FAQ: Age grading
Age grading is a way to adjust an athlete's performance according to age and gender. The age-grading tables were developed by the World Association of Veteran Athletes, the world governing body for track and field, long distance running and race walking for veteran athletes. The tables were first published in 1989.
The tables work by recording the world record performance for each age at each distance, for men and women. Where necessary, the world record performances are estimated.
For example, the world record for a 53 year old woman running a 10km is 35:01. So if a 53 year old woman finishes a 10km in 45:18, she has an age-graded performance of 77.3% (which is 35:01 divided by 45:18). The wide availability of age-grading tables has allowed older runners to compete on even terms with younger generations. In many running clubs today, the age-graded champion earns as much, if not more, recognition as the outright (non-age adjusted) winner of the event.
Age grading can be used to compare performances across different ages and sexes; track your own performance over time; identify your best events; set goals for current and future years; and identify your best ever performance.
You can also use age-grading to predict your race performance. Essentially, this equivalent to assuming that as the distance increases, your average speed will go down, in proportion to the speed of world records at those distances. This seems a surprisingly accurate assumption for many runners, provided they train for the distances concerned.