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Age, Sex, and Finish Time as Determinants of Pacing in the Marathon

March, Daniel S; Vanderburgh, Paul M; Titlebaum, Peter J; Hoops, Mackenzie L

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: February 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 2 - p 386-391
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bffd0f
Original Research

March, DS, Vanderburgh, PM, Titlebaum, PJ, and Hoops, ML. Age, sex, and finish time as determinants of pacing in the marathon. J Strength Cond Res 25(2): 386-391, 2011-Previous researchers have suggested that faster marathoners tend to run at a more consistent pace compared with slower runners. None has examined the influence of sex and age on pacing. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the simultaneous influences of age, sex, and run time on marathon pacing. Pacing was defined as the mean velocity of the last 9.7 km divided by that of the first 32.5 km (closer to 1.0 indicates better pacing). Subjects were 186 men and 133 women marathoners from the 2005, 2006, and 2007 races of a midwestern U.S. marathon. The course was a 1.6 km (1 mile) loop with pace markers throughout, thus facilitating pacing strategy. Each 1.6-km split time was measured electronically by way of shoe chip. The ambient temperature (never above 5°C) ensured that hyperthermia, a condition known to substantially slow marathon times and affect pacing, was not likely a factor. Multiple regression analysis indicated that age, sex, and run time (p < 0.01 for each) were simultaneously independent determinants of pacing. The lack of any 2- or 3-way interactions (p > 0.05 for each) suggests that the effects of 1 independent variable is not dependent upon the levels of others. We conclude that older, women, and faster are better pacers than younger, men, and slower marathoners, respectively. Coaches can use these findings to overcome such tendencies and increase the odds of more optimal pacing.

Department of Health and Sport Science, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio

Address correspondence to Paul M. Vanderburgh,

Copyright © 2011 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.