USA Marathoning: 2009 Overview
By MarathonGuide.com Staff
2009 Total Marathon Finishers and Overall Demographics
The numbers coming out of our 2009 report blew us away as the year saw the greatest growth ever in marathoning setting records across the board. The percentage growth rate - a 9.9% growth in the number of marathon finishers from 2008 to 2009 - was a record and that on top of record numbers from the year before. In total, nearly 468,000 marathon finishing times were recorded in the USA in 2009 - almost 43,000 more than the number of finishers from 2008. The number of male finishers increased by 9.8%, while the number of female finishers grew by nearly 10.0%. As has been the trend in most recent years, women continued to catch up to the men and accounted for 40.4% of total finishes.
In total, we know of 397 marathons that took place in the USA in 2009, which was up from an estimated 372 in 2008. The 9.9% growth in number of finishers combined with the 6.7% growth in number of events yielded a slight increase in the average marathon size (1,178 finishers) and median size (227 finishers) over the comparable numbers from 2008 (1,144 and 213 finishers respectively). Details follow.
2009 Overall Demographics
*Net Time used where available
Historical Total USA Marathon Finishers
2009 represented a watershed year for Marathoning in the USA as both the percentage annual growth in number of finishers and absolute growth in numbers reached records. The growth of nearly 43,000 finishers in the single year from 2008 to 2009 was virtually the same as the combined growth in the previous three years from 2005 to 2008. On a percentage basis, the 9.9% growth also set a record surpassing even the growth rate from 2001 to 2002 - a unique period where 2002 benefited from organic growth as well as a rebound to normal from 2001 where some Fall events were canceled and travel curtailed following the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.
Amazing to many, the 2009 growth occurred as the USA economy plunged into recession - but contrary to common sense, the marathon industry seemed not only recession proof, but to relish in the bad financial times. With a few exceptions (mentioned just below), races across the marathon distance saw growth - with nearly 70% seeing their numbers rise, another record.
Across this overall friendly environment, a few specific factors can be pointed at to explain the exceptional growth: the New York City Marathon added additional waves, opening its cap and adding 5,500 finishers; the Inaugural Rock N Roll Seattle Marathon saw 5,600 finishers which was 5,000 more than the SeaFair Marathon that it replaced; after a down year, the Marine Corps Marathon rebounded with 2,600 additional finishers; under new management, the Las Vegas Marathon saw 2,300 new finishers (including many Elvises); and a slew of good-sized inauguaral marathons - including six that saw over 1,000 finishers - introduced the distance to their towns, most notably the 3,400 finishers at the Pittsburgh Marathon. In total the ten events represented in this paragraph added nearly 30,000 finishers - and set the stage for the huge growth.
Opposing the incredible growth of the marathons mentioned above, a few races suffered declines. The Rock N Roll Marathon - the original race in the Rock N Roll series - saw a 19% decline and loss of more than 3,000 finishers as the advent of the Rock N Roll Seattle Marathon in the same time frame cannibalized the pool of runners available for the San Diego classic. The Los Angeles, under new management, was forced to change its date and lost a significant number of runners. Rock N Roll San Antonio, as is typical for a second year race, declined significantly. And one of our favorite marathons and the summer classic, Grandma's Marathon, faced competition from debut summer races and failed to fill for the first time in its history - although it still hung onto its 13th position in the list of largest marathons.
2009 Largest USA Marathons
The marathons in the top ten remained the same from 2008 to 2009. New York, Chicago and Boston solidified their spots as the largest three marathons in the USA - with New York embarking on a growth spurt to end with nearly 5,500 more finishers than in 2008 and - at 43,250 finishers - becoming the largest marathon ever run. Marine Corps Marathon leap frogged the Honolulu Marathon to take the fourth spot on the ranks of the largest races. The Disney World Marathon became the sixth largest race in the country taking advantage of growing numbers and declining numbers at the Los Angeles and Las Vegas Marathons.
|Marathon Name|| 2009 Finishers ||2009 Rank||2008 Rank||Growth 2008 to 2009|
|New York City Marathon||43,250||1||1||14.45%|
|Marine Corps Marathon||20,882||4||5||14.62%|
|Disney World Marathon||14,927||6||8||15.26%|
|City of Los Angeles Marathon (L.A. Marathon)||14,061||7||6||-17.00%|
|Rock 'n' Roll Marathon||13,291||8||7||-18.82%|
|Twin Cities Marathon||8,429||9||9||5.64%|
|Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon||6,440||12||14||-0.20%|
|Las Vegas Marathon||5,852||14||25||66.39%|
|California International Marathon||5,844||15||16||12.43%|
|Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon||5,813||16||11||-22.75%|
|St. George Marathon||5,618||17||17||11.69%|
|Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon||5,602||18||N/A|
|The San Francisco Marathon||5,036||20||22||15.66%|
|Dallas White Rock Marathon||4,453||21||23||14.83%|
|Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon||4,203||22||19||-11.05%|
|Country Music Marathon||3,961||25||21||-9.42%|
|Nike 26.2 = Nike Women's Marathon||3,910||26||18||-19.89%|
|Detroit Free Press International Marathon||3,780||28||26||7.54%|
|Long Beach International City Marathon||3,348||30||30||26.05%|
|Big Sur International Marathon||3,058||32||27||-4.17%|
|Shamrock Sportsfest Marathon||2,550||34||33||11.26%|
|Bataan Memorial Death March||2,500||35||37||20.77%|
|Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon||2,405||37||38||22.45%|
|Vermont City Marathon||2,340||38||32||-1.64%|
|Top of Utah Marathon||2,026||44||46||18.27%|
|Air Force Marathon||2,012||45||42||11.90%|
|Indianapolis Monumental Marathon||1,978||46||71||78.36%|
|Surf City USA Marathon||1,953||47||73||82.01%|
|Napa Valley Marathon||1,836||51||43||4.50%|
2009 USA Inaugural Marathons
2009 could be classified as the year of the Inaugural Marathon, as approximately 40 new marathons emerged in the USA with more than 20,000 runners participating in the first running of these races. The largest number of marathons - six - debuted at over 1,000 finishers in a single year. Of note, Elite Racing (now Competitor Group)'s latest foray - the Rock N Roll Seattle Marathon - hosted more than 5,600 marathon finishers. The Pittsburgh Marathon - truly a debut marathon, although organizers have laid claim to the previous incarnation of the race after a five year hiatus and called it the "21st running" - attracted nearly 3,500 finishers. The Santa Barbara Marathon, Illinois Marathon, Pasadena Marathon and Minneapolis Marathons rounded out the ranks of the debut marathons with more than 1,000 finishers.
2009 Age Group Breakdown
|AgeGroup||Avg. Time||Percent of Total||Percent of Sex|
Between 2008 and 2009, the average age of marathon finishers dipped from 38.8 to 38.7 years old - with the decrease coming on the men's side.
Fastest Age Groups
When we started reporting these statistics, we expected that the fastest age groups might change from year to year, but the trend has been remarkably consistent over the years... As usual, the fastest average age-group belonged to men aged 40-44, this year with a mean finishing time of 4:16:19 - a testament most likely to the fact that this group consists of seasoned and committed runners who have yet to slow considerably with age. On the women's side, the fastest times were posted by women aged 35-39 with similar times for both the 40-44 and 25-29 crowds.
Largest Age Groups
The largest groups of runners has been men aged 40-44 or men aged 35-39. That trend continued through 2009. Similarly, the largest group of women runners remained the 25-29 group.
2009 Marathon Finishing Times
Posted marathon times in the USA in 2009 ranged from 2:05:41 (Sammy Wanjiru running the fastest time ever in North America at the Chicago Marathon) to about 14 hours (at Honolulu and the Bataan Memorial Death Marathons). The chart at the right shows the breakdown of times from the fastest to the slowest.
As we keep repeating, 2009 was a year of records. One of our favorite numbers is the number of finishes that broke three hours: and 2009 saw this number explode to a record of nearly 9,000 (1.9% of finishes) from the nearly 8,000 (1.8% of finishes) of 2008.
Marathoners in the Middle
Apparently runners across the board were faster in 2009 than 2008, with women in general leading the charge. Median times dropped from 4:28:20 to 4:25:47 across all runners from 2008 to 2009; from 4:45:11 to 4:41:50 for women; and from 4:16:40 to 4:14:22 for men. The average finish times decreased, as did the standard deviations, indicating both both faster finishes and fewer very-back-of-the-packers. For all runners, average time improved to 4:35:41 (1:02:27 std. deviation) from 4:38:53 (1:04:37 std. deviation); while the average time for men decreased to 4:24:17 (1:00:02 std. dev.) from 4:26:49 (1:01:27 std. dev.); and for women average finish time decreased to 4:52:31 (std. dev. 1:02:09) from 4:56:44 (1:05:04 std. dev.) in 2008. For those needing a statistics refresher, the "median" is the middle result - half of all finish times slower and half faster; the "average" or "mean" is the sum of all times divided by the number of finishers - slower than median as the biggest times will have an influence on average but not on median; and standard deviation is a measure of how tightly grouped the data is around the mean and statistically, 68.3% of results will be between 1 standard deviation of the mean and 95.4% of results will be within 2 standard deviations of the mean on a normal curve.
2009 Finishing Times by Half Hour
*based on chip time, when available
2009 marked the first major shift in the seasonality of marathoning we have seen in a while - but it was an anomaly that will not repeat. The general trend of Fall versus Spring remained the same: the fourth quarter of the year again accounted for nearly one-third of all events and more than 50% of total marathon finishes. But for the first time, May took the spot as the month with the most marathon events (many quite small, but there were many) and, for what we expect to be a one year abberration, May took over the spot as the month with the third most marathon finishes. May 2009 - with nearly 66,000 finishes - benefited from new events such as the Pittsburgh Marathon; but two major marathons moved to May for 2009 only: the Rock N Roll Marathon was held on May 31 instead of its usual perch in the first week of June and the LA Marathon was held in May following a change in ownership and direction to do so by the city (a decision which was later regretted and the LA Marathon moved back to March for 2010 and presumably all future years).