Only six qualifying marathons remain before the first year of world masters rankings completes at the BMW Berlin Marathon on September 29. The AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Rankings launched at last year’s Berlin Marathon, with masters runners accumulating points throughout the year at 50 qualifying marathons around the world.

Points are awarded based on how your finish time compares to the winner of your age group. While the system can seem rather complex, Tim Hadzima, Executive Director, Abbott World Marathon Majors, explains that it ensures that points reflect each runner’s performance relative to other participants at that race, who ran within the same conditions on the same day.

The system also allows the majority of runners in each race to score points. Starting with a maximum of 4000 points, you get 10 fewer points for every 30 seconds you finish behind the age-group champion at a Marathon Major or behind a pre-determined “Platinum Time” at one of the other qualifying races, down to a minimum of 1000 points. Thus, any runner who finishes within 2:30 after the age-group winner or platinum time will gain some points. At the end of the year, your score equals the sum of your top two marathon points.

Eileen Noble London Marathon master
Photo: Joe Toth for Virgin Money London Marathon

Qualifying for the World Championships

Looking at this year’s rankings, the top runners in every age category are close to or at the maximum score of 8000—like 70–74 star Gene Dykes who earned 4000 points for his time and position at both Toronto and Boston. In October, these standouts in each age group will be invited to participate in the first age-group world championship to be held at the 2020 London Marathon. Those invited will be guaranteed an entry plus special events and bibs in the April race.

In addition to the winners in each age category, the top scoring male and female runner from each country that had a qualifier will be invited. Hadzima estimates that this will include 150 countries. “It’s really important to have great global representation,” he says. “It is truly a global event.” In total, 1,000 invites will go out, they will have time to accept or refuse, then the invite goes to next qualifier.

A Way to See How You Compare

Beyond the standout runners who will get invites, the rankings are interesting for the rest of us. If you’ve run any of the qualifying races, you can check your points on the site; if you’ve run two of them you’ll see how you stack up—and the numbers are motivating.

For example, while you need to be a 2:40 marathoner to top the charts as a 55–59 year-old man this year, you could break the top 100 in the world with a couple of races around 3:20, or top 100 in the USA by averaging around 3:35. Or, while Ingrid Walters has a 2:52 and a 2:48 to put her at the top of the 45–49 women, Michelle Richard’s 3:14 and 3:19 places her top 50 worldwide and 17th in the USA. If you’re a 55–59 year old woman a 3:36 would put you in the top 500 rank on the global list.

U.S. runners will have to travel to score any more points this year, as the remaining races before Berlin are in Australia, Mexico, South Africa, Canada and Russia. But a new season is approaching soon. Next year, Hadzima says the list of qualifying races will triple—going from 50 to over 150 events world wide—making the ability to score points easier and the quality of the rankings more robust. All of which makes it one more exciting way to motivate us to keep working to be our best, at whatever age.