Why you should embrace age-graded times

Why you should embrace age-graded times

When I turned 40 I started noticing something new on some of my race results: age-graded percents. Interesting. I further investigated and learned that this number represented a percentage of the world-best time for the distance for a specific age and gender. I further learned that using an age-grade calculator (like this one), we can also calculate our own age-graded time for any given race.

Age-graded times can help level the playing field when trying to compare ourselves to other athletes of varying ages and genders. Mostly though, I think these stats are just a better way for us to compete against ourselves as we age. While late into my 40s I was still setting actual personal records, I didn’t pay much attention to the handicaps I was being given. Now at 54, I’ve added a column for age-graded time to the Excel Spreadsheet on which I keep my race results. 

Let’s look at some examples. My personal record set in the 10k (in 1998!), was 46:52. I was 33. The age-graded score was 65%. In 2015 when I was making a real concerted effort to chase it down, the closest I managed to come was 48:47. But now I was 50 and the age-graded score was 70% with an age-graded time of 43:10. So it can be argued that I was essentially fitter at 50, then 33.

I wrote in my wrap-up about the Chicago Marathon two weeks ago that my time for this marathon made it my fastest “age-graded” marathon (3:33:40 vs. 3:34:26 for my actual marathon PR set in New Jersey at age 48). That’s not to say I don’t think I still have an actual marathon personal record in me. I’m still shooting for that, but at some point I am resolved to the fact that I will be slowing down. Keeping track of age-graded times in addition to real times will help keep things interesting.

I have never been a runner that was going to win a race. Although I have managed to pick-up age group awards. Competition is a lot more fun when you don’t care about the men or the twenty-somethings passing you. And it feels damn good when I know placed well among women 50-54. I’m on the high-end of the age group at the moment, so I am looking forward to turning 55 this spring and being a “youngster” again. 

Which brings me to Boston. Well not exactly, to Boston, but perhaps why Boston still eludes me. When I ran the New Jersey Marathon is 2014, I surprised myself by not only finishing in under 4 hours (my stretch goal), but realized I had come within 2 minutes and 51 seconds of a Boston qualifying time. I was 48. Age-graded, that time was 3:34:26 as I stated above. I needed a time (then*) of 3:55:00 (which age-graded for a 48 year old was 3:31:52. 

Now, I am attempting to qualify for Boston 2021 in the women’s 55-59 age group and need a time better than 4:05:00. Age-graded, that translates to 3:22:01 for a 55 year old. And it only gets worse. The qualifying time for women 60-64 is 4:20:00 or an age-graded time of 3:20:06 for a 60 year old. Compare that to the qualifying standard of 3:30:00 for women 18-34. The lesson about age-graded scoring here is that it actually gets more difficult to qualify for Boston, not easier, as the actual qualifying times would have you believe. If you’re still young, work on qualifying now.

If you’re over 40, embrace age-graded times. It’s a great way to stay motivated, competitive and confident, especially when your age-graded times in your 50s or 60s are just blowing away what you were doing in your 20s or 30s.  And keep running no matter what!

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Back at it. Deerpath Park. Vernon Hills, Illinois. October 2019.

*The Boston Athletic Association Changed the Qualifying Standards for the 2020 Boston Marathon.

“After the Marathon” signals the end of summer

“After the Marathon” signals the end of summer

“After the marathon” became our plan for almost everything at an increasing degree over the last several weeks. We really need to stop eating out so much…after the marathon. We need to clean the house…after the marathon. I need to get back to my job search…after the marathon.

So it’s now, “after the marathon” and we’re still struggling to switch our focus to the other important things in our lives. For week one post-marathon it’s still about the marathon…recovery. That’s perfectly acceptable, but there’s no more denying that summer is over.

Monday was a holiday. I think that’s one of the things I love about the timing of the Chicago Marathon. While Memorial Day (3 weeks before the real start of summer) is an unofficial kick-off to the season, Columbus Day (3 weeks after the real end to summer) is a nice conclusion.

To be clear, I am not a fan at all of “Columbus Day” and recognize all issues in celebrating Christopher Columbus in this way, but I AM a big fan of having a holiday the 2nd Monday in October. It’s great timing for a long weekend and final hurrah down the shore, by the lake, or wherever one spends the long, warm days of summer.

If you’ve ever spent the second weekend of October at the beach, you know that’s when everything starts closing up for the winter, not Labor Day. For adults anyway, there’s still some warm days to enjoy a more quite vacation time after the kids have returned to school. I tend to hold onto summer for as long as I can.

For those of us who trained all summer, the Chicago Marathon was a celebration of all that we accomplished to get to the starting line. Monday we showed off our medals and began our recovery. Kurt and I got out for a walk Tuesday at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and last night we put in a few easy run/walk miles with our crew in Logan Square, while I began to think about the training plan for the Surf City Marathon in February.

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Slowing down to enjoy the fall foliage. Chicago Botanic Gardens. Glencoe, Illinois. October 2019.

“After the marathon” means getting serious about life goals again and letting go of care-free summer days, switching out all the summer gear for winter gear. Getting caught up on laundry and housekeeping, preparing more meals at home, and for me, finding a full-time job so I can continue to pay college tuition and race entry fees, and find fulfillment beyond running.

Until that happens, I’m going to enjoy this “after the marathon” peace, the beautiful fall foliage, and use the self-esteem boost to carry me to my next achievement…in running and life.

2019 in Chicago running. The Shamrock Shuffle to Chicago Marathon. Photo credits: Micaela Bernal and Mike Calabro.
Medal Monday: Gratitude for the 2019 Chicago Marathon experience

Medal Monday: Gratitude for the 2019 Chicago Marathon experience

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Well-earned. 2019 Chicago Marathon Finisher’s Medal.

Yesterday, a memory from 2015 popped into my Facebook feed: my reflection on that year’s Chicago Marathon. There were some parallels…

Then I reported that I had completed 5 marathons. 2 faster and 2 slower.  Now I’ve run 9 marathons, 4 faster and 4 slower.  My last Chicago was my first since turning 50. This was my 5th. Using age-graded calculations (like this one from Runner’s World), this could be considered my fastest (3:33:40 vs. 3:34:26 for my actual marathon PR set in New Jersey at age 48). This proves that qualifying for Boston actually gets harder as we age, not easier, as so many younger runners seem to believe. But that’s an analysis I’ll save for another day.

In the 2015 post, I also reported on the results of my fundraising effort.  This year I mobilized 36 people to raised $2,004 for Gilda’s Club Chicago. A huge thank you to everyone who gave and/or shared the link!!!

Four years ago, from back in New Jersey I declared “I love Chicago! Can guarantee it won’t take me so long to get back there (although maybe not to run another marathon).” You all know how that turned out! 

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With friends from my New Jersey Club De Novo Harriers in for the Marathon at the 3Run2 Post-Marathon Dance Party. Logan Square, Chicago, Illinois. October 2019.

I also said, “I’m very happy to have shared this experience with friends, from those that shared the training miles, were running other major races this past weekend to those at dinner Saturday night, on the course with me, those I saw along the course cheering and yelling my name, and all of you in FB land that wished me well! Thank you!” The same holds true today x10. Read my other blogs from the past two weeks for more on that (What a difference a year makes and Three reasons this year’s Chicago Marathon is extra special). I don’t think I have ever been more supported on a marathon course, had more people tracking me, had such a celebratory marathon weekend overall, or had such a fun training cycle!

The major difference this year and my last Chicago Marathon is that I didn’t fall short of my goal. I didn’t really have a time goal per se once I was realistic about my readiness to BQ. I was thinking that maybe I could manage a 4:09 finish. I probably started out a little too fast, but kept my heart rate in check all of the way (except a huge spike close to my max as I passed through the 3Run2 Cheer Zone at mile 20). I did manage to reach my goals of running strong throughout and never hitting ‘the wall.” I finished in 4:15:44. 

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Passing through the 3Run2 Cheer Zone at Mile 20. Chicago, Illinois. October 2019. Photo Credit: Micaela Bernal

 

Today I feel really good. I’m tempted to start planning for the next one, but for now I’m going to focus on gratitude. I am grateful for all of the people that supported me this past weekend and in the past weeks and months. I am especially grateful that I am simply able do this. I am grateful to be part of a sport where a women can beat the World Record and 54 year old empty-nesting mom like me can run the same course and cross the same finish line a mere 2 hours and 40 seconds later.  

I also feel pretty fortunate that I can share everything about this wonderful sport with someone I love so much. Thank you, Kurt, for being a big part of all of this!

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The Gratitude Wall at the Chicago Endurance Sports Race Day Resort (perk of being a Charity Runner). Roosevelt University. Chicago, Illinois. October 2019.

 

Three reasons this year’s Chicago Marathon is extra special

Three reasons this year’s Chicago Marathon is extra special

The Chicago Marathon is now three days away. Three days! Although it will be my ninth marathon, there is just something so special about this one in particular.

There is of course something unique and special about every marathon experience, and like all marathoners, I have great stories to tell about all of them. What has made this marathon special though has already happened and will remain unchanged regardless of what happens on Sunday. Read more

How to tame the taper and not obsess about your predicted marathon time

How to tame the taper and not obsess about your predicted marathon time

With so many things I should be doing today (pursuing job leads, paying bills, going through a pile of mail I picked up at my daughter’s apartment last week, networking, folding laundry…), I’ve instead spend my morning obsessing about my predicted marathon time. Read more