice last night from the operator of the website that provides our half marathon course maps (like the one in the photo above), that Google Maps has begun charging for the use of their map data, and that they’ll need to begin charging us to use them as well.

The maps have been free for us to use for more than a decade, so I really can’t complain. However, they do require a significant amount of time to create and maintain, especially as many half marathons change their routes each year.

What I’d like to get a sense from you is, how important are these race route maps to you? Are they what you visit our website for, or is the other information we provide on races, training, etc., the primary reason you visit?

Please let me know in the comments below — thanks!

— Terrell

52 comments… add one
  • Kathleen April 25, 2020, 12:42 pm

    I use your site as a concise and thorough clearing house to find races. If the individual race site has a map/elevation profile, I won’t use your site for that. I don’t need it to find hotel/local restaurants – I can do that on google maps directly.

  • Eric Scovel March 13, 2020, 11:16 pm

    I’m so into the maps. It is what helps me determine if I want to run that course or not. It’s a sign of times as you are being charged for this service. I am a cartographer and understand the importance of maps. Some maps have significant detail and others are so plain. It does take a bit of time and effort to produce a quality map.


  • LMcGee September 19, 2019, 7:57 pm

    I use the race websites for the course map. Not your website. I use your website for the information on each race, narrow down my choices then go to the actual race website and check out the course.

  • Mike September 17, 2019, 12:31 pm

    I love this sight, I use it to find races in other states. The maps are one of the things that I always look at, and my wife uses it to check out the course to find the different places she can go to watch for me to go by. They are a great help for her.

  • Ellen September 14, 2019, 11:41 am

    Very important. first thing i look for. Many of the ‘flat and fast’ races are not actually flat or fast. As an older runner, I use the maps regularly. They are especially important in states I am not familiar with.

  • MG July 18, 2019, 2:14 pm

    I love your site. And I rely on your maps. However, on the new maps the elevation is hard to read because the scale is not at the correct level of granularity to see the hills. Also, previously the maps had the elevation increase/decrease in feet noted. Can this be added back?

  • Frank steinocher July 8, 2019, 8:05 pm

    Race maps and evaluation are all i need to know when i run a race – i then can plan my own race. The google map feature is about the number of times you make a call to its API – i cant see that being cost prohibitive.

  • Elizabeth June 4, 2019, 1:19 pm

    The maps are one of the first things I look at. As an older runner I like to make sure the terrain and elevation are not too difficult.

  • Kevin May 23, 2019, 8:27 pm

    Everyone wants a course map to see the elevation profile, but a link to the originating site covers you. That also saves your site and the originating site from the headache of reflecting the course map changes that sometimes result from weather and other factors.

  • Amar May 22, 2019, 11:24 am

    Love the elevation details and course description that’s provided. Course map can be fetched from the race/event website.

  • Joanne May 21, 2019, 9:41 am

    I love your website and your course maps! This is the one website that I can always depend on to provide elevation data. My sister and I are running the 50 states and we really appreciate what you provide for runners.

  • Bethany May 20, 2019, 7:04 pm

    I enjoy the maps but think the elevation and race site likes are more than sufficient. I love this site and use it all the time to find new races in other states!

  • Kristin May 16, 2019, 5:11 pm

    I really come here just for the race schedule. I love that I can look up races in different ways. I don’t look at the race course maps.
    Hope this helps.

  • Chris Zaremby May 10, 2019, 11:25 pm

    I absolutely love that you include the maps. I’m not a fan of courses that are out and back along the same path, so flipping through potential races quickly by clicking on the map is great for me. Also, not all smaller races include a good map on their own site. Overall, your site is a great resource for our trip planning. I would be very disappointed if the map feature went away. Keep up the great work!

  • Michael Lefkowitz May 10, 2019, 4:26 pm

    The maps are crucial to choosing a race. There are many races that I have passed on completely due to lack of adequate map information. A good route map on the race website would allow one to map it oneself on another site to gain the elevation information. But some race web sites don’t even do that. Your maps fill a gaping hole left in some races web sites. A good map, like you provide, even beats knowing what the finishers medal will be.

  • Joe May 6, 2019, 8:26 pm

    Yes, I use your maps quite often and frequently find them to be better than the map the race’s web-site provides, especially when they lack elevation profiles. Your web-site is very helpful to me overall, and I appreciate your efforts.

  • Andrew May 3, 2019, 10:42 pm

    These maps and past race results and weather are the most important things! I race competitively locally so the first thing I look at is I guess whether the race is competitive/trail or not based on the race name and then after that at is whether the course profile/surface is what I’m looking for and I even look at how many turns there will be and whether there will probably be wind or not. I many times don’t even read the description of the race. Then after that I check last year’s race result and see if it’s a competitive race or not. Then I’ll look at the website for the race. For people racing out of state then it’s very useful to have the weather info.

    There has got to be some way to keep the course info without being charged, maybe using mapquest or some other website. And while I’m at it let me make a recommendation to improve the format of the website. On the main page such as:
    it would be awesome if on the right hand side we could see a summary of the course profile and weather. So, e.g.:

    Elevation: +2570.5 ft / -2569.8 ft / net: 0.7 ft , Avg Temp: 41°F(low)-57°F(high), Avg Monthly Rainfall: 5.2in

  • Ellen April 27, 2019, 9:02 pm

    Maps are important but can be accessed via the race’s site and I don’t think it’s worth the added expense.

  • Brian April 27, 2019, 3:09 pm

    I come here for the elevation maps. Is there no way you can use them from say google earth? Google “found” you and then will now be charging? There’s got to be a way to get the info and legally share it but in a different form. Strava or mapmyrun or something. Could have volunteer runners offer data their devices collect.

  • Aimee April 27, 2019, 11:53 am

    Yes these maps are crucial. I love having them available. Please keep them! Thank you for all you provide to fellow runners.

  • TC April 26, 2019, 4:54 pm

    While many races have course maps, I do like the elevation charts for an idea of what the course will be like and how it compares to other places I’ve run. It’s a nice tool for that information.
    (On the topic of elevation maps, however, I do have an accuracy question in regard to rivers/creeks and bridges and where the elevation reading comes from. It seems like the elevation charts will show those areas as “valleys” when in fact the bridge over the body of water will either be flat or an incline and then descent.)
    I often travel regionally for races and drive the course where possible to get an idea, but I do like the chart to note how a hill in one race compares to a hill in another.

  • Carol Reynes April 22, 2019, 2:40 pm

    The maps are absolutely critical in making decisions about what races to run!

  • Neil April 21, 2019, 1:47 pm

    The maps and corresponding elevation charts are the primary tools I use on your site once I’ve identified a potential race. If I’m looking for a flat course through a residential area, I can immediately see that. If I’m looking for a gradual downhill through a valley, I can see that. If I’m looking for a run that takes me through the heart of a city, I can see that. I even use it to plan my music to correspond to different sections of the race based on elevation. YES, sometimes I can get this from the race site itself but I can quickly do this from your site without ever leaving. It allows me to filter my race list more easily seeing the maps, areas, elevations, etc.

  • Julie April 20, 2019, 4:01 pm

    The maps are probably the most important thing to me on this site in deciding which race to run (I’m trying to run one in all fifty states). For smaller races, course maps are often not available on the race website.

  • Caroline Harrison April 14, 2019, 8:48 pm

    The race course maps are the first thing I look at because I’m older and need to know if I can run it or not. Thanks for asking.

  • Dawn Barcus April 14, 2019, 8:20 am

    Maps are important and usually can be accessed at the race website. I use your site to find races, and find out about races from runners and then go to the race website to make a final decision.Maps are great and not worth the added cost and work

  • Scott Dean April 12, 2019, 9:25 pm

    I LOVE the maps. I’m a recreational runner, but have a goal of doing a half in each of the 50 states.

    The maps are wonderful for comparing different races in the same city. They’re also an incredible help when going to a place I’m not familiar with. For instance, I ran in Manchester, NH two weeks ago and the start/finish line was literally outside the front door of my hotel.

    It might not be popular, bit I’d be willing to pay a couple dollars a month for a “map membership” or would donate (wikipedia style) to help keep this incredible resource available.

    Scott Dean
    Birmingham, Ala.

  • J.R. April 11, 2019, 9:12 pm

    Just wanted to chime in and concur with everything said here. I run at least one race a month, I use your site often, and I love the maps for a number of reasons: to check out the potential for nice scenery, to check out the terrain, and also to see if the course is a loop, a one-way trek, or an out-and-back. When picking a race to run (particularly an out-of-town race), the maps are often the deciding factor. That said, I also agree that a link to a course map on the host race’s website would be just about as helpful.

  • Julie Jones April 11, 2019, 10:46 am

    SO important to me! I review these over and over!

  • Darci Birkenbeul April 10, 2019, 11:46 am

    That’s how I choose a race. The elevations.

  • Kai April 8, 2019, 1:32 am

    I LOVE the information provided by this website, including the race course map. It’s very important for me to decide which race to run. I always check the map and the elevation changes before I decide with race to run. I run probably close to 20 races a year, mostly by using your website to find the right race. It would be huge loss if you can no longer provide the map because of the new google policy.

    I am not sure about the pricing, but if it’s based on the number of uses.
    Maybe for races that already have the information readily available on their race website, then you can skip providing the map to save some money and just direct folks to their race website course page. For ultra small races, maybe we will just have a hard choice to make to skip providing maps in order to limit costs. Just a thought.

    Keep up the good work and I thoroughly enjoy your website!!!

    • Terrell Johnson April 8, 2019, 9:22 am

      Thank you so much, Kai!

      When you’re looking at the maps & elevation charts, what about a race makes you want to run it? (E.g., are you looking for flatter races where you can run faster times, or hillier races b/c you want more of a challenge, etc.?)


  • Ann Savonen April 6, 2019, 8:35 pm

    The maps are one of the first things I look at, because I want to see what the race will take me by as far as scenery, and even more than that, I want to see the elevation changes. I make my decision about entering a race largely on that.

  • Jamie April 6, 2019, 4:40 am

    I don’t use the maps as much as I do the elevation charts. Not many races seem to post elevation charts so it’s very helpful to have that here.

  • Rene April 5, 2019, 7:32 pm

    I find the maps very helpful as race websites do not always have good course and especially elevation info. That said, my main use of the site is for race dates and locations. I would certainly understand not absorbing that cost. Either way, thanks for all you do!

  • April April 5, 2019, 12:52 pm

    I use this site primarily for race dates and locations. The map is definitely a convenient feature, but I have found that it isn’t always updated/accurate or available for certain races that I am checking into anyway so I just go to the sponsors website and I can usually find that information. For me personally, not having the map feature would not stop be from frequenting your site on a regular basis. I would just know that I would have to visit the sponsors page for the route. On a side note, almost all races usually have a Facebook page as well, so I have messaged the organizer through Facebook to get the course map/route.

    • Terrell Johnson April 5, 2019, 2:35 pm

      Thank you, April! That’s really helpful feedback. I’m thinking that I won’t be adding any new course maps to race pages as new races come in, but the older course maps (as I understand) are being converted to a map provider other than Google, which should solve the immediate problem. As for the problem you mention, that’s a longer-term one for us — keeping them all updated is definitely a challenge, and sometimes we miss things. Your suggestions are good ones. Thanks again!


      • SD April 5, 2019, 6:20 pm

        The people telling you “Oh, I just go to the race website” can’t be looking at enough of them. Probably half the race websites that are directly linked here either 1) Don’t have course maps at all 2) Have a map several years out of date 3) Have no elevation map 4) Have no mile markers on the map, or 5) Are too small/blurry to be useful. That’s aside from the fact that the race websites WITH useful maps are all in different formats, making it harder to gauge against each other. The huge benefit to having them all here is you use the same format and same graphics for each one, so cross comparisons are easier to judge. You’ll be making a big mistake if you punt on this feature.

        • Terrell Johnson April 6, 2019, 10:44 am

          That is really good to know, SD, and I’m glad you shared it. You’re exactly right about the quality of course maps — they’re *very* inconsistent from site to site, and often are copies of copies, which makes them blurry, fuzzy and not very useful. My guess is that most race directors are focused on a million different things in preparing for their race, and providing easy-to-access (and easy-to-read) course maps just doesn’t rank as high as it should on the priority list. Add to that the fact that every race website is different, so you have to figure out where to find it on each site. That’s why we’ve made every page the same here, so you don’t have to learn a new behavior to find the info you’re looking for when you come back to us in a day, a week, a month or 6 months from now. Great feedback.

          • Scott Dean April 12, 2019, 9:33 pm

            I like what SD said here. The format of every map being the same is a tremendous help. And the elevation map is crucial.

            This site is the mecca. If you didn’t provide the service, it would be detrimental to half runners all over. I hope you are able to find a way to work it out where it works for you financially, but also still as available as possible to us runners. Fingers crossed!!

  • Maggie Allred April 3, 2019, 7:46 pm

    I use this site to research races and dates, then go directly to the sponsor’s website. They usually have race maps there.

  • Rahbin Shyne April 3, 2019, 1:19 pm

    My primary use of your site is to discover new races and plan out my race calendar over upcoming year. Closely behind this are the maps and, especially, the elevation profiles.

  • Rahbin Shyne April 3, 2019, 1:07 pm

    My primary use of your site is to discover new races and plan out my race calendar over upcoming year. Closely behind this is the maps and, especially, the elevation profiles.

  • Brooks Williams April 3, 2019, 10:12 am

    Love the course maps! But I also understand race sites also have them available. An alternative to Google Maps is They recently migrated away from Google, and I use the site on a regular basis for personal runs.

    PS – love this website!

  • Angie April 3, 2019, 8:59 am

    The maps are convenient but I use the race calendar, race overview/review and link to the official race website for more detailed information

  • Richard April 2, 2019, 10:57 pm

    The course maps are very important to me. I wonder if we would all be okay with a premium version of your website where for a small subscription rate, we would get these things. I loved that your site was free and that helped me become addicted to it Now I would gladly pay a small fee to keep it and all the things I love..

  • Korey McCants April 2, 2019, 9:48 pm

    I LOVE this site and I’m so grateful for all of the info. As someone who does half marathons very often (I’ve already done 8 in 2019), you are my number 1 resource. If the map portion is going to get tricky, here are some potentials that might yield the same results:
    1. Link with Strava and/or your fan base have people send course info (elevation/map/route screenshots) for each half.

    2. Where that is not possible, simply put an explicit link that sends viewers directly to the course map posted on the race site.

    Hope that’s helpful!

  • Gina Holmes April 2, 2019, 4:07 pm

    I use these maps to see where I can view the race and see where to view the race. I’m still trying to find where the race begins in relationship to my hotel.

  • Erin Rock April 2, 2019, 2:01 pm

    The to reasons I visit this site are 1) race calendar and 2) course map (especially elevation profile.) I love this website, and it is how I always plan my racing season!

  • Jennifer April 2, 2019, 1:58 pm

    The maps are convenient, but I am more interested in a link to the race web page. If that is provided, the course map can be viewed on that page. Save your money and time with the upkeep.

  • SD April 2, 2019, 1:29 pm

    The course maps and daily weather averages are absolutely the single most-important piece of information I get on here! In fact, I typically don’t run races that directly link to outside websites without that info. Please don’t ever eliminate the maps and weather feature!!!

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