Contributions of Body Fat and Effort in the 5K Run: Age and Body Weight Handicap

Anne R. Crecelius, University of Dayton
Paul M. Vanderburgh, University of Dayton
Lloyd L. Laubach, University of Dayton


The 5K handicap (5KH), designed to eliminate the body weight (BW) and age biases inherent in the 5K run time (RT), yields an adjusted RT (RTadj) that can be compared between runners of different BW and age. As hypothesized in a validation study, however, not all BW bias may be removed, because of the influences of body fatness (BF) and effort (run speed; essentially the inverse as measured by rating of perceived exertion (RPE)). This study's purpose was to determine the effects of BF and RPE on BW bias in the 5KH. For 99 male runners in a regional 5K race (age = 43.9 ± 12.1 years; BW = 83.4 ± 12.9 kg), BF was determined via sum of three skinfolds just before the race. RPE, on the 20-point Borg scale, was used to assess overall race effort on race completion. Multiple regression analysis was used to develop a new adjusted RT (NRTadj, the RTadj corrected for BF and RPE), which was computed for each runner and then correlated with BW to determine bias. Indicative of slight bias, BW was correlated with RTadj (r = 0.220, p = 0.029). Both BF (p = 0.00002) and RPE (p = 0.0005) were significant, independent predictors of RTadj. NRTadj was not significantly correlated with BW (r = 0.051, p = 0.61), but BF explained 90%, and RPE explained only 6%, of the remaining BW bias evidenced in the 5KH. The previous finding that the 5KH does not remove all BW bias is apparently accounted for by BF and not RPE. Because no handicap should be awarded for higher BF, this finding suggests that the 5KH, for men, appropriately adjusts for the age and BW vs. RT biases previously noted.