Athletics Weekly - - Performance -

DATA from the largest-ever anal­y­sis of US road race re­sults re­veals that the av­er­age Amer­i­can marathon time has slowed from about 4:15 to about 4:40 over the two decades from 1996 to 2016. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, based on more than 34 mil­lion in­di­vid­ual race re­sults and con­ducted by the Dan­ish web­site run­re­ it con­firms that “Amer­i­can run­ners have never been slower.”

Co-authors Jens Jakob An­der­sen and Ivanka Nikolova, who has a PhD in math­e­mat­ics, spent four months analysing Amer­i­can road race re­sults to pro­duce the com­pre­hen­sive re­port. Their find­ings tally with data pro­duced by Run­ning USA, a trade or­gan­i­sa­tion, which re­veals the av­er­age male marathon run­ner recorded 3:32:17 in 1980, but 4:22:07 in 2016.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have linked slow­ing marathon times to in­creased fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in races. But An­der­son and Nikolova found that was not the case and sug­gested slower times by men (54%) have con­trib­uted more to the over­all de­cline than in­creased par­tic­i­pa­tion by women (46%).

They also re­vealed that, rel­a­tively speak­ing, recre­ational run­ners fin­ish­ing to­wards the back of the field had slowed back-of-the-pack run­ners have slowed only slightly more than race lead­ers.

“I would love to say that obe­sity is the cause for the slow-down, but I can­not,” An­der­son ad­mits. “We can only point out the cor­re­la­tions.”

Statis­tics show that times by elite US ath­letes have got faster – in 1996, the US marathon records stood at 2:10:04 for men and 2:21:21 for women. They are cur­rently 2:05:38 and 2:19:36.

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