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.
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We've also created a tool that can help you compare your race results to your fellow Americans.
State finish time 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).
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Full rankings by finish time
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.
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
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.
Full rankings by finish time - men
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.
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
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.
Full rankings by the change in finish time - women
Men have slowed down on average more than women. And even the ones who have improved have improved less than women.
The men from 10 states have improved, the rest have slowed down.
Full rankings by the change in finish time - men
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.
Full rankings by number of participants
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.
Full rankings by the rate of 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.
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
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.
Full rankings by 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.
Full rankings by average age
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.
Full rankings by average age - women
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.
Full rankings by 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).
For most states (42 of them) the average age of participants has increased.
Full rankings by the change in average age
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 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 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.
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.
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%).
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!"
- 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.
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.
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