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  • Writer's pictureNina Zarina

World Athletics Ranking System. Scoring Essentials.

Updated: 4 days ago

How achieve and miss Olympic Games opportunities

The scoring points system in World Athletics has been around for more than 40 years, but it seems that its actual use and attention from the running community have only recently become significant. Meeting time qualification standards was the primary concern for a long period, with scoring receiving less media and public attention. 

The Ranking system, based on the scoring points, came into operation in 2018 with a purpose: “…drive and shape the global competition system including entry into the World Championships and Olympic Games. For the first time in the sport’s history, athletes, media and fans will have a clear understanding of the hierarchy of competitions from national through to area and up to global events, allowing them to follow a logical season-long path to the pinnacle of athletics' top two competitions.” (Sebastian Coe)

In recent years, World Athletics has aimed to balance time standards and scoring points equally, as seen, for example, in the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 qualification system and the introduction last month of Universality places for qualification to the Paris Olympic Games.

By those bit by bit, the running community is recognizing the significance of the scoring system, seeing its impact on participation in major events and sponsorship contracts.

For me, as a professional marathon runner, it provides an effective way to compare athletes across various events, helping me navigate the national ranking. As an athletics follower, I love how the top-ranking lists look on WA and European Athletics sites. So, I'm aligned with Sebastian Coe here. 

This also brings a strategic dimension to my running. Performance remains critical, but race choices can add some more points. I've focused on this for the last two years, as the scoring system is vital for my career.  At first, the documentation looked overwhelming and complex, but in reality, the system for marathon runners is quite simple. It's essentially a static table that links your time to points. 

Each 5-6 seconds increment equals one point, with extra points for placements in Labeled events and World records. For example, 5th place in a Platinum Label marathon, like Chicago, can give me 60 points, which equals about 5 minutes, and virtually convert my 2:30 (1133 points) to a 2:24 (1193 points) performance. Not bad. 


Like any system, the ranking (scoring) system goes through a reliability test with increased athlete usage. The good news is that World Athletics has a place to address questions and concerns, and I encourage everyone to use it whenever necessary.

The Issues

In my personal experience, I faced the following issues and have already informed World Athletics about them:

  1. Language. The documentation is only available in English. I believe it's crucial to have translations in multiple languages since many athletes aren't fluent in English. The WADA prohibited list, translated into many languages, is a great example.

  2. Incomplete. The documentation is missing some details. For example, I couldn't find the rule that only the two best marathon races are counted during the qualification period, which differs from other events. There can be links that lead nowhere, like "can be found under the tab World Ranking Rules," and there is no tab "World Ranking Rules" on the website.

  3. Half-marathon points. There was a notable decrease in half-marathon scoring points (see the excellent article on, which discouraged running in labeled half-marathons since they could drastically reduce your points. This also led to an interesting situation where the National Record Holder for both marathon and half-marathon ranked 4th in the country, see Emily Sisson (USA ) scoring in 2023. It was so only because of her reduced points for the national record at the half marathon.

  4. National Records do not give you any additional points. National championship title can.

These are two more cases where the scoring points led to missing the Olympic opportunity.

First, my personal story: I competed in the TCS London Marathon 2024, which had a Platinum Label from World Athletics, and was within the Paris Olympic Marathon 2024 qualification window. It was a fully legitimate race. I ran from mass start since it was my first marathon postpartum, and I didn't have the elite qualifying time.

After finishing the race, my result wasn't uploaded to the World Athletics website for months. This left me invisible in the national ranking, and my Universality runner application wasn't considered for the Olympic marathon.

Another example involves the Georgian athletic federation's choice for the 2024 Olympic Games: sprinter Mindia Endeladze and marathon runner Davit Kharazishvili. At the time of the application, the points difference between them was 8: Mindia had 1117 points, while Davit had 1109.

The Georgian Federation selected Mindia as the highest scorer representing the country in the 100-meter event. The issue was that this high score resulted from an average performance across both the 100m and 200m distances, significantly influenced by the 200m results. There is no reduction as for marathon/half marathon scoring. That raises some doubts.

If you know or have ever had issues with the scoring system, you can write to me directly on IG or here. I will be happy to discuss your questions. You can describe the problem in any language. I can use Google Translate to understand it. 

I hope that our feedback will make this essential system better for us and for the next generation of athletes. 

Good Luck in catching scoring points!


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