2016 Annual Report for US Marathons

Race Navigator. January 15, 2017
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Welcome to Race Navigator’s 2016 Marathon Report. We’ve collected the participant data from over 1,300 U.S. marathons and created a fun and informative article on 2016 marathon statistics. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the article!

2016 US Marathon Info-graphic

2016 Overview

Another year is in the books with another drop in overall marathon participation. 2015 dropped by 5.3% from 2014 (540,000 participants vs 570,000), and 2016 dropped by 2.0% (529,000 vs 540,000). This is a bit of a shock to the running community which has seen an average yearly increase of 2.7% over the past 10 years. Is this the new trend as half-marathons, ultras, and OCR’s become increasingly popular? Or is it just a temporary lull? Only the future will tell, but I say it’s time to turn that train around and kick out some new records of our own in 2017!

On the positive side, the marathon community still pushed out strong numbers in terms of new/inaugural marathons. In 2016, a total of 95 new marathons were added to our calendar which brought in over 7,500 participants. The largest of those marathons was the REVEL Mt. Charleston Marathon, which had 600 marathon runners.

Top 10 USA Marathons

The New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and Boston Marathon all retained their rankings from last year as the top three marathons in the United States. And as a matter of fact, the Marine Corps Marathon was the only race in the list to disrupt the Top-10 rankings; it dropped from 4th to 7th (a 3,600 decrease in participants from 2015).

Marathon 2016
New York City Marathon 51,300 1 1
Chicago Marathon 40,600 2 2
Boston Marathon 26,600 3 3
L.A. Marathon 20,600 4 5
Honolulu Marathon 20,100 5 6
Walt Disney World 19,800 6 7
Marine Corps Marathon 19,700 7 4
Philadelphia Marathon 9,000 8 8
Twin Cities Marathon 8,600 9 9
Houston Marathon 7,800 10 10


Fun Facts

A total of 13.9 million miles were logged in marathon races during the 2016 season. That distance would equate to running around the earth 556 times! And if you think that's impressive, the total distance logged while training comes out to 297 million miles. That equals 11,940 times around the earth, or 622 trips to the moon and back!


Finishing Times

2016 US Marathon Finish Times

The average finishing time in 2016 was 4 hours 47 minutes, which is an increase of two seconds from 2015 and five seconds from 2014. It will be interesting to see if this increase continues into 2017/2018 seeing that the average has remained fairly flat since before 2013 (see table below).

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Men 4:26 4:24 4:27 4:27 4:31 4:34 4:36
Women 4:53 4:51 4:54 4:54 4:56 4:58 5:01
Overall 4:36 4:34 4:37 4:37 4:42 4:45 4:47


Fastest/Slowest Marathons

With an average finish time of 3:42, the 'Last Chance for Boston BQ.2 Marathon' in Geneva, IL, grabbed the title of having the fastest overall participants. And its sister race in Grand Rapids, MI, took the #2 position with an average time of 3:47. Meanwhile, the Call of the Wilds Mountain Marathon easily took the #1 rank in the Slowest Marathon category [for the second year in a row] with an average finish time of 9:20.

Fastest Marathon Times:   Slowest Marathon Times:
Marathon Avg. Time   Marathon Avg. Time
Last Chance BQ.2 - Geneva 3:42   Call of the Wilds Mountain Marathon 9:20
Last Chance BQ.2 - Grand Rapids 3:47   Bataan Memorial Death March 8:23
LOCO Marathon 3:50   Breakneck Point Trail Marathon 7:54
Vermont City Marathon 3:50   Pikes Peak Marathon 7:24
Run for the Red Marathon 3:52   Mountain Man Memorial March 7:13


Age Distribution

2016 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 53   Brooklyn Marathon 31
New England Challenge Series 50   Mountain Man Memorial March 31
Yakima River Canyon Marathon 49   Aspen Backcountry Marathon 31
Texas Marathon 49   Beat The Blerch Marathon 32
Casper Marathon 48   Eau Claire Marathon 33


Gender Distribution

2016 US Marathon Gender Distribution

The percentage of men to women in marathon races has remained the same for the past three years: 56% (Men) vs 44% (Women).

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Men 59% 59% 58% 57% 56% 56% 56%
Women 41% 41% 42% 43% 44% 44% 44%


Top Men / Women Marathons

Looking for love in all the wrong races?-- Pay attention because these races are for you. The University of Okoboji Marathon in Iowa 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 120 participants). If you can’t make it to either of those races this year, check out the top 5 races for men and women listed below. Then lace up, dress to impress, and strut your stuff at your next race!

Highest % of Male Runners:   Highest % of Female Runners:
Marathon Percent   Marathon Percent
University of Okoboji Marathon 80%   Leading Ladies Marathon 100%
Mountain Man Memorial March 80%   Onward Shay Boise Marathon 62%
Breakneck Point Trail Marathon 78%   Jack & Jill's Downhill Marathon 62%
Tecumseh Trail Marathon 78%   Wicked Marathon 60%
North Face Endurance Challenge 77%   Wineglass Marathon 60%


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

2016 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 for having 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 in over half of the month’s total with 51,000 participants. The months of July and August host the least number of finishers due to the heat.

The obvious outlier in this chart is in the month of September. It was the 4th lowest 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. Also, 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
REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon 39.0%   Boston Marathon 8648
Run for the Red Marathon 36.9%   Chicago Marathon 4123
Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon 35.6%   New York City Marathon 4062
Tunnel Light Marathon 34.3%   California International Marathon 1411
Boston Marathon 32.7%   Philadelphia Marathon 1146
Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon 30.3%   Houston Marathon 929
Tunnel Vision Marathon 30.2%   Twin Cities Marathon 919
Erie Marathon 29.6%   St. George Marathon 797
Mountains 2 Beach Marathon 29.3%   L.A. Marathon 784
REVEL Big Cottonwood Marathon 29.3%   Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 687


Top NYC Qualifiers By Percent:   Top NYC Qualifiers By Finishers:
Marathon Qualifying
  Marathon Qualifying
REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon 11.8%   Boston Marathon 2649
Manchester City Marathon 10.3%   New York City Marathon 1480
Boston Marathon 9.9%   Chicago Marathon 1361
California International Marathon 9.9%   California International Marathon 611
Huntsville Marathon 9.3%   Philadelphia Marathon 354
Rogue Run Marathon 9.2%   Houston Marathon 335
Tunnel Light Marathon 9.1%   St. George Marathon 306
Mohawk Hudson River Marathon 8.5%   Twin Cities Marathon 290
REVEL Big Cottonwood Marathon 8.0%   L.A. Marathon 259
Skagit Flats Marathon 7.9%   Grandma's Marathon 232

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



Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed our 2016 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! And as an added bonus, we also pay $1 for each race review (see all promotions here).  Thanks -- The Race Navigator Team.