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North America has the most female recreational marathoners: study

Which country is fastest? Slovenia

The results of one of the largest research studies of recreational marathoners ever conducted were released today in New York by the running product review site RunnerClick. Based on 3.5 million race records from 2.9 million recreational marathoners of 238 nationalities running in 784 marathons in 39 countries, the study reveals some surprising insights into the world of international recreational marathoning. 

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Rock 'n' Roll Montreal Marathon
Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal Marathon 2017. Photo: Kevin Morris.

Gender breakdown

For example: the US and Canada have the highest percentage of female runners, at 45.7 per cent and 40.7 per cent. The biggest growth in female participation was in Ukraine, which saw an increase of 383 per cent. Greece has the lowest proportion of female runners, with just under 10 per cent being women.

Advanced seniors leading the charge 

The 90-99 age category experienced a shocking jump in popularity, with a 39 per cent increase in participation over four years. The next biggest increase was in the 0-19 group, with an 11.83 per cent increase.

Berlin Marathon
Berlin Marathon 2017. Photo: SCC Events

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40-49 the biggest and speediest age category

Forty to 49 was the fastest age category (their average finishing time being 4:22:03) in every year except 2017, when 0-19 was fastest. It was also the biggest cohort, with more marathoners in this than any other age group, in 29 countries. Individuals under 19 years of age are the second biggest group, and only 14 seconds slower. Overall, 60 per cent of recreational marathoners are between 30 and 49 years old.

In North America, although 30-39 is the biggest age group, on every other continent 40-49-year-olds comprise the biggest cohort of recreational marathoners. 

Paris Marathon

Age, speed and gender

Broken down by gender, things get even more interesting. The fastest men, with an average finishing time of 4:11:19, are in the 40-49 group, but the fastest women are 20-29, the average finishing time being 4:42:10.

In terms of total numbers per age category, 20-29 experienced the biggest decline (12 per cent).

RELATED: Strava shows women prefer running, men prefer cycling

Slovenia the fastest country

The fastest country in the world for recreational marathoners of both genders is Slovenia, with an average finishing time over four years of 4:10:10 for women and 3:51:05 for men. The biggest increase in participation was in Ukraine, which saw a jump of 394 per cent for men and 383 per cent for women. Turkey had the biggest decline (60 per cent for men and 79 per cent for women).

Cleveland Marathon
Photo: Cleveland Marathon

Boston the fastest marathon

Not surprisingly, considering most participants must run a qualifying time at another marathon, of the most popular marathons in the US and Europe, the Boston Marathon had the fastest average finishing time (3:56:17).

Click here for the complete results and methodology used.