What a crazy race the 2018 Boston Marathon has been!
The New England weather can be pretty unpredictable and it was just crazy in the 2018 edition of the prestigious Boston Marathon. It was not only cold but also rained all day and so conditions demanded everything from the more than 25,000 runners.
And then there are the winners. Yuki Kawauchi, an amateur runner from Japan came in first in 2:15:58 and relegated defending champion Geoffrey Kirui from Kenya to second place. This is big news for every amateur runner as Yuki Kawauchi works full-time as a high school administrator in Japan but was able to put enough training in to succeed at a major race like the Boston Marathon.
At the womens competition Desiree Lindens win was the first of an American in 33 years. Linden was thinking about dropping from the Boston Marathon but instead came in first in 2:39:54. After several top 10 finishes in Boston, the 2018 edition is now her first marathon major win.
But in this article I don’t want to just write about the headlines. You can get great race coverage at RunnersWorld or read a racap of the event in a big media outlet. I took some time to do some analysis on the results data from all 25,000+ finishers of the Boston Marathon 2018.
Let me first show you an infographic and then dig into some specifics.
In 1967 women were not allowed to participate in the Boston Marathon. It was in this year where running pioneer Kathrine Switzer enrolled in the Boston Marathon using her initials so nobody suspected that a woman would actually race.
In the more than 50 years since that event the amount of women not only in major marathons but running in general grew more and more. In the Boston Marathon 2018 more than 45% of the finishers are women, confirming the trend that clearly shows running is not at all just a male sport.
This years Boston Marathon also shows once more that top performances in endurance running can be accomplished up to an advanced age. Almost 60% of the finishers were 40 years or older. Similar age distributions can also be seen in most other big marathon events.
The most competitive age group for both man and women is the 18-39 group. It has by far the most finishers (mostly because is spans over an age of more than 20 years) and is in average the fastest group as well.
In the age groups with runners over 40, number of runners get gradually lower and the average finish time slower.
But there are two exceptions for these trends in the mens race data. There were a bunch more runners in the 45-49 age group than in the 40-44 group which makes the 40-44 age group a bit of an outlier in the curve.
Also the small age group over 80 years (7 runners) had a faster finishing time than the 75-79 group (24 runners).
Again this data shows that marathon is not a sport where you need to be very young to achieve great results. Great finishing times in the 60s and 70s are still possible.
I also aggregated the data by country of origin of the more than 25,000 runners. For the analysis mentioned here, I only considered countries with more than 100 runners finishing the race.
Obviously it’s not a surprise that a majority of the runners in the Boston Marathon come from the Unites States. Sure the Boston Marathon is an international race and a lot of runners from around the world want to participate in this historic event. Nevertheless almost 74% of all finishers are US citizens.
Looking at the average finish time by countries is always interesting. I usually expect that top African countries like Kenya or Ethiopia show up as fastest countries. But when considering all the runners from the countries that send more than 100 runners, Columbia came in first.
The good performance by countries like Canada, Great Britain and Ireland could be interpreted that runners from there are more used to cold and rainy weather. This of course was an advantage in this years Boston Marathon.
I also checked how the country list looks like when I average the top 10 finishers from each country. There the picture is somewhat different. The US runners win with quite a gap to the following Great Britain and Canada.
The fact that Yuki Kawauchi won the race certainly helped to get Japan into the top 5 countries.
Since three out of four finishers come from the United States, I also had a look into the average finish time for each US state with 15 or more runners.
Noteworthy is that Montana, DC, Alaska and Iowa are quite a bit faster than runners from all other states. The difference between the fastest state Montana and fifth Kansas, is about the same as Kansas and the last North Carolina.
I don’t see a clear pattern here. It’s not like all states up north are better than the hot southern states. So I don’t think preparation for cold and wet conditions is the main cause for these differences.
What do you think?
As you might know, pacing a marathon is not easy. It’s widely accepted that running at a consistent pace throughout the race is probably the best tactic. Starting out too fast of course is a no-go and you’ll pay for that in the second half.
Often advanced and pro runners run the second half a bit faster than the first. In the 2018 Boston Marathon only 3.5% of the finishers achieved that. This is quite a bit lower than in the 2016 New York and Chicago Marathon that I’ve analyzed.
Of course elevation profile and change in weather during the race play a big role here.
Regarding running at an even pace, this years winner wasn’t running too consistent between 10K and the 25K mark.
You can see in the graph that advanced runners (top 100) are much better at running at the same pace than the average of 25,000+ finishers.
A lot of marathoners have a clear time goal in mind when running such a race. And there are several milestone times like finishing in sub 4h or sub 3h hour.
As you can see in the infographic 7% of all finishers managed to run a sub 3h marathon. If you managed to finish in under four hours, you’re in the top 70% (men) and almost in the better half (women).
Still great that almost 90% of all runners finished the Boston Marathon 2018 in these difficult conditions in less than five hours.
So what do you think of these results analysis of the Boston Marathon 2018? And which other statistic would you be interested in?
Let us know in the comments section! And don’t forget to share this post in case you liked it!
4 comments on “Boston Marathon 2018 Results Analysis”
Nice analysis…..have you compared the pacing consistency to last year? You mentioned it was lower than other races, and I wonder if the weather was a factor.
I posted some similar analysis of 2018 results on Medium (linked). I focused on comparisons between 2017 and 2018, so I could see the effect of this year’s weather.
Anyway, great blog. I just found this through letsrun.com. Will check out the other posts.
No I only have data to query so far for the 2018 race. If I find some time, I’ll extract and store archive results as well in a database for comparison.
Loved your analysis on medium!
Thanks for your research and analysis.
Is it possible to ascertain what percentage of finishers actually reached their BQ?
Many Boston runners, especially veterans, use Boston for this and avoid a fall qualifier.
Good info, thanks!
But a quick fact check I just couldn’t let go.
Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to run Boston, a year before Switzer.