June 12, 2010

Age Grading Your Running

PBs lose meaning as you age because you slow down. Age Grading removes this age-factor and is a good substitute for PBs. I just added a page to my training site on Age Grading.

29 years ago, at age 46, I set a PB of 19:45 in a 5K. To reach that PB again, I'd have to cut off 11-12 minutes, an impossible achievement for a man my age. However, Age Grading tells me that to reach the same body-condition that I had 29 years ago, I would only have to cut off 4-5 minutes, a feasible achievement for me if I train hard and don't have any more health problems. The numbers for this speculation are given in my page on Age Grading.



  1. Nice post. Getting older doesn't always spell disaster for your running though. Apparently, when you are older you are better suited for marathons and long distance running.

  2. I read about a 96 year old man who runs marathons. He has the world record for his age group (probably not many in his group...).

  3. As someone who was recently disappointed to learn that she may not hit the qualifying time for a race, I found this information particularly interesting. I really dislike the discrimination by qualifying times.... slower runners have a right to run, too.

  4. Just found your blog and you are inspiring me to continue with running. I am in my late 30's and just started running/jogging 3 years ago. My furthest is 5 miles, thinking about doing a 10k and a 1/2 marathon within the next year.

  5. It's always nice to have something to shoot for when it comes to age grading. Another thing that is tough is if you ran competitively in high school or college. I will never approach the PR's that I set when I ran collegiately.

  6. My page on Age Grading gives my "prime" time for a 5K that I ran at age 46 and another 5K that I ran at age 71. "Prime" time is the time that a runner in his mid 20s would have run the 5K if he had the same body-condition that I had when I ran the two races.

    I'm 74 now. If I train hard such that in two years I'm able to run a 5K in 26:46, I will have the same "prime" time at age 76 that I had at age 46. This would require cutting 4 minutes off of my PB that I set at age 71.

    By using Age Grading, I'm no longer trying to reach a PB I set 28 years ago. Instead, I'm trying to reach the same "prime" time that I had 28 years ago. It's ridiculous to think that I might run 19:45 again, but it is feasible to think that I might run 26:46 in a couple of years.

  7. Dave, you may never approach the same PRs that you set in high school, but you can probably approach the same "prime" times that you had then. Put your numbers into the Age Grading calculator and see where you stand now in your "prime" time compared to your "prime" time in high school.

  8. May I ask how this age grading calculator works? I'm both somewhat confused, as well as quite curious.
    **I edited a typo, so I deleted it and then added it again.

  9. Vinny,

    The basic idea of Age Grading is to translate my performance at any age to my "prime" age that is in my mid or late 20s. By doing this, I can compare my prime at age 76 (in 2012) with my prime at age 46, for example. I don't remember the exact numbers (they are in my page in runninginjuryfree.org), but if I run a 5K at age 76 in 26+, I will have the same prime I had at age 46. This means that my body condition for a 76-year old would be the same, relative to my age, as it was when I was 46. This means that running a 5K at age 76 in 26+ minutes would be just as good a performance for my age of 76 that running a 5K at 19+ was at age 46.

    Of course, this assumes the conversion tables are accurate, and I don't know anything about them. They were created by a running organization, and I assume they are accurate.

    There is no way I could run a 5K in 19+ but with a lot of training, I could conceivably run a 5K in two years in 26+. I would have to cut 4+ minutes from my 5K time.

    PBs are good when you're comparing performance over a relatively short span of time. For comparisons over a longer span of time, we have no choice but to go to Age Grading. We naturally slow down as we get older, and Age Grading translates our performance at any age to that of our "prime" age, thus allowing comparisons to be made.

    So, if I want to set a new personal record, I want to train to equal or beat my prime in the future to my prime at age 74 (now) or age 46 (my best ever) or to some age in the future, what ever age I want as my basis for comparison.

    I haven't seen many web sites talk about Age Grading, but there are some races that do it. This is how I learned about it, from a runner who received a prime and grade for a 5K she ran, and she didn't know what those two metrics were. I didn't know either, so I let my friend, google, find out about it.