A Four-Part Series:
Age Grading - Calculation Notes
Age Grading - Non-Standard Distances
Age Grading - Calculator
As a 67-year old woman, you just finished a 5K racewalk in 41:28. You are exhausted, but you are also very frustrated that most other racewalkers finished ahead of you. You pushed to your limit, yet hardly saw the 23-year old man who won the race in 28:04 - more than 13 minutes before you. It almost makes you want to give up racing.
But, wait a minute! Some people would argue you BEAT the winner. How?
Most people assume kids and older folks tend to be slower than those in their prime, and assume women tend to be slower than men of the same age. World record performances seem to support these assumptions. Therefore, some people argue your race time should not be compared to other racers purely on the basis of time, but rather by seeing who has done better in comparison to the very best in their own age/gender group.
The World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA) is the world governing body for masters level track and field, long-distance running and racewalking events. It has researched, compiled and published a series of age-grading tables that allow athletes to compare athletic performances in the same - or different - events without bias as to age or gender.
By those tables, our 67-year old woman's 65.11% performance beat the 27-year old man's 64.01% performance.
Age grading does not diminish the importance of finishing first. It simply provides another way to compare performances. Some groups put on age-graded races in which the highest performance percentages win. As an alternative, age grading can provide a complimentary
method for providing awards. For example, a race can offer three $100 awards: first male overall, first female overall, and best age-graded performance. The beauty of the age-graded award is that everyone has a chance to win it - AND the first-place male and female competitors have to continue to push hard right up to the finish line. They can not know if someone well behind them is about to take the age-graded $100 award away from them until ALL competitors are in.
These Web pages provide the calculation notes
that explain how to age grade performances, and provide a calculator
that can compute the age-graded values for you.
: A complete copy of the tables used to be available from National Masters News, a publication that covers masters athletics in the United States. During a visit to their Web site in mid April 2009, I could not find a reference to the publication in their current Web site, and will contact them to see if it is still available for purchase. Their Web site is at www.nationalmastersnews.com