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Possibly the best odds available in sport!

by Mike Clyne
Friday 17th April 2015
 
 

Run247 columnist and experienced marathoner Mike Clyne explains why, once you made it to the start line, you are almost certain to reach the finish

“I could never run a marathon”
“You’d never catch me doing that”
“Why would you want to put yourself through all that pain?”
“No way – that’s for super fit athletes”

Ever heard someone say this to you?  Maybe not as often as you would have heard it in 1981, when the first London Marathon took place, but it still amazes me that people think this.  If someone said “you know what, I understand why someone would want the challenge but it just doesn’t tempt me” then I get that.  But the “I could never run a marathon” is almost untrue for everyone.

Over the years, I have chatted to lots of people who are attempting their first marathon.  One of the ways I try to reassure them is that their odds of success are so overwhelmingly good, they have almost nothing to worry about (other than actually running 26.2 miles).

What do I mean by that?

Look at the stats about finishing the London Marathon from the last 34 years:

Year

Total applicants

Successful applicants

Starters

Finishers

% finishers

Temp degC 0900

Temp degC 1000

Temp degC 1100

Temp degC 1200

29 March 1981

20,000

7,747

7,055

6,255

88.66%

10.1

10.2

10.2

10.9

09 May 1982

90,000

18,059

16,350

15,116

92.45%

10.5

11.1

13.4

14

17 April 1983

60,000

19,735

16,500

15,776

95.61%

10.1

10

10.4

10

13 May 1984

70,000

21,142

16,992

15,649

92.10%

8.6

10.4

12.2

13

21 April 1985

83,000

22,274

17,500

15,841

90.52%

6

6.9

8

8.6

20 April 1986

80,000

25,566

19,261

18,030

93.61%

8.1

10.2

15.6

17

10 May 1987

80,000

28,364

21,485

19,545

90.97%

10

10.6

12

12.4

17 May 1988

73,000

29,979

22,469

20,889

92.97%

10.6

13.2

14.6

16.4

23 April 1989

72,000

31,772

24,452

22,652

92.64%

8.4

8.5

8.7

10.1

22 April 1990

73,000

34,882

26,500

24,953

94.16%

9.4

10

10.2

10.9

21 April 1991

79,000

33,485

24,500

23,393

95.48%

5.8

7.1

9.4

9.1

12 April 1992

83,000

34,250

24,500

23,783

97.07%

11.3

12.1

13.2

13.8

18 April 1993

68,000

35,820

25,000

24,448

97.79%

11.8

12.2

13.1

13.8

17 April 1994

72,000

37,379

26,000

25,194

96.90%

5.9

6.6

7.5

7.6

02 April 1995

79,000

39,097

27,000

25,326

93.80%

8.3

9.6

12

14.1

21 April 1996

68,000

39,173

27,134

26,761

98.63%

17.6

20.3

20.1

21

13 April 1997

78,000

39,813

29,500

29,135

98.76%

9.9

11.2

12

13.3

26 April 1998

96,000

42,228

30,663

29,924

97.59%

11.1

11.2

13

12.7

18 April 1999

87,000

43,774

31,582

30,809

97.55%

5.9

6.8

7.6

8.4

16 April 2000

93,000

42,596

32,620

31,658

97.05%

6.6

8.7

9.9

11.3

22 April 2001

92,000

43,517

31,156

30,314

97.30%

7.6

8.4

8.6

10.4

14 April 2002

99,000

46,083

33,297

32,899

98.80%

7.6

9.2

10.6

11.2

13 April 2003

111,000

45,629

32,746

32,067

97.93%

9.5

11.5

15

16.4

18 April 2004

108,000

45,219

32,746

32,174

98.25%

9.6

10.2

10.3

11.2

17 April 2005

132,000

47,969

35,557

35,256

99.15%

7.7

9.4

10.9

12.3

23 April 2006

119,000

47,020

33,578

33,222

98.94%

11.1

11.3

12.1

12.7

22 April 2007

128,000

50,039

36,396

35,694

98.07%

16.3

18.6

20.5

21.7

13 April 2008

120,000

48,630

35,037

34,497

98.46%

10.4

12.1

8.9

9.5

26 April 2009

155,000

49,995

35,884

35,375

98.58%

14.1

14.9

16.1

16.2

25 April 2010

163,000

51,378

36,956

36,550

98.90%

11.8

13.8

14.4

15.6

17 April 2011

163,926

50,532

35,303

34,705

98.31%

14.1

15.9

18.3

19.9

22 April 2012

170,150

50,200

37,542

36,748

97.89%

8.8

10.4

12.5

13.4

21 April 2013

167,449

48,323

34,631

34,278

98.98%

7.0

8.9

10.4

12.8

13 April 2014

169,682

49,872

36,337

35,864

98.70%

10.50

11.3

12.7

13.7

26  April 2015

172,888

51,696

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(You can download a copy of these stats in pdf format HERE)

What can we determine from these figures?  Here are my thoughts as to why this has improved over time:

  1. Marathon runners are now better informed about how to survive the race than they were 30+ years ago
  2. The increased crowds help the runners
  3. The event has better logistical support on the course which supports the runners
  4. The first 10 miles or so are quite crowded for anyone running more than a four hour pace and this prevents too many people going off too quickly
  5. More runners are fund raisers and maybe feel a greater obligation to finish no matter what

 I have written previously about the front end standard of marathon running at London.  When the event was established by John Disley & Chris Brasher the race had six stated aims one of which was “To improve the overall standard and status of British marathon running by providing a fast course and strong international competition.”

Now at the elite level, there is no doubt that London has achieved this aim (female race won seven times and male race six times by British athletes) however at the fast end just behind the elites things have slipped.  In the year I ran London for the first time (1985) it was one of the best quality fields for club runners.  I believe that it was the pinnacle for the number of sub 2.20 performances and hasn’t been beaten since.  Look at these comparators:  In 1985, 57 people finished sub 2.20 and 264 finished sub 2.30 (these numbers included elites).  In 2014, 20 finished sub 2.20 (of which 17 were elites and 7 were British) and 72 finished sub 2.30 (of which 32 were elites).

I have heard various writers and commentators explain this in various ways – burgeoning weight in the population, lower membership of athletics clubs, a wider range of sports open to people and therefore fewer people run and so on.  These may all have some merit but for most of us, sub 2.30 isn’t even a dream.

So if you are planning to be at Greenwich on 26th April, the odds are in your favour.  Never mind the weather (look at 1996 and 2007 – even the two hottest years recorded the finish percentage was not significantly different), just be careful with your hydration, pace yourself well and you should finish.  The one thing I can almost guarantee is that it will hurt at some point.

Look out for me at the finish.  I’ll be the marshal with a big smile and the one who occasionally wells up seeing the elation and emotion of the finishers.

Have a great day.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Mike Clyne

Mike has been writing the occasional article for Run247 for the past few years.
 
Since his debut marathon (Abingdon 1983) aged 16, he has now completed 34 stand-alone marathons and has completed 10 Ironman triathlons (that include a marathon at the end).  He has finished the London Marathon on 14 occasions and has also run a few times as a Runners World pacer hitting his target every time (except his 2014 DNF).  Mike is currently targeting the Comrades Marathon on 10th June and, yes, he is nervous about this!
 
When he isn’t plodding around these races he can also be heard on the microphone as commentator and announcer at a number of events.
 
You can follow him on Twitter @IronmanMike and on Instagram @Mike7Oaks
 
 
 
 
 

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