40th anniversary of BolderBOULDER – facts and stats

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BolderBOULDER in Boulder (Colorado) belongs to the top 20 of the biggest road running races in the world. On Monday, 28 May, it celebrated its 40th anniversary. Let’s have a look at the statistics!

The event is not only known for its high number of participants, but also for its ceremonial aspects. The race takes place on memorial day, which a federal holiday in the USA to remember the people who died while serving the country’s armed forces. The event is very much associated with memorial day, as, for example, active military members are offered discounts on participation fees. Have a look at this video, in order to see how important the relationship between the race and memorial day is. A reason why this race is especially interesting for us is the fact that Frank Shorter, who is our ambassador, is co-founder and organiser of this 10km-long race. He is a long-time resident of Boulder and a life-size bronze statue of Shorter stands outside the stadium.

Now, let us turn to some facts about this years race. About 38’000 people finished the competition. While there is also a separate race for the elite runners, we would like to focus our analysis on the performances of the runners in the regular classes.

1) Nailing the 1 hour bench-mark

A first interesting point is the distribution of the 38’000 participants in terms of their running time. Graph 1 illustrates this:

Graph 1: Distribution of runners on running time

As you can see, the peak of the distribution is at 1:00:00. More than 700 runners completed the race in around one hour, while most runners had times above that. The number uf running times below one hour decrease strongly with decreasing time. Towards the other side of the spectrum, we see that the amount of occurrences per time drops rather fast at the beginning, while the distribution seems a little bit more even for the times between 1:30:00 and 2:00:00. A possible explanation for this pattern is the fact that the times of 60, 90 and 120 minutes all are some kind of bench-marks to which people try to orient and which they try aim for or to underbid.

2) 31-year old men and 36-year old women are the fastest!

Let us now look a bit more closely at the sociodemographic correlations with running times. First, we’ll look at the fastest time ran by members of each age class and gender. This is shown in graph 2.

Graph 2: Fastest time run by member of each age class and gender 2018

What we can see here is that, not unexpectedly, males generally had lower times than females. While the fastest 6-year-old girl was faster than the fastest 6-year-old boy, the fastest times for males were always faster than the fastest times for females. The smallest difference between the genders can be seen for the 36-year-olds, the 43-year-olds, the 54-55-year-olds, and the 70-year-olds. In general, performances improve rather fast in younger years, while they remain constant within a wide range of age groups, getting worse only after about 45 years of age. The best performances were delivered by 31-year olds for men and 36-year olds for females.

3) Slower as from the age of 45?

Also when looking at the average times of all members of each age group depending on gender, we see that the average performances of males are lower than the ones of females. Thee difference seems to be the smallest for the ages of 6 to 14 years, 26 to 28 and 76. Also this graph reflects the result above, that performances increase fast with increasing age at the beginning, while there are only small differences between the times of 20-year-olds and 45-year-olds. After that, times start to increase again. Also average times were the lowest for males around 30 and females around 35.

Graph 3: Average time per age group and gender 2018

4) Respect for the Alabama runners!

Another interesting fact to look at is the comparison of average times in this year’s race across the different states of the USA. The table below shows the average time for each state.

Table 1: Average time in 2018 for each state in the USA

The fastest average time was achieved by runners of Alabama with 1:13:16, followed by New Mexico and Maine. Somewhat surprisingly, the host state of the competition, Colorado, only scored the 36th best average time. However, the best time ever by a runner of a US American state was achieved by a Colorado runner (which we cannot see in this table, however).

5) Ladies chasing the men in the 70ties

Now, apart from the numbers of this years race, we are also interested in the comparison across genders and age groups over the years, as well as the development in performances.

Let us start with the best time ever run by members of each age and gender (since the first competition 40 years ago). This is shown in graph 4. We see a similar pattern as we did for the comparsison of times across age and gender for 2018, except from the fact that at some point in the history of the race, there were both a very fast 58-year-old and a very fast 68-year-old female. Also, the best times ever run by 73- and 75-year-olds were run by females, not men.

Graph 4: Best times ever run by members of each age group and gender

6) Numbers of records was increasing – is this about to change?

But what can we say about the level of performances across the years? Do people tend to run new records or are the numbers of new records stagnating? The following graph shows the amount of runners per year who ran a time among the best 20 times ever run by runners their age.

Graph 5: Amount of runners per year with a time among the all-time top 20 in their age group

The graph shows that a first peak with new records (over 100 cases) was reached in 1984, while it took 20 years until this number was reached again. After 2006, the numbers of new records for different age classes was always higher than 100, the highest ever number of new records being registered in 2015. The number of new records has thus been growing during the last 20 years overall. This year, however, during the last couple of days, we can observe a decrease. Of course, these results can be interpreted in different ways. The higher amounts of records might, for example, be explained by higher amounts of participants. However, in order to determine this, we would need to conduct a more in-depth data analysis.

7) People are faster than we thought…

Now, we also had a couple of running.COACH users running the competition! We are, of course, interested in the degree to which our prognoses for those users’ running times turned out to be accurate.

According to our calculations, our users were, in average, 0.6% faster than what we had said in our prognoses.

 

This blog entry was written by: Marion Aebi

New running.COACH ambassador: Frank Shorter

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We introduced him, Frank Shorter, back in our series: running legends. The running legend can look back on extraordinary achievements, which were the result of a special training philosophy. His knowledge is now also finding its way into running.COACH: Frank Shorter, the Olympic champion in marathon 1972 in Munich, is our new ambassador – we are proud and happy.

Olympic champion 1972 in Munich

Frank Shorter was the dominating marathon runner of the 1970ies. In 1972, he won the marathon at the Olympic Games in Munich. And how: already during the first half of the race he ran away from the field. In the finish, his lead amounted to more than two minutes. Four years later, at the Olympic Games in Montréal, we won the silver medal. Between 1971 and 1974, Shorter even succeded in winning the at that time very prestigeous Fukuoka marathon in Japan four times in a row.

Running boom through shorter’s achievements

With his Olympic victory, Shorter achieved not only a win in sports, but he also ran into the consciousness of American public (the Olympic marathon was broadcasted live on US TV), thereby making the running sport popular for the general public. His achievements, especially the triumph at the Olympic Games in Munich, contributed considerably to the beginning of a running boom in the US.

Frank Shorter shortly before his greatest achievement: winning the olympic marathon 1972 in Munich.

Shorters career is characterised by three expecially interesting aspects

Firstly: It was incredibly successful. Out of the 15 marathons he ran, he won ten. A fourth place, aside from one dropout, was is worst result. Shorter achieved these results between 1971 and 1976. That is, he was at the very top in marathon for six years. He managed to stay at the top for such a long time, because he was good at peaking his shape for the important competitions. He finds it practically impossible to be in the best shape possible two times in one season, he says. Therefore, he only ran a few main competitions per year and he used to try and be in his best possible shape at the Fukuoka marathon and at the Olympic Games.

Secondly: Shorter was no top athlete during school days. It was not until the end of his university career that he started to train seriously ant to achieve good results.

Thirdly: Shorter first trained for track running. He was also very competitive in 5000m (PB: 13’26’’) and 10’000m (PB: 27’45’’). This is something he has in common with Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zatopek, or even Derek Clayton.

What do we learn from Frank Shorter?

Out of these three aspects, every amateur runner can learn a lot. Firstly, it is worth focussing on a few main competitions a year. This expecially applies for longer distances; training and preparatory competitions are of course always possible. Secondly, it is not necessary to be a top athlete already in younger years. For longer distances, structured training can give great result even at a later stage. Thirdly, fast legs in shorter distances lead to better performances over longer distances. This explains the importance of rapidity and interval training.

Good to know that the knowledge of a running legend like Frank Shorter is inherent in the running.COACH training plan.

“The training philosophy that made it possible to become olympic champion is at the heart of running.COACH. As we developed plans for everybody, running.COACH suits every level: From the beginner to the absolute competitive athlete.”