2015 Annual Report for US Marathons

Race Navigator. January 15, 2016
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Welcome to Race Navigator’s 2015 Marathon Report. We’ve collected the participant data from over 1,200 U.S. marathons and created a fun and informative article on 2015 marathon statistics. So sit back, turn off your Garmin, and enjoy the article!

2015 US Marathon Info-graphic

2015 Overview

Are marathons headed towards the finish line? After more than 10 years of growth and hundreds of new races, the industry has seen its first significant drop in participation numbers. With 2014 yielding a record 570,000 finishers, 2015 only saw 540,000 finishers, which is a drop of 5.3%. So the question on everyone’s mind is this: is 2015 just an ‘off’ year or are these numbers a signal of the overall decline in the sport marathon running?

In spite of the drop in participation, the marathon community is still pushing out strong numbers in terms of new/inaugural marathons. In 2015, a total of 110 new marathons were created which drew over 12,000 participants to the starting line. The largest of these marathons was the Milwaukee Running Festival which had nearly 950 marathon runners.

Top 10 USA Marathons

The New York City Marathon and Chicago Marathon retained their previous year’s ranking as the top marathons in the United States. And even though the Boston Marathon had the largest decrease in participants (5,300 decrease) it was still able to hold onto its #3 position over the Marine Corps Marathon which saw the largest increase in participants (3,500 increase).

Marathon 2015
New York City Marathon 49,600 1 1
Chicago Marathon 37,500 2 2
Boston Marathon 26,600 3 3
Marine Corps Marathon 23,300 4 6
L.A. Marathon 21,900 5 5
Honolulu Marathon 21,600 6 4
Walt Disney World 20,100 7 7
Philadelphia Marathon 9,200 8 8
Twin Cities Marathon 8,600 9 9
Houston Marathon 7,100 10 10


Fun Facts

A total of 14.1 million miles were logged in marathon races in 2015. That distance would equate to running around the earth 570 times! And if you think that's impressive, the total training miles that were logged comes to 305 million. That equals 12,190 times around the earth, or 635 trips to the moon and back!


Finishing Times

2015 US Marathon Finish Times

The average finishing time in 2015 was 4 hours 45 minutes, which is an increase of 3 minutes from 2014 and 8 minutes from 2013. It will be interesting to see if this increase continues into 2016/2017 seeing that the average has remained fairly flat since before 2013 (see table below).

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Men 4:26 4:24 4:27 4:27 4:31 4:34
Women 4:53 4:51 4:54 4:54 4:56 4:58
Overall 4:36 4:34 4:37 4:37 4:42 4:45


Fastest/Slowest Marathons

With an average finish time of 3:30, the 'Last Chance for Boston BQ.2 Marathon' in Grand Rapids, MI, grabbed the #1 rank in the Fastest Marathon category. Its sister race in Chicagoland, IL, took the #2 position with an average time of 3:37. Meanwhile, the Megatransect Marathon easily took the #1 rank in the Slowest Marathon category with an average finish time of 9:13.

Fastest Marathon Times:   Slowest Marathon Times:
Marathon Avg. Time   Marathon Avg. Time
Last Chance BQ.2 - Grand Rapids 3:30   Megatransect Marathon 9:13
Last Chance BQ.2 - Chicagoland 3:37   Call of the Wilds Mountain Marathon 8:58
Boston Marathon 3:46   Bataan Memorial Death March 8:23
LOCO Marathon 3:50   Pikes Peak Marathon 7:21
Peak to Creek Marathon 3:58   Mountain Man Memorial March 7:13


Age Distribution

2015 US Marathon Age Distribution

The average age of marathon runners has hovered at 39 years old for the past five years. This year brings no surprise as it hovers again at that same number.

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Men 40 40 40 40 41 41
Women 37 37 37 37 37 37
Overall 39 39 39 39 39 39


Marathons with Oldest/Youngest Participants

The Mainly Marathon race series holds the #1 position for having the oldest marathon participants, directly followed by the Running The Distance race series in Texas. On the other end of the spectrum, the Beat The Blerch Marathon in Washington had the youngest racers, coming in with an average age of 31.

Oldest Participants:   Youngest Participants:
Marathon Avg. Age   Marathon Avg. Age
Mainly Marathon Series 52   Beat The Blerch Marathon 31
Running The Distance Series 50   Mountain Man Memorial March 31
Casper Marathon 49   Brooklyn Marathon 32
Paavo Nurmi Marathon 49   Rim Rock Marathon 32
Yakima River Canyon Marathon 48   Eau Claire Marathon 33


Gender Distribution

2015 US Marathon Gender Distribution

The percentage of men to women in marathon races remained the same in 2015: 56% (Men) vs 44% (Women).

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Men 59% 59% 58% 57% 56% 56%
Women 41% 41% 42% 43% 44% 44%


Top Men / Women Marathons

Looking for love in all the wrong races?-- Pay attention because these events are for you! The Mountain Man Memorial March in Tennessee had the highest percentage of male runners (80% of 100 participants), while the Leading Ladies Marathon in South Dakota had the highest percentage of female runners (100% of 140 participants). If you can’t make it to either of those races this year, check out the top 5 races for men and women where you can lace up, dress to impress, and hopefully run into your match!

Highest % of Male Runners:   Highest % of Female Runners:
Marathon Percent   Marathon Percent
Mountain Man Memorial March 80%   Leading Ladies Marathon 100%
Whiteface Sky Marathon 78%   Blooms to Brews Marathon 62%
5 Points of Life Marathon 76%   Wineglass Marathon 62%
Yonkers Marathon 75%   Running for the Bay Marathon 62%
North Face Endurance Challenge 75%   Running with the Bears Marathon 61%


For a more light-hearted look at the gender divide, take a look at our Battle of the Sexes marathon report. It has a fun and informative info-graphic which is great for sharing on social media. We also dive into more detail including Boston & NYC qualifying time comparisons. Check it out!


Marathon Seasonality

2015 US Marathon Seasonaltiy

The graph to the right illustrates the number of monthly finishers overlaid with the number of actual races in the respective month.

October clearly leads the pack with the highest number of monthly finishers. This should be no surprise since three of the top 10 marathons are held in that month (Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, and Twin Cities Marathon). November comes in second with the New York City Marathon pulling half of the month’s total with 50,000 participants. July and August host the fewest finishers due to the hot weather.

The obvious outlier in this chart is the month of September. It was the 5th lowest month in terms of finishers, yet was #1 in terms of most races held. We’ve found that this is mostly due to many of the smaller marathons choosing not to directly compete with the larger marathons in October and November. Further, some of these races are used as ‘tune-up’ races for ultra-marathon events also held later in the fall.


Boston Qualifiers & NYC Qualifiers

Every year, tens of thousands of marathon participants aim for the coveted Boston and NYC qualifying times. Below you'll find a list of the top qualifying marathons both in terms of overall qualifying percentage, and total qualifying finishers.

Top Boston Qualifiers By Percent:   Top Boston Qualifiers By Finishers:
Marathon Qualifying
  Marathon Qualifying
Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon (MI) 57.1%   Boston Marathon 12620
Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon (IL) 50.4%   New York City Marathon 3804
Boston Marathon 46.6%   Chicago Marathon 3713
Erie Marathon 32.5%   Philadelphia Marathon 1259
Tunnel Light Marathon 30.6%   California International Marathon 1228
Mountains 2 Beach Marathon 28.3%   Grandma's Marathon 1137
Peak to Creek Marathon 26.4%   St. George Marathon 950
Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon 25.2%   Twin Cities Marathon 939
Big Cottonwood Marathon 25.0%   Marine Corps Marathon 838
Baystate Marathon 24.6%   Houston Marathon 701


Top NYC Qualifiers By Percent:   Top NYC Qualifiers By Finishers:
Marathon Qualifying
  Marathon Qualifying
Boston Marathon 15.3%   Boston Marathon 4151
Tallahassee Marathon 10.5%   New York City Marathon 1425
Green Mountain Marathon 10.4%   Chicago Marathon 1315
California International Marathon 9.9%   California International Marathon 559
Tunnel Light Marathon 8.9%   Grandma's Marathon 447
Nebraska State Fair Marathon 8.8%   Philadelphia Marathon 413
Mt. Nittany Marathon 8.6   Twin Cities Marathon 336
Clarence DeMar Marathon 8.4%   St. George Marathon 333
Mohawk Hudson River Marathon 8.3%   Marine Corps Marathon 230
Skagit Flats Marathon 8.1%   Houston Marathon 214

* All lists in this report only include races with 100 or more finishers.



Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed our 2015 Annual Marathon Report. And remember -- whether you ran one marathon this year, or 100, be sure to share your race experiences on our site! Your reviews allow the entire running community to benefit for your experience and help the race directors create great races. So if you ran it, we want to hear about it! Thanks -- The Race Navigator Team.