US RUNNERS HAVE NEVER BEEN SLOWER, FINDS REPORT
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 runrepeat.com 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.