AN OBSERVATION ON AGE GRADING

by Max Jones

first published in January 1996 Valley Striders News

The first edition of the WAVA Age Graded Tables published in 1989 set out to show how performances in all track and field athletics, road running and road walking races could be compared not only up and down the contestants' ages but also across all the events This, if anyone wanted to do so, a men's marathon time could be set alongside a woman's time, both calculated directly as a proportion of the relevant equivalent-to-world-record "standard", but also with, say, a boy's discus throw and a girl's long jump. When Rex Harvey presented the new edition at the US Masters' Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon in 1994, he said he had 49 filing cabinets full of results!

It follows from all that that you can also compare your own performance in last year's  marathon with this year's Abbey Dash, and what you did 10, 20 or, in my case 'cos I'm so old, 52 years ago. I was never much of a high jumper but I've picked out my fastest times ever for the various distances and calculated the percentages, as follows:

Distance       1mile  5000m  10km   10M    H/mar  Mar     100km
Time           5:04.2 15:40  40:10  63:32  82:54  2:57:06 8:35**
Age            16     21     66     57     55     59      68
Age-Graded %   84.40* 89.17* 86.67  82.68  82.85  84.69   83.83

* adjusted according to the World Records at the time i.e. 4:01.2 and 13:58.2

** adjusted from 50mile time of 6:51:22 (no AG table for 50 miles)

In other words, when I've been fit and raced well, I've always been around 85 + or - 2% of the AG "standard". Only once did I run out of my socks for an 85+4% and that was a week after I ran 4th in the first National Junior Cross Country Championships in Graves Park, Sheffield : I didn't realise until nearly 50 years later how fit I was then!

When John Keston turned 70 in December 1994 and started WR-hunting, I used this knowledge to suggest what he might be able to achieve after he had run 3:01:35 in London for a 92.6% AG score (but corrected to 92.9 'cos he got pushed to the ground at the 14-mile drinks station : he'd run an 8k in Oregon the previous month in 29:13, which calculates to 98.69%, but we wrote that off as a short course by around 500 metres!). I reckoned that 92.9% would be good for a 5:36.36 mile : in July he broke the M70 mile world record in 5:34.03. His next go was at the 10:54 WR for 3000m; his 5:34 mile had calculated to 93.55% AG which in turn suggested he could just squeeze under 11 minutes for 3000 : he ran 10:51.00 for a 94.81% AG. It was getting exciting, with the US Masters marathon championship coming up in the Twin Cities Marathon in October : 94.81% for a near 71 year old would be 2:59:17 for not only the M70 WR but also the first M70 ever under 3 hrs (the last time John went sub-3 he ran 2:58:33 but he was only 69 then!). Alas! 3 weeks before the TCM, John got a stress fracture in his foot and he hasn't raced since, though he is hoping to be fit for London in April. Watch this space!

Nearer home, another Valley Strider ran the Abbey Dash in 35:07, but, because he'd just turned 59 a fortnight before, that works out at 92.41% AG. Just another year on and 92.41 translates to a M60 marathon in 2:43:47 : the current UK record is 2:46:26. But you're not keen on running marathons any more, are you Ron?


Previous item on Age-grading
The 1994 Age Graded Tables