I have a subscription to a magazine called Running Times. I'm not sure why or how I get it, but once a month it shows up in my mailbox. It has some good articles, but like most magazines I get, I can blaze through it in about 20 minutes.
I typically save my magazines if I know that I have a trip coming up that involves flying. Having a stack to read through while waiting at the gate or on the plane makes the time go by faster.
On a recent flight to Cleveland I started reading the October issue of Running Times. I came across an article titled "Advanced Math" by Rachel Toor. The article talked about Performance Level Percentages (PLP).
Using these percentages is a great way to see how compare with runners your same age. Sure, races have age group categories and you can see how you stack up to people in a 5 year range, but your results will vary greatly depending on what race it is and how many people enter. The author of this article compared using PLP to grading on a curve. I like the comparison.
The PLP formula uses 100% as world-record class. 90-100% is world class; 80-90% is national class; 70-80% is regional class; and 60-70% is local class. Below 60% doesn't mean that you should toss the running shoes in the trash, it simply means that your time for the given distance is not in the top 40%.
I know that some people just run for fun and could care less about how their times compare to their peers. I'm not one of those people. I love to run and while I have no false hopes of becoming a world class or even national class runner, I do like to see my times improve through training. I also like to see if what I'm doing is respectable for my age.
I looked at some of my road races from back in the spring. Here are my percentages:
Time - 20:03
PLP - 65.1%
70% PLP time is 18:39
Time - 44:07
PLP - 61.6%
70% PLP time is 38:48
Time - 1:14:00
PLP - 60.2%
70% PLP time is 1:03:41
Time - 1:37:27
PLP - 60.9%
70% PLP time is 1:24:44
So, I'm a "local" class runner in all categories (by the skin of my teeth!). I don't really care about the label, but now that I've found this tool, it will be fun to see if I can hold or improve the percentages as I get older. Other than setting PR's, I would like to get closer to 70% in all of my races. I like setting big goals!
There are several PLP calculators available online. Here's a link to the one that I used: