Fairest way to run a club league


I am on the committee of my local running club and we have a yearly league for all members. We have around 15 races that we choose all varying distances, from 5k to 13 miles and we base points using the age grading system that the park run uses. However we are finding that the same people are winning year upon year. Now while there will always be an element of this, is there a fair system out there that we can use to try and even this out?

Are there any of you in a club league and how is yours currently run?

Many Thanks



  • Chris - let me guess, it's the older runners who win year after year on age grading?  I think it's fair to say that age grading favours older runners - as an over 50 my performances in absolute terms are declining, but slower than age grading predicts, therefore my AG% goes up.

    If you're basing your club league on external races then age grading is probably the best you have, unless you break your club league down into age groups and compete separately.  Alternatively, my club runs a series of midweek handicap races each summer for club members, over 'approximate' distances - someone sets handicaps based on past results and we set off at intervals as Colin suggests above.  Points are awarded based on finish positions and best 5 of 7 (or whatever) counts to the final score for the year.  Yes, there is occasional 'debate' over the fairness of the handicapping but it's not taken too seriously and it tends to even out over the course of the summer.

  • My club uses a handicap system where they take your time from the last race of the previous year and run it through a Pete Riegel race predictor formula for the next race. You then essentially race against yourself. I think they only allow a 1% increase in handicap each race to stop people stratigicly run slower in the first race and then speeding up throughout the year. We also only use your 5 best results, before the same fatty who could run all 15 club races a year would always win it. 

    It's very complicated and hard to follow though. 
  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭
    I organise the one for my club.  Ours has 20 races that are agreed by Committee each year, split up over 5 categories - Halfs, 10ks, Long Misc, Short Misc, Mixed - with 4 races in each category.  To complete the championship, runners have to do at least one from each category, and compete in a total of at least 8 races (best 8 races to count if a runner does more than 8).  We have a separate mens and ladies championship, and for each race the runner with the highest age grading gets 50 points, the second place gets 49 points, and so on.  So, the maximum number of points available is 400 over the course of the year.

    This year is the first year we've done the 5 categories/8 race split.  Before that it was 7 categories/12 races but we noticed a drop off in people completing the championship so changed it for 2018, and it will be staying the same for 2019, although many of the races will be different.

    I have a very large spreadsheet with a lot of code behind it that works all this out for me.  So, given a particular runner's gender, age (dob), race time, and race distance the spreadsheet works out the age grading automatically, and allocates the points for that runner.  The code also checks the constraints we have (I.E., completing one race in each category, and 8 races overall) so from that point of view it limits the likely mistakes.  The main point of error is if I accidentally type in someone's race time incorrectly!
  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭
    I run our club's championships and yes, it will usually be the same people near the top all the time.
    Even with age grading then naturally the faster runners will win. The only equitable method is to handicap performances but this then merely rewards the 'most improved' runners.
    I like Big_G 's idea of a race in each category, but again the faster ones will likely win out in the end.

    We did think of trialling a team event, but haven't done so yet.
    Something like this:
    Membership: 100
    Split into 10 'pools' based on speed, so fastest 10 in pool 1, second fastest 10 in pool 2...slowest 10 in pool 10. (how you determine fastest is vague, but 10k is probably as fair as anything)

    Then draw 10 teams, lets say A-J, with each team made up of one athlete from each pool 1-10.
    Races will be as per your calendar, although you could set specific races.
    For the team competition, you take the best score from each of the 10 members in each team. (or best 2 scores if you like).
    The winner will be the team with the best cumulative scores from 10 different athletes from the different pools.
    So for the team competition, you just want to outscore the other 9 athletes in your 'pool'.
    Hope that makes some kind of sense.

  • For a good club champ I think you need the right emphasis on speed versus turning out.

    Too few events, and the fast runners will just cruise in, do the minimum and boss it, too many events, and you're basically only rewarding turning up.

    I like how my club does it now - an "all in" champ, split on gender, with about 14 events, 8 of which you need to do. And then an "age grading" one not split on gender.

    Age grading is meant to give you a guide to what is a comparative level of performance as you get older. 
    What you tend to get is that some vet categories massively hype them up.

    For instance I knew a woman vet, 65-70 or so who was getting 100% WAVA. Was she ever the best in the world in her 20s? Of course not. Could she have been? Very unlikely.

    If you do it simply on WAVA, most likely older vet women will win, and the senior males will have zero chance unless they're putting in international type results. 

    Our club run a handicap run too, which is supposed to be based off a recent 5k time. Yet the same vet woman wins every year. That can't be right, as it's calculated to the second.
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