Club Handicap: Rules

There are four Club Handicaps each year, usually in December/January, April/May, June/July and September.  They take place on Tuesday evenings, except the December/January which is a Sunday morning.

Runners start, slowest first and fastest last, and if the runners perform to their “form” everyone should finish close together.

We have a huge collection of “form” in the Performance Database, which we use to calculate the Handicap start times for each runner.

Here is a summary of the rules to calculate the handicaps.  These examples refer a handicap run over a distance of 5 miles, but a similar method would be used for any distance, just using different factors.

  • In order to calculate each person’s handicap we take their most recent 10 races and parkruns, or all races and parkruns in the last 6 months if more than 10, but we do not go any further back than 6 handicaps ago
  • The times for those races are converted to 5 mile times. To do this we take the race time, divide it by the world record for that distance, and multiply it by the world record for 5 miles. So a 10k time is divided by 0:26:51 and multiplied by 0:21:20
  • We take the best of those factored times
  • Clearly the figure is going to be more reliable the more races someone has run.  For people who have 6 or more races we add 1%, and for 3 to 5 races we leave the number unchanged. For those who have only run 1 or 2 races we used to subtract a percentage but even then we found situations where the person had an unfair advantage so now we assume they have no performances in the system (see notes below).
  • We want to give the opportunity to as many people as possible to win the Handicap, so trophy winners in the past 4 years are penalised.  For the winner of the previous handicap we subtract 5%, for the one prior 4%, prior to that 3%, then decreasing gradually to 0.1% before being erased.
  • We then reduce this to the next lowest 15 seconds
  • Subtract it from 55 minutes, and that is your handicap start time!

Here is an example.

  • A runner has completed 10 races within the 18 month period, and their best time was a 10k in 0:39:47. This equates to 0:31:37 for 5 miles.
  • Add 1% because they’ve run more than 6 races but subtract 4% because they won the last-but-one handicap to get 0:30:39
  • Reduce to nearest 15 seconds to 0:30:30, subtract from 0:55:00 to get 0:24:30 start mark (i.e. they start 0:24:30 after the clock starts).

Ok, so what happens if someone doesn’t have any race performances in the system?  Well, we ask them a recent race time or just a race pace, and we have a ready reckoner which calculates with a small penalty.  So if their quoted performance was 52:54 for 10k, they’d get 15:15 start mark.

Note that runners with no performances are told that they can’t win the trophy, but providing they’ve given a reasonable estimate, the penalty is worth around two minutes and therefore if they run to form they’ll finish just below half way.

Also, runners who have a listed handicap but want to have a different start mark also aren’t allowed to win the trophy.