What the Latest Marathon Study Shows About Women Participation

New research by RunnerClick shows the fastest age groups, nations with the strongest participation, where the most popular races are located, and more.

Data from the largest recreational marathon study in history has just been released—and the results have a lot to say about women runners. Between 2014 and 2017, RunnerClick collected the data of more than 3.5 million marathon records from runners representing 238 nationalities. These records came from 196 marathons, all of which were run across an estimated 39 countries across all seven continents. Below, we break down some of the study’s biggest takeaways.

American Women are Showing Up

On average, 45.7 percent of American marathon participants are women, the highest proportion across all countries assessed for this study. Canadian women are second at 40.73 percent.

Global Average Participation

The global average for marathon participation among women is 34.82 percent.

Finishing Times

The global average marathon finish time for women is 4:47:14.

Masters Runners are Mastering the Marathon

The 40 to 49 age group is the most popular for marathon participation in 29 of the 39 countries assessed.

The Roaring Twenties

The 20 to 29 age group is the fastest for women, with the average finishing time clocking in at 4:42:10. By comparison, the fastest age group for men is 40 to 49, with an average finishing time of 4:11:19.

Where Women are Fastest

Women posted the fastest average finish times while racing in Slovenia (4:10:10) and Ukraine (4:13:14).

Where the Runners Are

Ninety-one percent of runners (women and men) live in North America (49.75 percent) and Europe (41.9 percent).

Major Marathons

The Abbott World Marathon Majors in the U.S.—Boston, Chicago and New York City—are the most popular marathons in the U.S., with Boston clocking the fastest average finish time (3:56:27) of the three. The London and Berlin marathons are the most popular races of their kind in Europe.

Seniors Rule

The 90 to 99 age group showed the most significant growth through the duration of the study, with age group participation numbers increasing by 38.74 percent.

Where’d the Millennials Go?

While the 90 to 99 age group blossomed, participation in the 20 to 29 age group dropped between 2014 and 2017 by nearly 12 percent.

Fastest Countries

The countries that showed the fastest average marathon finishing times during this study were (from fastest to slowest): 1. Slovenia 2. Ukraine 3. Spain 4. Austria 5. Belgium 6. Slovakia 7. Norway 8. Estonia 9. Portugal 10. Denmark

Slowest Countries

The countries that showed the slowest average marathon finishing times during this study were: 1. Thailand 2. Puerto Rico 3. Mexico 4. United States 5. Switzerland 6. Korea 7. China 8. South Africa 9. Panama 10. Paraguay