This article was written by Michael Wright, Senior Partner and Chief Statistician for All Star Foot Racing. As a primer to this article, read Why Handicap Races are Unfair.
As Chief Statistician for AllStarFootRacing.com, I was faced with the challenge of designing a handicap system for our 60m races to ensure all competitors of various abilities cross the finish line more or less together.
In order to achieve this I used the following procedure:
1. Gather as much data as possible
I gathered as much data as possible on the 50 to 60m split times from a wide a range of people spanning from the Olympic athlete to the 70 year-old veteran sprinter, male and female.
This was achieved through data available online for world class athletes and through the use of our Freelap Timing System for regular club athletes and older, slower veteran men and women.
A total of two hundred 50-60m split times were used.
2. Plot a Graph for “Best Fit”
Using the data, I plotted a graph showing the 50 to 60m splits versus the athletes’ 60m season’s best times. A “best fit” line was then established.
3. Add “Best Fit” to spreadsheet
I transferred the data acquired from the best fit line onto a spreadsheet so that the 50 to 60m splits can be seen against the 60m times.
4. For 60m Race, use 7 seconds for scratch
We have based our handicap on the scratch runner doing exactly 7 seconds for the 60m. All athletes with a season’s best of over 7 seconds are therefore given a head start.
To determine the head start each athlete is given, I subtracted the athlete’s 60m season’s best from 7 seconds then divided this figure by the athlete’s flying 1m time calculated by dividing their flying 50 to 60m time by 10. For instance, from my spreadsheet I can instantly see that I, Michael Wright, have a season’s best of 7.72s and that my 50 to 60m split time is 1.07575s. The handicap I should be given is therefore: (7.72-7.00)/(1.07575/10) = 6.69m.
5. Apply to real life competition
I applied this handicap system to a real life competition.
Because a “best fit” line was used in my graph, I calculated the handicap required for each individual athlete to the nearest cm based on their 60m time to the nearest hundredth of a second.
At our latest AllStarFootRacing.com event, all 50 competitors submitted their 60m times and I handicapped each athlete using my spreadsheet.
The results showed that my handicap system worked very well. Theoretically, if all competitors ran to their season’s best form, all should have hit the finish line together in a time of 7 seconds dead. The results of the A and B finals were as follows:
1st F Parker: 6.96s
2nd A Turnbull: 6.97s
3rd D Wilson: 6.98s
4th K Pease: 6.99s
5th S Bayou: 6.99s
6th J Capocci: 7.05s
7th R Savidis: 7.09s
8th H Carson: 7.11s
1st L Smith: 6.91s
2nd M Bates: 6.98s
3rd G Fenwick: 7.03s
4th D Towart: 7.05s
5th P Donaghy: 7.07s
6th B Towart-Adams: 7.10s
7th A Manganiello: 7.10s
8th D Njai: 7.13s
Furthermore, my handicap calculation system allows an adjusted time to be derived showing the time each athlete theoretically would have achieved for the full 60m distance.
Again, using myself a an example, in this competition I was eliminated in the heats but ran a time of 7.10s. My adjusted time for the full 60m can be calculated by adding on the time it would have taken me to run the distance I was awarded as a handicap (6.69m). This time can be calculated by adding my actual time to my flying 1m time (1.07575/10) multiplied by 6.69m: 7.10 + (0.107575) x 6.69 = 7.82s. A week after this competition I ran a time of 7.81s at the UK Masters’ Championships, which shows that my adjusted times calculation is accurate.
Limitations to my handicap model include the fact that younger athletes grow and can therefore improve dramatically on their season’s best form. If for instance, a 10 year old was to enter an AllStarFootRacing.com race, we would firstly derive his/her handicap based upon their season’s best time and then pull their mark back by maybe 1m if they haven’t competed for say 3 months.
I am planning on designing a more comprehensive spreadsheet to show the handicaps which should be awarded to each individual athlete for distances ranging from 50 to 400m.
At AllStarFootRacing.com, we believe that this system is the most accurate handicapping system out there because it is based on hard statistical data and gives marks accurate the nearest cm rather than the nearest 25cm or 50cm which is seen in most other handicapped sprint competitions around the world.
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