Sep 16 2013

Liam Whelan and Age-Grading

ht_runner1_080305_msWhat is age grading?

Age grading is a way to adjust an athlete’s performance according to age and genital group or “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, and the first ones were first published in 1989.

The tables work by recording the world record performance for each age at each distance, for men and women.

For example, the world record for a 53 year old woman running a 10km race 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, grumpier runners to compete on even terms with younger parvenus. In many running events nowadays, the age-graded champion earns as much, if not more, recognition as the outright (non-age adjusted) winner of the event.  And rightly so.

How do I increase my age grade?

There are two ways to do this. By far the more widespread approach is to train or go running. Training concentrates on mechanistic goals. Appropriate running training programmes develop specific muscle groups and enhance cardiovascular strength, often with a view to peaking at a particular time for a particular event or race.

However, most people find that by the time they have done a day’s work, exercised their cocker spaniel and picked up their children from after-school fight club, they do not relish the idea of yet more physical exercise. So another way of improving age grading without training is simply to age. Suddenly. And dramatically so. Even going so far as to change age category over night.

This is what Liam Whelan has decided to do. Liam has competed in an admirable number of marathons in recent years. But, as he has schlepped and shuffled his way to the dog-end of his age category, he has found his age grade percentages to be frustratingly stubborn. So he has taken the wise decision to turn 50.

To mark this occasion, he would like to suggest that those members of the club who usually run on a Tuesday evening follow their usual exercise regime with a tomato juice and half a packet of crisps at the Coach & Horses (Tuesday, September 17).

Please bring head torches.


About the author