What is age grading?

Age grading is a means of adjusting an athlete's performance according to their age and gender. Age graded tables were originally developed by the World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA), the world governing body for track and field, long distance running and race walking for veteran athletes. Age graded tables were first published in 1989 and most recently in 2015.

The tables work by recording the world record performance for each available age and distance for both men and women, and each available world performance against its associated age and gender. Where records are unavailable for specific gender/age combinations, a smoothing process takes place to estimate what the world record would typically be. This results in an age-graded table that shows how much a typical person's athletic performance improves during youth and declines during aging.

Thus, age graded tables convert a person's performance, no matter what his/her age, to what it would have been in their prime years. It also provides each individual with a percentage value that enables them to judge their performance in any event without bias to age or sex. No matter how old an athlete gets, it becomes possible to measure their performance percentage in any one event against the benchmark standard for their age. As your performances decline with age, so do the world standards that the tables used to calculate your percentage, giving a true measure of your performance.

The standards correspond approximately to world-record marks for a person of that age and sex in that event.

Achievement Levels

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

How does Age Grading work?

You will almost certainly have seen age graded percentages included in race results, and wondered how these are calculated. This is best demonstrated by way of an example.

Assume the Half Marathon world record for a 53-year-old man was 65 minutes. This equates to 3900 seconds. Therefore the age graded performance of a 53-year-old man who has just run an 80-minute (or 4800 second) Half Marathon will be 3900 seconds divided by 4800 seconds multiplied by 100, or 81.25%.

It then becomes possible, having calculated an age graded performance percentage, to derive an age-graded time, representing the time in which the individual would have completed the Half Marathon had they been running in their prime years.

Using the above example, and assuming that the Half Marathon world record outright (irrespective of age) was 60 minutes (3600 seconds), then the age graded result of the 53 year old man who ran 80 minutes would be 3600 divided by 81.25 multiplied by 100, or 4431 seconds, which equates to 1:13:51.

What is the benefit to us of Age Grading?

There are two main benefits from age grading. Firstly, by adjusting an athlete's performance, no matter what his/her age, to what it would have been in their prime years, it allows an individual to compare back to previous performances. It allows an athlete to target seriously Personal Bests throughout their running career, despite advancing in years.

Secondly, converting an athlete's performance into an age-graded result enables a fair comparison between athletes of different ages and genders (as we are planning to do in the Age Graded Club Championship table). This should lead to some very interesting results and should act as additional motivation for club veterans.

Age Graded Comparisons

In comparing results across genders, it is important to understand that this should be undertaken using the Age Graded Performance Percentage, and not the adjusted Age Graded Times. This is because the purpose of age grading is to adjust an individual's time according to world best performances, and world best performances will obviously vary significantly between male and female runners.

For example, the current male 10k world record is 27:02, or 1622 seconds (set by Haile Gebrselassie on 11/12/02), whereas the current female record is 30:21, or 1821 seconds (set by Paula Radcliffe on 23/2/03). In age graded terms both of these times equate to a 100% performance.

Thus, a senior male club runner would need to run a 10k in a time of 31:48 to achieve an Age Graded Performance Percentage of 85%. (This can be expressed as 1622 secs / 85 * 100 = 1908 secs, or 31:48). However, a senior female club runner achieving a 10k time of 35:17, although slower than her male colleague, would actually achieve a better Age Graded Performance Percentage of 86%. (This can be expressed as 1821 secs / 86 * 100 = 2117 secs, or 35:17).

Therefore, in order to reflect a fair comparison between male and female club runners, positions within the Age Graded club championship tables will be derived using Age Graded Performance Percentages, rather than Age Graded Adjusted Times.