Who’s faster? The ultimate state comparison for marathons

Posted on 15 August, 2019 by Danny McLoughlin

For this study, we analyzed 19.6 results from over 16 thousand marathon races.

We recently published our mega-study on the state of running, where we found that the world, and in particular, the marathoners from the US are getting slower. We became curious to see how the 50 individual states +D.C. are performing.

 

Feel free to use any material from this page, as long as you refer to this original source.

 

map of marathon finish times US

 

We've also created a tool that can help you compare your race results to your fellow Americans. 

 

State finish time rankings

Overall rankings

The fastest state in the US is Massachusetts with an average finish time of 4 hours 4 minutes 20 seconds. Washington comes second with an average finish time of 4 hours 18 minutes 9 seconds and Indiana is third (4 hours 18 minutes and 57 seconds). The three slowest states, in that order, are - Alaska (5 hours 30 minutes), Florida (5 hours 33 minutes) and Hawaii (6 hours 16 minutes). 

 

state rankings in marathon running

 

Click to view full results:

Full rankings by finish time

 

finish time rankings

 

Female rankings

The best women in the country are the ones from Massachusetts, with an average time of 4 hours 15 minutes 1 second. The slowest are from Hawaii with an average finish time of over 6 and a half hours. 

 

top 3 states marathons

 

Women from Massachusetts are faster than men from 36 states + DC. They include - New York, California, Nevada, Vermont and many many more.

 

Full rankings by finish time - women

 

female finish time rankings marathons

 

Male rankings

The fastest men are again from Massachusetts, with an average of 3 hours 54 minutes. The slowest men are from Hawaii, with an average of just under 6 hours.

 

top 3 states marathons - men

 

Full rankings by finish time - men

 

male rankings marathon finish times

 

Over the last 10 years, some of the states have improved and some of them have slowed down. The most improved is New Mexico - they have shaved off more than 27 minutes of their average time. On the other hand, the biggest slow down is the one of Florida - they have added more than 40 minutes to their average time. 

 

most improved states marathons

 

In total, just 12 states have improved over the last 10 years. The other 38 + DC have slowed down. 

 

Full rankings by the change in finish time

 

change in overall finish times marathon

 

The women from New Mexico have improved most, and they have improved more than the men. The women from just 15 states have improved over the last 10 years, which is still more than the average. 

 

most impoved women marathon

 

Full rankings by the change in finish time  - women

 

change in marathon finish times women

 

Men have slowed down on average more than women. And even the ones who have improved have improved less than women.

 

top 3 most improved men

 

The men from 10 states have improved, the rest have slowed down. 

 

Full rankings by the change in finish time  - men

 

change in finish times men

 

Participation

The states with the biggest % of all marathoners are New York, California, and Illinois. And the states with the least are Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska. 

 

top 3 states by % of all marathoners

 

Full rankings by number of participants

 

% of marathoners by state

 

These numbers look different when we look at the number of participants as a proportion of the state population. Here we see that the states with the biggest proportion of runners are DC, Hawaii, and Vermont. And the ones with the least are West Virginia, New Jersey, and Kansas.

The overall rate of marathon participation is 0.13% of the US population.

 

rate of participation top 3

 

Full rankings by the rate of participation

 

rate of marathon participation

 

The states that have the biggest increase in participation are South Carolina, Delaware, and Rhode Island. They have more than doubled their participation in the last decade. 

 

change in participation

 

On the other hand, participation in 24 states has declined.  It has declined most in Oregon, Alaska and New Mexico. 

 

Full rankings - change in participation

 

change in marathon participation

 

It is also interesting to note the gender distribution of the participants by state. Florida and Illinois are the states with most female marathon runners. In these states, there are actually more female than male marathoners. 

The state with the lowest proportion of women is Nebraska - 35.6%. This is actually higher than the world's average of female participation. 

 

female participation

 

Full rankings by gender distribution

 

gender distribution

 

Age of participants

The state with the youngest participants, on average, is Massachusetts and they are also the fastest. But still, the second and third fastest states are not among the youngest. We see that even though age does play a role in the average finish time, it's only one of many factors

The average age of the US marathoner for comparison is 39.66.

 

average age of marathoners

 

Full rankings by average age

 

average age of marathoners

 

There is a significant difference between the average age of male and female participants. In general female races are younger. And the youngest ones are again from Massachusetts. 

The average age of the American female marathoner is 37.91 years, for comparison. 

 

average age of women marathoners

 

Full rankings by average age - women

 

average age female marathoners

 

Men are on average 5 years older than women on a state by state basis. The youngest men are also from Massachusetts, but they are with an average age of 38.5 years, which is 5.9 years older than women. 

The average age of male marathoners in the US is 41.05 years.

 

average age of male marathoners

 

Full rankings by average age - men

 

average age men

 

The average ages of the participants have changed over the last 10 years. In Massachusetts, the average age has declined by 5 years, and in Alaska, it has increased by 8.2 years (and now Alaska is the state with the oldest participants in the US).

 

change in average age

 

For most states (42 of them) the average age of participants has increased.

 

Full rankings by the change in average age

 

change in average age of marathoners

 

State Reports

In this section, we provide a summary for each state and how it's marathon performance has changed over the last 15 years. Click on the name of the state to see each report. 

 

Massachusetts #1 - the fastest state

Massachusetts is the fastest state in the US, and it has both the fastest men and the fastest women in the US. Being the fastest state in the country is not preventing runners from slowing down through the years though. Over the last 10 years, the runners from Massachusetts have slowed down on average by 13 minutes (5.5%).

Women have slowed down slightly more than men here. Women have added 12 minutes to their average finish time (5%) and men - 11 minutes (5%).  

 

massachusetts finish times marathon

 

Massachusetts women have an average finish time of 4 hours 15 minutes 1 second, which makes them faster than the men from 36 states + D.C. They include - New York, California, Nevada, Vermont and many many more. 

Massachusetts is #4 by the proportion of women in 2018. As we can see there has been a stable increase in female participation - an increase of 11%  over the last 15 years.

 

massachusetts gender distribution

 

Massachusetts is #2  by the change in average age. The average age of Massachusetts marathon runners has fallen by 5 years. Women's average age has decreased more than that of men. The average age of women has decreased by 5.2 years, and the average age of men - by 4.1 years. 

 

massachussets average age

 

In Massachusetts, there is a sharp increase in participants under 40 years old. And it's interesting to note, that there is a shrinking in the proportion of the participants in their 40s. The % of participants over 50 are staying quite stable. 

 

massachusetts age distribution marathons

 

In Massachusetts, just the youngest participants have become faster over the last 15 years - by 23 minutes (8%). All other age groups have slowed down. The participants in their 20s have slowed down by 20 minutes 30 seconds (8%). The ones in their 30s - by 29 minutes (12%), the ones in their 40s - by 14 minutes (5%), the ones in their 50s - by 6 and a half minutes (2%). And the oldest participants have slowed down by 11 minutes (4%). 

 

massachusetts finish times age

 

Why are Massachusetts Runners so fast?

Where the numbers don't always explain everything, we can look at the people on the ground to add some context. Here's what Meg Reilly from the BAA (organizers of the Boston marathon) had to say:

"At the B.A.A., we take pride in runners of all paces and from all places, but of course we love being able to inspire our hometown heroes right here in the Commonwealth. As you know well, for more than a century, the Boston Marathon has been a unifying and motivating event in the Massachusetts community. The Boston Marathon has routinely served as inspiration to Massachusetts citizens to get active and run: each year’s race exposes more and more people to the powerful impact of running and the competitive side of the sport. Finishers of the Boston Marathon are celebrated and recognized in communities across the state and our participants give back to their local communities.

The Boston Marathon is held just as the signs of spring are beginning to unfold in New England and is an impetus for all residents get outside and run, even if they aren’t making the 26.2 mile trek. In recent years, more than 4,000 Massachusetts residents have participated in the Boston Marathon each year, with tens of thousands more participating in the B.A.A.’s other signature events throughout the calendar year. The exposure to elite competitions and fast runners is definitely one reason as to why Massachusetts is a fast place to be. As experienced marathoners know, qualifying for the Boston Marathon continues to be a highly competitive endeavor. Our neighbors and communities train through all conditions to make it to our starting line in April and we are continually awed by their accomplishment and achievements. Training and racing in Massachusetts is not for the faint of heart – the grit, strength, and commitment of our athletes is as well represented at the marathon distance as in any other.

There are other factors that make Massachusetts such a great – and fast – running community: two of which are the locale and running club community. Whether in the city or suburbs, there are countless running paths or trails to experience every day. Beyond training, every weekend there are dozens of road races throughout the community spanning distances from the mile to marathon, including our own B.A.A. 5K in April, B.A.A. 10K in June, and B.A.A. Half Marathon in October.

For decades the Massachusetts running club community has been very competitive, too. In the 1970s and 1980s, the B.A.A. and Greater Boston Track Club (especially 4-time Boston Marathon champion Bill Rodgers) helped ramp up America’s running boom from right here in Boston, and showcased how this area is a great place to train and race. Today, the B.A.A.’s High Performance team boasts elite athletes competing on and off the track and representing our country in top competition. Our very own B.A.A. Running Club boasts hundreds of members, including Olympic Trials qualifiers, Team USA representatives, and Boston Marathon finishers. The B.A.A. regularly looks to work with communities to introduce individuals of all ages to the sport of running – and we love to see the children we reach through our community engagement grow up to be runners in college and adulthood!"

 

Methodology 

  • The data covers 96% of US race results.
  • Elite runners have been excluded and thus this is an analysis of recreational runners.
  • Walks and "walk/run for charity"-events have been excluded as well as obstacle course races and other non-traditional running events. 
  • Events with less than 500 participants have also been excluded.
  • 19.6 million race results, over 30,000 events
  • From 2004 to 2018.

 

About The Researchers

The lead in this study is Danny McLoughlin..... He was assisted by Vania Andreeva Nikolova, Ph.D. in Mathematical analysis.

 

About RunRepeat

At RunRepeat.com we collate reviews of running shoes. We do our utmost to assist runners in finding the right pair of running shoes at the best price. Also, we do in-depth studies. Learn more about what we do on our about page.

 

Use of content

  • We are happy to give interviews on the topic at any time. Reach out to Danny at danny@runrepeat.com.
  • For web usage, any minor text sections, all data, and all graphics may be used as long as a reference is added to this original piece.
  • For print usage, reach out to danny@runrepeat.com.

 

 

 

Author
https://cdn.runrepeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Danny_RunRepeat.jpg
Danny McLoughlin

Danny is a sneakerhead turned sneaker industry expert that believes a good outfit begins from the feet up. His aunt currently isn't speaking to him for wearing a pair of kicks at his cousin's wedding. He spends most of his time trying to keep on top of the latest releases, hitting up his contacts and doing what needs to be done to secure his next pickup. Danny has been featured in prestigious publications such as The Washington Post, The Irish Times, Footwear News and the like.

daniel@runrepeat.com