Age Grade Holy Grail

I’ve occasionally suggested that if I had to have a religion I’d be most likely to choose numerology*; I find the statistics relating to almost any subject interesting and strangely attractive. I particularly enjoy the way that values which are intrinsically arbitrary acquire quasi-mythical status as ‘significant barriers’. Was the first sub four minute mile really any more remarkable than the first under 4:01? Or 3:59? Is there any compelling reason for the Queen to commemorate the 100th birthday of one of her nominal subjects as opposed to their 99th or 110th? Did Usain Bolt feel underwhelmed when becoming the first human to run 100m in under 9.8, and then 9.7, seconds relative to Jim Hines’ elation at breaking the 10 second barrier?

A friend recently mentioned that for some golfers the Holy Grail is to score their age in a round. Though I would think its application is limited to those of around age 70 and older I like the way that works; as the player ages so they are allowed one additional shot per round, whilst at the same time their strength and driving range decreases so maintaining the difficulty. For runners Age Grading (AG) has no such limitations. After completing my second 800m in 2:25.9, an AG of 78.32% as a 48 year old last year, I first considered the possibility that I might be able to run an 80% AG.

Having just celebrated my 49th AG day, I have used the Running for Fitness calculator to calculate 80% AG times for all my event distances for a male at age 49. In absolute terms an 80% AG time is now just a little closer than it was before my birthday and I’m hoping that since I’m still an improving runner (all my PBs were set in the last 11 months) the Holy Grail of an 80% AG performance** is now within reach.

event 80% AG time (MALE, 49 yrs) current PB improvement required pace improvement required per km
800m 2:24 2:26 0:02 3s 3:03 – 3:00
1500m 4:52 5:18 0:26 18s 3:32 – 3:14
1 mile 5:16 5:32 0:16 10s 3:26 – 3:16
5k 18:18 18:55 0:37 7s 3:47 – 3:40
5 mile 30:15 31:36 1:21 10s 3:56 – 3:46
10k 38:04 39:33 1:29 9s 3:57 – 3:48
10 mile 62:29 66:41 4:12 16s 4:09 – 3:53
half marathon 82:59 88:16 5:17 15s 4:11 – 3:56

I can’t help but wonder in how many disciplines I could reach the Holy Grail? I’m confident that 800m is achievable given how close I’ve come already with no specific preparation. Despite currently being 18 seconds per kilometre off pace over 1500m I think that both it and the mile are achievable too. My current 1500m PB is something of an anomaly since of the three times I’ve raced the distance two were within 15 minutes of an 800m race and the third I was the lone entrant. It did feel good to finish first for a change.

Beyond that it’s going to get hard. Very hard. My targets for this year include times for 5k and 5 miles that slightly exceed an 80% AG; I was definitely in an optimistic frame of mind when I wrote those! I do think 5 miles is the upper distance limit though …

* My personal sect – established circa 2004, number of known adherents 1 (though I think it is highly likely the Queen is also a believer) – celebrates numbers for their innate appeal; there is no supernatural element.

** You might like to read the successor to this post where I reconsider this goal one year on.

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