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An Introduction to Age Grading

The concept of age grading for distance running and track & field events has been around for decades, but it’s still something of a mystery to many. No doubt age grading primarily benefits old folks, like me, who are really slowing down. But in truth, age grading is a useful and motivational tool for all runners. Here’s a very brief overview.

The age grading system provides an athlete with two types of information. The first is a “corrected” performance mark that adjusts an athlete’s effort to what would he or she might have expected to achieve during “prime” years (i.e., mid/late 20s). Age grading also provides an athlete with a percentage value for a performance as measured against the current world best for the athlete’s age and sex. 

For those of us who are in the masters ranks or beyond, an age-graded time is useful for illustrating how our current running stacks up with performances of years and decades ago.  As an example, I ran my 10K personal best of 33:52 (in a collegiate track meet) on May 14, 1982. Forty years to the day later, I ran a 42:39 at this year’s Marigold 10K. Calculating that this time age grades to a 34:04 provides a bit of consolation for slowing down by nine minutes!

Age-graded percentages also provide a fun way of comparing runners across the entire age spectrum. At the recent Milledge Mile, Athens Racing Team members Melissa Landers-Potts and Michael Marshall recorded the best scores among all 64 ARR members who ran. Melissa’s finish time of 5:52.8 at age 54 gave her a national-caliber age-graded percentage of 83.90, while Michael, 51, crossed the line in 5:06.3 and scored an 84.75. Impressively, Melissa’s time converts to an open mark of 5:01.6 and Michael’s to a 4:27.8. Check Milledge Mile results at and look at the “Age Percentage” column for your age-graded percentage.

Several age-graded calculators are out there, although they don’t provide absolutely consistent results. The most reliable is probably the regularly updated version put out by World Masters Athletics and utilized by USA Track & Field.

USATF MLDR Road age-grading calculator

Regardless of one’s age and/or how long it’s been since the last personal best, achieving a higher age-graded percentage is always possible! That’s reason enough to get on the age grading bandwagon.