Explaining the FLRC Challenge team competition

I’ve already gotten a question about how teams work for the FLRC Challenge, so let me explain here for those who are interested. And if you’re not, don’t worry, because the FLRC Challenge leaderboard will calculate and display everything. You don’t have to do anything other than submit your times when you run the courses.

First off, teams often run into a couple of problems. Who’s in, who’s out, who’s healthy, who’s fast enough, and so on. And worse, what generally happens is that the fast people know other fast people so they make a team and win. While that’s fun for them, it’s a little annoying when the competition is a foregone conclusion.

So for the FLRC Challenge, you’re automatically assigned to a team based on your age as of January 1st, 2021. So, for instance, I’m 53 so I’m automatically on the Fabulous 50s team with people like @kag22, @alex-colvin, and @sn243.

The team competition, then, is between these 10-year age-group teams. The youngest team will be the 19-and-under team, though if they don’t end up with enough runners, perhaps we’ll merge them up into 20-29. Similarly, if the 70+ team is too small, we may merge them into the 60-69 team.

How do we ensure that the competition is fair, though? The 20-29 team will undoubtedly be faster than the 60-69 team, and foregone conclusions are no fun. To level the playing field, we use two metrics: age grading and most efforts.

  • With age-grading, the FLRC Challenge leaderboard will calculate what percent any given run is for the world record in that distance for that exact age. For instance, if a 47-year-old woman runs a 5K in 21:30, age grading determines that her time is 74.87% of the 5K world record for a woman of her age. A 47-year-old man would have to run the 5K in 18:49 to get the same age grading, based on the 5K world record for a man of his age. In essence, the use of age grading eliminates age and gender as variables and instead focuses on innate speed. If you want to help your team, recruit fast friends in your age group.

  • Not everyone is a hare, though, so we’re rewarding our tortoises too, by counting up the number of efforts—the number of times people on a team run a course. The larger your team and the more times your team’s runners run the courses, the more efforts your team will have. To help this metric, recruit as many people to your team as possible, and encourage them to run or walk as many times as possible.

What’s left is calculation. For age grading, the leaderboard takes the fastest runs of the top 10 runners in each age group and averages their age-graded percentages. For most efforts, it just adds up the total number of runs team members have recorded.

Then the leaderboard uses cross-country scoring to assign points: 1 point for 1st, 2 for 2nd, and so on. If a team has the highest (fastest) age-grading it gets 1 point and if it has the third-highest number of efforts, it gets 3 points. Add those together for 4 points for that race. Do the same for every race and put it all together and you get the overall Challenge team standings, which will range from a low of 20 points and a high of 140 points. The lowest score wins.

It’s entirely possible that a team will decide that it’s not competitive for the overall Challenge, so it’s going to focus on several courses and see if it can win those. Or a team might recruit a fast out-of-area runner to help lay down some fast age-graded times, even if they can’t run that many efforts. We’ll see how the game theory evolves throughout the year!

This is very well thought out and interesting. Any Veteran women interested in a team?

@ruth-sproul has signed up, joining @gary on the 60-69 team, and she’s our oldest participant so far. No one in their 70s yet, so you’d be the first.

As I said, if there aren’t enough runners on a 70+ team in a while, we’ll merge them in with the 60-69 team so everyone can be part of a group. (And of course, because it’s just data on the leaderboard, if there’s a later influx of 70+ folks, we can break them back out.)

If there aren’t any more youngsters in their 70’s, will I automatically
be put with the 60’s?

Adjust the age groups for teams won’t be an automatic thing—we have to change the code—but it shouldn’t be hard if we decided in a month or two it needs to be done. And don’t let it dissuade you from signing up—if we make any change, all the data will automatically adjust to match—and you can lay down some individual age-group times that others will have to work to beat.

But it would be best to recruit more people for the 70+ team! Truck Rossiter (@D_G_Rossiter), Jim Miner (@shiggyrunner), Joel Leff (@leffmath), Joe Reynolds (@flnf10155), and Harland Bigelow (@harland.bigelow) come to mind, and I also see Drew Noden and Bill Gilligan and Nancy Lorr in some race results, if anyone knows them and can encourage them to participate.

Remember, folks, you can sign up here:


I wanted to clarify something about the team standings that may be confusing while we only have a subset of the courses open. When you look at the team standings page, you’ll see fairly high numbers (remember, it’s cross-country scoring, so the lowest score wins).

The reason is that the leaderboard assigns 14 points to every team that hasn’t run a course at all, 7 for age-grading and 7 for most runs. In essence, that means every team starts with 140 points, a score that will drop as the courses open and the teams start accumulating runs.


The best possible score will be 20 points, if a team was able to win both age-grading and most runs for every course, and the worst possible score would be 140 points, if a team was 7th in both categories for every course (or failed to run some of the courses at all). Those extremes are exceedingly unlikely.