It's really difficult for a reporter to walk away from an unanswered question. If there’s something I don’t understand, I can't simply pretend I don't need to know.

So on Sunday when we were emailed a link to a detailed breakdown of our race performance at the National Interstate 8k & 1 Mile, I just couldn’t let it go. What is “age grade?” Why were they compelled to tell me my time at 4.6 miles? Why is my overall placement different in the “finish” and “chip time” categories. How do I save the video of me crossing the finish line since I was so stinkin' cute pumping those chubby legs?

I sent off an email to Mtec, the Minnesota company that does the timing and scoring system for the Akron Marathon, and a couple of hours later I heard from Soren Larson, who is charged with  handling such inquiries. Soren patiently guided me through the various boxes and columns of the performance analysis so that I could satisfy my curiousity and help you understand your results better.

Let's take a look at the boxes on this part of the results page:

If you ran or walked the 8k, the first odd thing you'll see is that below your "TIME" is something called SPLITS at 4.6 miles. Why do we care about 4.6 miles when we covered a 4.97-mile course? The answer is, we don't.  That split time was incidentally recorded because we happened to cross over the Starting Line timing mat on our way back to the stadium. The mat recorded our time at 4.6 miles because the mat was there and that's what mats do. In the Goodyear and First Energy races later this year, there will be more timing mats through the course and split times will have actual meaning.

One-mile participants did not cross the Starting Line timing mat a second time and won’t see that extra “SPLITS” on their analysis.

Also near the top of the page you’ll see “Chip Time” and “Gun Time” and a toggle that invites you to “Choose Timing Method.” Since it took about 4 minutes to empty the corral, the gun time is irrelevant. Your chip time is the actual time of YOUR personal race, so ignore the other option.

In the next box we see "Average Pace." That one's easy - it's your finishing time divided by 1 mile or 5 miles, depending on your distance.

I'll come back in a moment to that "Age Graded %” score, but for now go to the next box, "Overall Place." Your ranking here is not quite accurate. This box is telling you how many people crossed the Finish Line timing mat before you. But since it took about 4 minutes to empty the corral, there's a good chance you came in behind a few people that were actually slower than you. To find how you compared to the entire field based on your speed, scroll down to “Detailed Results” and look for “Overall Place” in the “Chip Start” row. That's your true standing in the competition.

While you are down at the bottom of the page, you’ll see that little running figure that tells you how many people you passed, and how many people passed you. If you were in the 8k, this feature records the number of runners and walkers who traded places with you in the final stretch - after you stepped across the Starting Line timing mat for a second time on your way to the Finish Line. If you were a 1-miler, this number reflects passers and passees (is that a word?) during the whole mile course.

Now, about that “Age Graded” score, which is rather interesting and may be a cool way to judge your progress over the diverse distances we'll be racing this summer.

If you click on the question mark next to the percentage, you’ll find a vague explanation: “Age grading allows you to compare your performance to others, adjusted for differences in age and gender.” That didn't mean anything to me, so I followed the link to a sample runner. But I was still left scratching my head as to what “37 percent” meant in my case.

So let me take a crack at this:

According to the system designed by the World Association of Veteran Athletes, someone with a 100 percent age grade next to their name is at or near a world record pace for their age and gender.

By comparison, my age grade for this race was 37 percent. That means the speed of my determined-but-aching feet was about 37 percent of that ideal female 56-year-old athlete capable of breaking world records.

Someone with an age grade of 90-99 percent is considered to be “world class” in their sport. Between 80-89 percent is national class, 70-79 percent is regional class and 60-69 percent is local class.

While the age grade is meant to be a fair way to compare you to the rest of the field, I find it a pretty depressing number until I look at it another way. I'm only competing against myself, so I'll use it to compare my age-graded result from race to race and see if I improve. It doesn't matter if those races are an 8k, 10k and half marathon, it will interpret my progress with the same formula.

Our results page came with a certificate that can be printed out and saved. I asked Soren if there was a way for a runner to also save a personal copy of their Finish Line video. The answer is no. The website does not offer that as an option, and I don't know if there is a program or app that can get around that, short of holding a video camera up to the computer screen. But Mtec keeps those videos available online indefinitely, so five years from now when you're running out of wall space for your race medals and closet space for your commemorative tech shirts, you can still log on and watch where it all started.

Have any other questions? Look for the box that has a “Results Question?” link.

Click on that and fill out the form. Soren said he handles those personally and will be happy to answer any questions I may have missed!

- Paula