What is Age Grading ?

By
David Siconolfi
CompuScore Computer Services

Runners have been getting their age-graded time on the post cards sent out by CompuScore for the last six years, but what exactly does it mean and how is it calculated? Before getting into age grading here’s some history on road running age groups. About twenty years ago when road racing popularity was just getting under way, awards for the older runners was instituted in the form of age group awards to recognize the performance of the older athletes. The age groups started with ten-year age divisions and recently five-year age divisions have become popular to make things much fairer for the older runners.

Over the last couple of years, the number of masters runners in the field has been increasing and now make up 50% of all runners. With this increase and the fact that men and women lose strength and slow down with age, a way was needed so all masters runners could be compared to each other in one category. By making all masters equal regardless of whether they are 40, 50, or 60 years old, awards can then be given to the athlete with the best performance. With an age grading system the 60 year old would have as even a chance at winning as the 40 year old. In 1989 the World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA) developed the first age-graded tables in one-year age increments and they have since been updated in 1994.

The tables are composed of world class standards as a function of both age and distance. That means that for every age starting at age 8 and going to age 100 there are standards for every long distance running event, for every common track & field event, and for racewalking. Using the data in the tables it is possible to determine your age graded time (as seen on the CompuScore post card) as well as the athlete’s performance-level percentage (PLP). Performance level percentages are used more in track and field because it allow comparisons between the track and the field events, it is also gaining popularity with the road racers. The classifications for PLP are:

100%= Approximate World Record Level
Over 90%= World Class
Over 80%= National Class
Over 70%= Regional Class
Over 60%= Local Class

Here’s an example of how the calculations are done for 3 masters men in a 10K Race.

 

Age 10K Time 10K Factor (from Table) Age Graded Time*
(10K Time x 10K Factor)
10K Standard PLP*
(10K Standard/10K Time)
43 39:48 0.9471 37:42 28:29 71.6%
52 41:37 0.8834 36:46 30:32 73.4%
64 46:21 0.7914 36:41 34:05 73.5%

*Before multiplying or dividing, change the time to seconds. (for example 39:48 = 2388 seconds)

In the above example, the 64 year old man had the best performance, even though he had the slowest finishing time. Some road races have begun using age-graded scoring for awarding masters purse money. The Run for the Roses 10K in 95 and the Healthy Heart 5K run in 1996 and 1997 are examples of two races in our area that are using age-graded scoring for awarding masters prize money. The National USATF Masters LDR Committee is in full support of age grading and is working hard to encourage its adoption throughout the country.