Elite Feet

Are We Getting Slower?

A large crowd at the start of a marathon

Crowded marathon start

It's a discussion I had with my running partners a few days ago: Why has the national average finish time for marathons been moving up in recent years? I think I have the answer.

About 10 years ago running a marathon changed from a race to an accomplishment. Thirty years ago the people who ran marathons were pure runners. They raced against each other and themselves. Merely finishing was not the goal; their goal was to be faster. There's absolutely nothing wrong with just wanting to finish a marathon, but I think the masses of new runners who only have that goal are pushing up the averages. Regardless, below you can find a bunch of interesting data on marathon runners from 2006, separated by gender and age.

2006 Overall Demographics

Percent Avg. Age Avg. Time
Men 60.1% 40.7 4:31:26
Women 39.9% 36.4 5:06:36
All Runners 100.0% 38.9 4:45:29

Men's Age Group Breakdown

Age Group Avg. Time Percent
0-19 5:06:26 1.05%
20-24 4:27:26 3.20%
25-29 4:24:22 6.26%
30-34 4:24:56 7.92%
35-39 4:21:24 9.83%
40-44 4:20:44 9.91%
45-49 4:24:48 8.39%
50-54 4:35:49 6.34%
55-59 4:49:25 3.95%
60-64 5:06:44 1.99%
65-69 5:22:05 0.82%
70+ 5:51:46 0.42%

Women's Age Group Breakdown

Age Group Avg. Time Percent
0-19 5:46:36 0.74%
20-24 5:00:03 3.88%
25-29 4:58:41 7.34%
30-34 5:02:41 6.57%
35-39 4:56:51 6.56%
40-44 4:57:31 5.94%
45-49 5:11:03 4.26%
50-54 5:26:58 2.60%
55-59 5:47:40 1.23%
60-64 6:04:20 0.55%
65-69 6:23:07 0.18%
70+ 6:40:18 0.07%

2006 Finishing Times

Finish Time Total % Female % Male %
2:30:01-2:59:59 7,025 1.8% 563 0.4% 6,462 2.7%
3:30:00-3:59:59 78,419 19.7% 23,100 14.6% 55,319 23.2%
4:30:00-5:00:00 73,629 18.5% 32,874 20.7% 40,755 17.1%
5:30:00-5:59:59 30,336 7.6% 16,034 10.1% 14,302 6.0%
6:30:00-6:59:59 11,364 2.9% 7,092 4.5% 4,272 1.8%
7:30:00-7:59:59 3,819 1.0% 2,386 1.5% 1,433 0.6%
8:30:04-8:59:59 1,216 0.3% 685 0.4% 531 0.2%
Total 397,116 100% 158,449 100% 238,668 100%