London Marathon 2018: Strava has some interesting insights ahead of race day
Last weekend I was pretty damned proud of myself, knocking three minutes off my previous best 10k race time. It probably helped that my arm wasn’t weighed down with fitness trackers in the name of “research”. The other secret, as much as there was one, was running more frequently, but I’ve asked sports scientists for tips before if you want something more concrete.
Anyway, while 10k is pushing the very limits of what I ever want to put my body through, this weekend, over 40,000 actual athletes will gather in one place to show me up. They’ll do this by putting their bodies through absolute agony and running 26.2 miles across London, all because Pheidippides kicked off the craze 2,498 years ago. And he didn’t even get a medal.
We don’t have data on Pheidippides’ time, let alone his cadence or heart rate, but thanks to every runner worth his or her lost salts using Strava, we have some interesting insights ahead of the big day. The company has been crunching the numbers of 10,706 runners who competed in the 2017 marathon and looked into both their training and their performance on the big day.
This is what they found.
Women are better at pacing
It’s easily done: with labrador-like enthusiasm, you bound off at speed only to realise a mile or two down the road that this is completely unsustainable and you’re going to crash sooner rather than later.
If you’ve had that experience, you’re more likely to have a Y chromosome. Strava found that while men dropped an average of 17% of their pace in the second half, women only dropped by 11%.
And the best women? Over 60s. They were by far the most consistent runners, demonstrating just a 9% variance in pace over the run.
The 25th mile is the hardest
On mile seven, you’ll likely find yourself bounding along. It is, on average, the fastest mile with the average pace of 8:48 per mile.
Most runners find number 25 the most challenging, and at this point the pace slows to a far slower 10:20 per mile. You will be in pain.
There’s no substitute for putting the training hours in
As the graph below shows, those running sub-3-hour marathons had put an average of over 600 miles’ training in over the 13 weeks leading up to race day. Those with times over five hours had put in around half that.
It may sound obvious, but it was the older, wiser heads that were listening. Strava found that it was the 51-60-year-old runners that put in the most time, averaging 370.9 miles in total, compared to 21-30 year-olds’ 310.7 miles.
Despite this, people’s preparation in the weeks leading up to the big day was broadly the same, with a marked drop off in training runs as the event got closer.
This is called tapering and is what the experts recommend. Rest those legs and give it all on race day.
You’re no Eliud Kipchoge
The time to beat for the London Marathon was set in 2016 by Eliud Kipchoge, when he managed to complete the course in two hours, three minutes and five seconds.
You are no Eliud Kipchoge (apologies if you’re reading, Mr Kipchoge) – in fact, if you’re running the London marathon Strava’s average pace, you’ll be stuck around Limehouse as the winners cross the finish line some 12 miles in front of you.
(Kipchoge will be running on Sunday. He told Runners World: “I hope to run a very beautiful race, one where all the fans will be satisfied and I will be happy.” Best prepare for second or worse, then.)
How to watch the London Marathon
Just as I don’t get why people would voluntarily watch others playing games on Twitch, I can’t say I understand why you’d want to watch the marathon – but hey, don’t let me stop you.
There are plenty of pubs on route if you want to get up close and personal with the action, substituting an energy drink for a pint. Alternatively, you can watch the elite runners compete for to placing on BBC One from 08:50 BST. The amateur runners can be watched via a stream on the BBC website.