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Age Group Categories and Awards

Posted Nov 09 2011 1:04pm
In my last post , I mentioned that although I placed 1st in my age group at my 10k race, I received no award for it.  Unfortunately, the reason is because this particular race decided to alter what I consider the standard for age group categories.  So let's review exactly what I mean for a second before going any further.

Aside from traditional overall awards (which can be anywhere from top 3 to top 10), age group categories in running and triathlon races seem to be primarily set to a specific standard of 5 year groupings, such as 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, etc.  And in some cases with smaller races, the categories expand slightly to 10 year groupings, such as 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, etc.  Simple right?  And on top of these groupings, some races throw in an occasional Masters, Clydesdale, Athena, Physical Challenged, etc categories to further differentiate all the participants.  Still with me?

So when I came to find myself having placed 1st in my age group (based on the assumption of it being 30-34), I was shocked that the awards ceremony presented 5 year age group awards for 15-19, 35-39, 40-44 all the way up to 80-84, but nothing for that gap of 20-34 year olds.  So what happened?  Well, at the race I was told that 20-34 year olds fell into an "Open" category that went five awards deep and that my name was not on their list.  I thought that was strange, since all that really meant was they were giving away 1 less award (age group awards were 2 deep at this race) and after looking at the results once they were posted online, I saw that even in that age grouping, I placed 4th, which still should have meant getting an award.  So I followed up with an email to see if perhaps something was mistaken in the process and they just messed up the awards.  Well I came to be told that "Open" means open to everyone, not just 20-34 year olds, so those 5 deep awards went to the top 5 overall.  So it seems as though 20-34 year olds were certainly being left out, huh?  I responded with a question asking this exact concern and was told
"The race had a lot of fast Masters runners, so they shifted the awards to reward them"  

 WTF is that!  Oh any by the way, they also had a Masters category on top of the age group category and mentioned that this awards arrangement is "common".  And people who placed in the "Open" category included runners that fell outside of the 20-34 age range, which means even more awards went to runners that already had their own age group categories.  Lastly, the race website lists no information regarding the age groups, but simply
"Awards will be given to Open Placed finishers, Top Age Group finishers and Second Place finishers"

To me, I would read that to say overall placing runners and the top 2 finishers in each age group.  Well little did I know, this race decides to omit 15 years worth of people.  

So let me ask you - Is this common?  Are you familiar with this type of age discrimination in awards?  Does a race have the right to predetermine how they believe the results will be and customize the age group awards based on that assumption?  What would you do if this happened to you?

I'll tell you what - I'm not pissed because I didn't get an award.  I could care less, though everyone does like to have a physical item to show for their hard work.  But what I am pissed about is this blatant disregard for everyone else like me who was racing for an age group place.  I won my age group by 1 second by out sprinting someone in the last 100 meters of the race.  In my mind at the time, I was thinking that the guy looked about my age, so I went for it and was rewarded for that effort.   I paid the same amount as everyone else to enter into that race and I feel cheated that I don't have the same right to earn an award.  I also feel deceived by the race website, as it did not specify categories other than open, and top 1-2 age group finishers.  Cheated and deceived are the only words I can use the describe how I feel.

Curious on your thoughts?


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