How Does This Work?
The challenge with running is that all races are not created equal. A 5K is a 5K, but a flat race on a cool day is a lot easier than a hilly race on a humid day. So naturally, a 25-minute 5K on the former isn't nearly as impressive as the same time on the latter. But what if we could fix that?
The goal here is put everyone and every race on equal footing. To that end (and with an assist from MaineBasketballRankings.com), we put every set of race results through the following process...
You know how when it's really hot and humid, people tell you to slow down? There's a reason for that. Heat and humidity makes you work harder for the same results, which can get dangerous beyond certain levels. So if it's 100 degrees and humid, maybe go to the beach instead? Using data from Intellicast, we take the temperature and dew point from a point when the majority of the runners are in the race. Intellicast reports every 30 minutes. If the combined Dew Point and Temperature is over 100, an adjustment to your pace kicks in. If it's 110, we adjust your pace by 0.5%. If it's 130, by 2%. It maxes out at 180 (10%), but at 180, you should be at the beach.
For example, in last year's Waldoboro Day 5K, the Temp&Dew was 110. Darren Winchenbach ran a clocked time of 20:39. That turns into 20:33.48.
Using the best possible information from the race itself, we calculate the actual distance of the course according to the Shortest Possible Route. This is how a certified course works. For the sake of consistency, each course is measured on plotaroute.com. From there, we get the course's elevation change, both up and down. There's a lot of variance in elevation data from site to site, so every course is calculated using the same site.
For example, the Waldoboro Day 5K has a "Actual Distance" of 3.1017045 miles (a true 5K is 3.10686 miles, so Waldoboro Day's course last year was 27 feet short.) Waldoboro Day has an elevation profile of 285 feet uphill and 285 feet downhill. According to research, it's harder to run a foot uphill than it is easy to run downhill. An uphill foot adds 7.92 feet and a downhill foot subtracts 2.72 feet. We use this to calculate a race's "flat equivalent." For Waldoboro Day, the flat equivalent is 3.3824 miles. Or, to simplify it, running 3.1 miles on the Waldoboro Day course is the same as running 3.38 miles on a perfectly flat course.
We combine this with your weather adjustment to come up with your "Perfect Day" time. So Darren Winchenbach's weather-adjusted time of 20:33.48 is adjusted for the course difficulty and he gets a new "Perfect Day" time of 18:53.00. Let's compare that to the 2017 Luv Me 5K. The combined Temp&Dew was 40 (brrrr...) and the course profile has a measured distance of 3.054 miles, with an up/down of 127/137, for a flat equivalent of 3.174. Darren's clocked time of 20:54.6 becomes a "Perfect Day" time of 20:28.09.
3. Not So Fast, Old Man
Everyone older than 25 is aware that things get more difficult as you get older, because getting old is the worst. Seriously, don't do it. Stay young forever. But since some of us have already gotten older, the next step is to take your "Perfect Day" time and plug it into the 2015 USATF Age Grade tables. In our Waldoboro Day example, Darren (35/M) gets an age graded result of 70.26. Age grades are on a scale of 0-100. Zero is the guy who didn't show up. 100 is someone like Ben True.
This puts everyone on a equal playing field.
4. Winner, Winner
Obviously, a big part of a race is winning, so we add a bonus to your score if you finish in the top 20% of all finishers. The bonus is proportional. The winner gets a 10% bonus. The rest of the bonus depends on where you finish and how many people are there.
If there's 80 finishers, the top 16 get a bonus. The winner gets a 10% bonus. If you finish 10th, you'll get a 4.4% bonus. In this situation, 16th place will get you a 0.6% bonus.
5. Showing Up
Your total score, the thing that determines where you are in the standings, is basically an average of your race scores. But, the whole point of this is to get more people in these races, not fewer, so you can't just throw down a big number and call it good. There's a minimum divisor, currently set at 4. You don't have to run 4 races to qualify, but we're going to divide your total score by at least 4, so it's pretty much impossible to finish in, say, the top 10 without running 4 races.
But, once you've hit the minimum number of races, you start getting a small bonus for each extra race you run. The current bonus is 1% for each extra race. So on your 5th race, you'll get a 1% bonus. For your 6th race, you'll get a 2% bonus. For your 10th race? 6%.
Simple as that!