When I started running, I did so to get fit and lose weight. As a natural evolution of that and having participated in one timed run (the Cancer Research 10K), I wanted to improve my performance the next time I ran a timed 10K race (this time the Eastleigh 10K in 2010).
Having trained for a few more months, my fitness levels should have increased and therefore I should have performed better. As it turned out, I did. However, part of that improvement may have been down to the different course (the CR10K was pretty ‘undulating’ compared to the almost pancake-flat Eastleigh course).
At Eastleigh parkrun, I can easily gauge any improvement in performance as the course is the same every time I run it. I can even compare my performance to those of other runners as parkrun provide Age Gradings. This allows race times to be compared directly regardless of age or gender. The Age Grading is presented as a percentage. My current best age grading is 56.43% (from my parkrun stats)
To track performance over time and different terrain and weather condition can be complicated. However, RunBritain take these factors into account with RunBritain Rankings.
As I’ve run a number of races of varying distances; from 5K parkruns to half marathons on a number of courses, normalising my performances into a ‘handicap score’ is a great idea.
RunBritain describe their handicap system as:
The runbritain handicap scoring system is a unique way of measuring your progress and comparing yourself with other runners.
As in golf, handicaps go from scratch (zero, or even slightly negative for elite runners) to 36 with increments of 0.1.
To compute your handicap we take a combination of your recent best performances at 5K, 10K, Half Marathon & Marathon but adjusted for course difficulty and weather conditions using our special formulae.
This means that you can improve your handicap at any race as on harder courses you won’t need to run quite as quickly as on faster ones.
I’ve taken a screenshot of my handicap improvement to date below (from my RunBritain Ranking profile):
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It’s very interesting to see how I’ve improved over time from a handicap score of approximately 27 to 18.4.
Given that handicap scores range from 0 to 36, it’s clear that I’m ‘middle of the pack’ in terms of my running performance with lots of room for improvement.