Couch to 5K
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Age grading, gender and pace

First - c25k isn't about pace, it's about getting us moving, irrespective of how fast. But. There's a lot of mention of 30 minutes and 5k, and now I'm half way through the programme, I can't help but be aware that I am nowhere near that. So I thought I'd find out a bit more.

Even though I'm slow (and I don't actually mind that, even though I keep going on about it, but I would like to join in a parkrun at some time) my pace is gradually improving, so thought I'd have a look at age grading, as it is used on the parkrun sites. Very interesting - especially how much difference gender makes, as well as age.

Race paces -

The '30 minutes for 5k' is reached by far more men than women - not surprising when you think that men generally run faster than women for biological reasons, but very easy to forget. Fewer than 50% of women my age get to 30 minutes for 5k - in fact *if* I did, my age-grading would be 58.1%. And considering that at school, despite being active and not overweight, I was consistently one of the slowest in my class (which would give an age-grading of 10% or less). In fact, as my current age-grading for 5k (walking a fair bit of it) is 35%, it looks as though I'm making amazing progress!

Mind you, I suspect that the age-gradings are a bit wobbly at the lower regions, as they are based, I think, on race results, maybe with extrapolations, so all those women who don't run at all aren't included. (Perhaps someone out there knows more?) So perhaps all us slow people should start doing races, so there's more information to calculate the lower ones from?!

Anyway - I thought it would be interesting to find out what age I'd have to be for 30 minutes to be an average (50% age grade) running pace.

For women, it is:

36! Doh! No wonder it seems a tough target for some of us!

For men - 53 year olds are apparently still average runners if they can do 5k in 30 min.

Average for 53 year old women is 34 min 50 seconds. That extra 4 min 50 seconds is the impact of 17 years! (An average 36 yr old male's time is 26.5min.)

So there you go, older ladies! It doesn't mean it is impossible, but we do need to remember we're not playing quite the same game as the men, so after c25k, our targets may need to be different. 10k at a slower pace may be better than trying to get to 5k in 30 min.


You can find out what your equivalent pace would be if you were younger! Dream on.

And before I stop rabbiting on: c25k isn't about pace anyway, it's about getting fitter, enjoying ourselves and keeping active for 30 minutes in one go, however far we go.

24 Replies

I found this very interesting and in some ways kinda makes sense. It also takes some pressure if - I am 59 and though would love to do 5k if 30 minutes I would rather get to the stage where I can go out for a 30-40 minute run and have enough stamina not to be gasping for air!! I only have four runs to complete and my pace is around 8.33/km and so though it would be nice to improve upon this I am not going to beat myself up about it because as you say, it is the getting out there that is more important.


Below are my Parkrun times and Age Grade, I have to say I've never held the AG as being that important but there again I'm not very competative, (too old to be theses days) but it lets you see how as my time improved my AG increased.

Good luck with the program.

Run # Date Time Age Grade PB?

51 22/09/201231:3962.19%PB

48 01/09/201231:4261.20%PB

46 18/08/2012 32:0860.37%PB

41 14/07/2012 32:2859.75%PB

39 30/06/2012 33:2458.08%PB

36 09/06/201234:4855.75%

34 26/05/201234:4255.91%


A nice illustration of how as your time got faster, your age grading went up. 62% looks rather impressive to me! Thank you for that.


This makes me feel a whole lot better. I also am not competitive but I was beginning to get a bit hung up on how "slow" I am compared to a lot of people on the site. Must admit I haven't quite got the hang of the age gradings but I'm 56 and graduated in early November (no badge yet but that's another story). I've only done two park runs so far but the first time was 37.35 and the second 37.30 (OK not much of an improvement but 5 seconds is 5 seconds!!). I've crossed my fingers and signed up for a 10K but was beginning to wonder if that was the right thing to do at this stage. Now I think it is - I know I can get better but I'm never going to be that fast but if I can build up the stamina to run for over an hour I'll be well chuffed. I'd still like to do the 5K in 30 minutes or less but will focus on the 10K and hopefully the 5K will get easier.


AND ... just checked my stats and for both park run races my age-graded percentage was just over 48% so, if I understand correctly, this is not bad is it?


Very nice too! Looks like building stamina could be the way to go.


My head hurts!


Makes a change from the legs hurting?


Ha ha! Your timing is spot on as my legs were hurting yesterday for the first time since my very first run!


My interpretation of age grading is that it expresses your speed over that distance as a percentage of the world record pace for that age.

I don't think this translates directly to the population as a whole. ie it doesn't mean that 50% of the population of your age would run slower than 50% of world record pace, IYSWIM.

Therefore 50% age grade is not necessarily average for the population and the real value in age grade is for handicap races etc.

I run 5k in 23 minutes which gives me an age grade percent in the 50's.

I dont honestly think half of all 35 year old men can run faster than that, I hope!


That makes sense. I think! Thank you.

Anyway, my main point was just that I'm not as bad as I thought - and I thought it might do the same job for someone else!


I put in my age and gender and then 30min 5k and I got- 49.4%

I just got back from a 3 hour band rehearsal, my brain is ringing- can someone explain what this means? Is it that 49.3% would be faster or slower? Don't suppose it makes much difference since it's near enough 50% :D


All it really means is that if you ran 5k in 30 minutes that would be a pace 49.3% that of the world record for someone your age.

ie you ran at 10kmh they ran at 20.28kmh, completeing their 5k in about 14:45!


Aha, I see now, thanks! Well, I'd be happy with just doing 5k in 30 mins, if someone else is going to do it in 14.45 then good for them :D


I put in my details and was told "cannot calculate those values". Bloody hell! I must be worse than I'd thought!


Oh nooooooo! That wasn't the idea - to put people off!

Just take away the message that women are likely to find it harder to run 5k i 30 minutes than men are, especially if they're older women.

That was the main point! Perhaps I should have just said that. Ah well. I like playing with numbers too much. And waffling on.


Don't worry folks, you're all doing 100 per cent better than if you were still on the couch.


The voice of reason!


Here-here Norni!! I agree!! :-) If I concentrated on my time 100%, I would become frustrated and quit. I do what I can do and hopefully speed will come. If not, I am still doing 100% more activity then 5 months ago. Its true, men run faster, but we beat them in so many other ways! ;-) I also remember reading in a book by a runner, regardless how fit you are, as you age, you will gradually slow down. Gayle


I had a crack at this a few months ago and came up with the following table:

Age %men %women

20 43.4 49.3

30 43.1 49.3

40 45.5 51.0

50 49.2 55.9

60 53.4 63.8

70 58.8 74.2

This tells you what a time of 30min for 5k is as a % of the world record for the age group. Or put another way it's considerably more challenging for older women than young men. I think we knew that already! Point I take from this is although the Podcasts are labelled c25k it's running 30minutes which matters more.

For those of us at the top end of the table it means that you don't feel so bad compared with the youngsters who pass you on the Parkruns. (Actually they don't pass you - they are ahead all the way!)


Hahaha!!! They do pass me when they lap me!!! :-) Great chart! Gayle


I just want to do my best and keep improving so that means if I get from really slow to just slow I will be dead pleased ;)


TRUE! :-) I was feeling kinda down today thinking how we focus so much on that magic 30 min. 5K, when in all reality, I will never do. I then also reminded myself, I am running over 3 miles/5K at a time!!!! I'm good with that!!! Gayle


Don't get hung up on your age grading %'s. I posted mine just to show you how as your time gets faster your % goes up. Mine was taken from my Parkrun stats so would think they will be right. But what is important is that you are out there doing your thing, in your own way in your time. Once you have completed the program you can work on strength and stamina which will help reduce your time and also work towords going longer distances if thats your aim. Its also working towards a much fitter healthier human being.

Good luck but most of all, enjoy it. :)


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