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Age Grading for Prize Money and Elite Performance Medals

Age Grade percentages are generated for every competitor at a USATF Masters LDR Championship race. These percentages come from the application of a statistical formula derived from the top performances around the world and across all regularly run distance events on the roads. The percentage conveys the relative grade for the athlete’s performance. A 100% performance means the runner’s performance is right at world record level. Only a select few achieve that. Other standards are 90% (world class level) and 80% (national class level). At most USATF Championship races several athletes attain the national class standards. The concept and philosophy of age grading has been explored by the USATF Masters LDR Chair, Don Lein in two articles, Age Grading Made Simple and “Exploiting Age Grading”.
There are age group awards and medals at the Grand Prix events but the bigger cash prizes are typically reserved for age-grading awards which allow for comparison across all ages. Masters Runners from all age groups, 40’s through 70’s walked away with one or more of these prizes (medal and cash) in 2015. The amount of money devoted to age group and age-grading prizes are detailed in the ‘Information for Athletes’ tab on the specific National Championship race site. Simply go to the National Championships page and peruse the Championships which are listed by date and typically have the heading Masters at the front of the title. [If a race is for both Open and Masters Runners, then the ‘Masters’ adjective is suppressed. In those cases, go by the name and date. Click on the race you are interested in and that should take you to an active webpage. On the left hand side of the page there are some tables. Click on the one titled ‘Information for Athletes.’ In the new window that opens up you should find a link titled ‘Prize Money.’ Click on that to see how the prize purse is distributed.
If the race is still a few months away or more, the web page may not be active. In that case you can scroll to the bottom of the Championships list and click on the arrow to move back one year. Then you can examine last year’s prize structure. Usually the prize structure remains similar from year to year.
Not everyone will earn an age group medal or a top age-grading medal but every runner has the chance to obtain an Elite Performance Medal. If your time at a USATF Masters Grand Prix race meets the national class standard, you will go home with a handsome Elite Performance Medal. There is a bronze medal for those reaching 80%, a silver medal for those reaching 85% and a gold medal for those attaining the 90% world class standard.

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