Thursday 10 January 2013

Marathon finishing times

Statistical distributions arising from sporting events are a nerdy love of mine, so I found this chart form athlinks particularly interesting. They analysed marathon results from 2012 and found a number of invisible time barriers. You can read their original post on facebook and join their conversation.

The distributions show the psychological effects of goal times. The most striking are at 4 hours and 5 hours, with the sharp drops on the hour suggesting that a lot of runners are aiming at just beating that particular time. Indeed, if I ever ran one, I would probably be aiming at 4 hours, or more likely 4 hours 30 minutes, which is a nice round number. In my first half marathon, I beat the 2 hour mark by only 15 seconds, and if it wasn't for a sprint at the in order to pip the 2 hour mark, I wouldn't have made.

What intrigues me is whether runners are really competing to their full potential. If you took away the clock, clearly you wouldn't have these invisible barriers - you'd have a nice smooth curve. But are runners performing better than they ordinarily would, or are they pacing themselves to hit certain times? Let me know what you think.

For a description of what drives the above curve (bar the invisible barriers), see this post I put together on an ocean swim I did - you can't see the clock in an ocean swim so the invisible barriers aren't apparent.


  1. Fabulous

    Love the way the data tells the story


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  5. Marathon finishing times can be a testament to dedication and hard work, and can be compared to previous runs. The time may suggest adjustments to pacing strategy, with slower starting to increase energy for later miles. The time may also indicate potential for a faster time with more training and strategy. The fitness level and training should be considered, with continued efforts to improve endurance and speed. The weather conditions on race day can be challenging, but the consistent training regimen is evident in the finishing time. After the marathon, focus on proper recovery to avoid overtraining and set new goals for the next race. Enjoy the journey and the sense of accomplishment, as marathon running is not just about the finishing time but also about the journey and the sense of accomplishment. Keep perspective, as completing a marathon is a remarkable achievement in itself. Support and encouragement from family and friends can also be helpful in setting new goals and continuing to improve in their running journey. Remember that marathon finishing times can vary greatly based on factors such as experience, training, age, and the specific race course. Positive and constructive feedback can help athletes set new goals and continue to improve in their running journey.
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