- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

The most heated discussions on running chat lines in the past year have not been about banned substances, the new false-start rule or whether former prep sensation Alan Webb is washed up at 20.

They’re about runner rankings.

It began last year with the national masters rankings, which was compiled for years by a friend of mine from Portland, Ore., who took in results of thousands of races a year from around the world and compiled ranking by five-year age groups from 40 to 100.

He was replaced last year when World Masters Athletics was reorganized and, because of foolish politics, not chosen to continue publishing WMA rankings. Now, instead, the rankings consist primarily of national and world championship results (as an aside, the WMA just voted to include the 35-39 age group as masters) and not local all-comers results, too.

This infuriated masters runners around the world. But the issue of rankings is not just an international issue, as publishers of the Washington Running Report (WRR) have noticed.

The publication has listed its area rankings for at least two decades. Today runners from the Tidewater area, the Baltimore area and everyone in between compete in the rankings, which is a compilation of results from as many as 50 races per racing season, as the Capital Running Co., which owns WRR, has geographically expanded its reader and advertising reach.

Many runners have objected to WRR’s lowering of qualifying times for its rankings, which certainly is Capital’s prerogative and cuts out of lot of extra work.

For years, I have found the WRR rankings suspect to begin with. It is quite difficult to compare one 10K with another; it’s not like comparing track results. I can show you two courses, a flat one and a hilly one, where you’d have a difference of 30 or more seconds — assuming, that is, that both courses are actually measured and run to the 6.21-mile distance. Big assumption.

But there were many people out there who had no reason being in the rankings in the first place. They made it not on their own talent but on the lack of other runners in their age groups.

Sorry, but rankings are for the best runners, not the all-comers. If you believe that participation gives you an entitlement to be in the rankings, just pull up the full results of a race in which you have run and see your name on that list. That should suffice.

We are all different, but we all make choices. Chuck Moeser and Jim Hage are two examples of people who choose to make training their ultimate priority and they deserve to be ranked at the top. But if you really want to compare everybody evenly, you need to use my scientific approach called the “Nearman Life Handicap.”

• If you are married, subtract 20 seconds from your 10K time.

• If you are married and “active,” men add 25 seconds, women subtract 25 seconds.

• For each child, subtract 30 seconds.

• If you have a full-time job, subtract 45 seconds.

• If you have two full-time jobs, subtract three minutes.

• If you have a full-time job but your spouse does not work, add 40 seconds.

• For each 30 minutes of commute each way, subtract 55 seconds.

• If you work from home, add 30 seconds.

• For each pet, subtract 15 seconds.

• For each half-acre of lawn you must mow, subtract 15 seconds.

• For each mortgage you own, subtract 20 seconds (that includes equity lines, too).

• If you take care of aging parents, subtract 25 seconds for each.

• If your parents still take care of you, add two minutes.

• If your parents are Olympians, add two minutes per parent.

• If their sport was synchronized swimming or curling, subtract two minutes per parent.

• For each $1 million of inheritance, add two minutes.

• For each pound over or under your optimal weight, subtract five seconds.

• If your last name begins with A-L, add 30 seconds.

• If your last name begins with M -Z, subtract 30 seconds.

• And if you are the sole Powerball winner, purchase the Washington Running Report and have your own rankings done.

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