Study Ranks Countries on Their “Non-Elite” Runners

Spain takes first, Philippines last

Apr 22, 2015
Outside Magazine

Researchers found that Spain had the fastest recreational runners.    Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

A new study from statisticians in Denmark published Monday on RunRepeat ranked the speeds of recreational marathon runners around the world, by country. The statisticians found that U.S. runners rank toward the bottom, at 39th, with an average time of 4:29:31, more than a half-hour slower than world leader Spain.

The study pulled data from more than a million amateur runners who participated in large marathons. The database included 1,298,466 finishing times from 2009 to 2014 in the Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Boston, Budapest, Chicago, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Marine Corps, Paris, and Warsaw marathons. Times for professional runners who were expected to vie for top placements were not included, according to the New York Times. Countries with fewer than ten female and ten male finishers were also excluded.

While the United States did poorly in the overall average marathon time, it had the highest percentage of female marathon entrants (45 percent), whereas Spain had only 6 percent.

When broken down by gender, the statisticians found that Iceland had the fastest male and female marathoners. Icelandic men had an average time of 3:52, and the women averaged 4:18.

Most of the world’s elite marathon runners come from East African countries, yet none made it into the top 47 recreational running nations. “Many see Africa as the marathon continent,” Jens Jakob Andersen, lead researcher for the study, told the Times. “In recreational running, it is not a popular sport.”

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