How well are you doing?
Many runners enjoy the numbers associated with running.
Distances, times, splits, pace per mile or lap, finish place in age group or overall, etc.
Age-grading has added a whole new level of fun to running and racing analysis, especially for runners forty and over.
And now, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever.
Age-graded tables have been set up by the World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA) based on age factors and standards.
These charts, which can be accessed online at http://www.howardgrubb.co.uk/athletics/wavalookup.html are extremely easy to use, requiring only a few entries (distance, age, sex and time) to come up with a very interesting percentage.
To simplify, each age for each sex has a world record, which is set at 100 percent. Then you divide the time you ran into that number, resulting in a percentage figure.
For example, the world record for a 54-year-old man is (roughly) 15:00 for 5K. If a 54-year-old man ran a 20:00 5K, then he hit the 75 percent mark (15 divided by 20). If he ran 19:00, then he was at the 79 percent level.
And there are achievement levels set up by WAVA.
Over 60 percent qualifies as “Local Class.” Over 70 percent is “Regional Class.” Over 80 percent is “National Class” and over 90 percent is “World Class.”
Because these charts take into account age and sex and distance, users can compare their performance to anyone else’s at any distance to determine who ran the “better” race.
Plus, you can compare your efforts for different distances to understand which performances and/or distances were your best. (This does NOT take into account weather or difficulty of courses, like hills.)
You no longer have to wonder what is your best event. The numbers will tell you.
You can actually, as you get older, run slower, BUT yet run a better age-graded race!
For example, my fastest 5K in the last two years was at Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving 2002, when I ran 19:10. I was 46.5 at the time (do use fractions as they help score a higher age-grade), and had an age-graded 73.8 percent race.
Two weekends ago, at the Davis Stampede, I ran 19:22 for 5K at 48, resulting in a 74.3 percent age-graded performance, meaning although I ran slower, I ran a better race considering I was more than two years older.
So instead of feeling like I was getting slower, I can actually take heart that I am improving (or slowing down less than the world record was “slowing down”).
Another good example of the fun of age-grading, which has been used by some race directors in their race results, such as Rich Hanna, is to see how you stack up when the “playing field” is evened out by age-grading.
On Memorial Day in 2002, Nevada City’s Al Shook and I ran the Run For Unity 5K at William Land Park in Sacramento. At the time, I was 46 and Al was 62.5 (roughly).
I ran 18:51 and finished 15th in the men’s race while Al ran 21:35 and was 32nd.
BUT, this is where it gets FUN!
Rich Hanna ALSO had the age-graded race results calculated and I moved up to 9th at 74.7 percent and Al moved up to 8th at 74.8 percent!
To this day, I happily admit to Al that he ran the better race that day!
And let’s face it, at 62 it’s tough to be competitive head to head with the teenagers and 20-somethings in their prime. But age-graded, everyone can be competitive, which makes it even more fun.
By the way, the best age-graded performance that day was by the amazing Mike Ammon, who at age 57 ran 18:15, good for 9th male and 84.4% age-graded: National Class!
The one (somewhat minor) drawback I’ve found to the charts is that there is no date involved, so you can somewhat compare your current performances to what you did 20 years ago, but the world records were slower back then, and that factor is not taken into account in the charts as they are based on current world records.
No worries if you don’t have access to the Web and still want to age-grade your efforts. You can order a booklet containing all you need from the National Masters News Order Dept., P.O. Box 50098, Eugene, OR, 97405 for a total of $8, which includes shipping and handling.
Or, if you want one even though you have Web access, go to: https://cypres.securesites.net/nationalmastersnews/pubs.html.
So what are you waiting for?
Start plugging in some numbers, see where you stand and have fun!
Steve Bond, who even age-graded is light years behind where he was a quarter of a century ago, very much enjoys the added dimension it allows runners who are getting older. Bond, a competitive runner who lives in Grass Valley, regularly writes a column for The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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