An Alternative to Age Grading

Photo courtesy John MacMillan

There are and have been some incredible Masters athletes through the years, who have won World Championships and set World records running, jumping, and throwing that often boggle the mind of  “mere mortals”.

It is these athletes who form the backbone of the statistical curve that serves as the Age-Grading system we know and use today. Or do we “really” know  how AG is derived?

What the percentage actually does is measure the fraction of your race time that is equivalent to the predicted all-time best for your age group and gender

Age grading for Masters runners goes back to the late 1980s.

     “In 1989 the National Masters News and the World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA) compiled a booklet, Masters Age-Graded Tables, of tables for grading athletic performances based on sex and age. These tables covered all standard track and field events plus standard long distance running events and race-walking events. They only covered ages 30 and above. These tables were compiled by a committee composed of Rodney Charnock, Peter Mundle, Charles Phillips, Gary Miller, Bob Fine, Rex Harvey, Phil Mulkey, Bob Stone, Mike Tymn, Christel Miller, Phil Raschker, and Al Sheahen.”

 (Alan Jones www.runscore.com/Alan/AgeGrade.html)

Since that time there have been a few updates, revisions, and improvements. The basics remain the same, however. World records by individual age-year are plotted, then a best fit curve is calculated with the object of determining the theoretical best performance for that event and that age.

However, there are some fundamental problems with this methodology when trying to apply it to everyday Master’s performances. Sampling-wise, we are using a very unique set of competition performances, and then using those data to reflect on all competition performances i.e. the absolute best performance in an event (ever) against “everyman’s” performances(s).

Note that these “best ever” performances are often performed by different individuals at very different points in time. Next