Planning to run the London Marathon this weekend and fretting over what your finish time might be? This data company thinks it has cracked a way to predict how the 35,000 runners taking part will fare.
Strava, running tracker and social media network, has crunched the numbers and thinks it's the frequency – as well as the distances – clocked up in the last 12 weeks that holds the key.
In the 12 weeks leading up to the event, Strava analysed 4,000 runners who collectively clocked up a total distance of more than 1,265,489 miles. Cumulatively, they spent more than 181,797 hours running which is the equivalent of 20 years.
How many miles should you be running each week?
For those of you hoping to get a number under three hours, you needed to have been clocking 42 miles per week in the last three months – almost double the distance of those aiming for a three-to-four hour finish, who ran on average 27 miles per week. It's three times the distance of five-hour plus finishers who ran on average 14 miles per week.
How often should you be running each week?
But it's not just about distance, it's about frequency. On average, sub three-hour finishers spent five hours and 22 minutes per week in their running shoes, split over seven runs. That compares with the five-hour plus category, who spent a relatively short two hours 30 minutes running per week, over an average of just two runs.
Marathon Finishing Time
Average total distance per week
Average running time per week
Average no. of runs per week
Sub 3 hours
5hr 22 min
3hr 51 min
3hr 00 min
2hr 30 min
How long should each run be?
If you think you've got the distances and frequency covered, what about the make up of your training runs? Those aiming for sub-three hours appear to have the best spread of long runs vs short runs.
Sub 3 Hours
When should you taper?
The fastest runners peak four weeks before the marathon, when they record an average distance of 51 miles over seven runs in one week. After that it dropped to 49 miles over eight runs (that's eight runs in seven days….) before a bigger drop to 36 miles in seven runs.
By this week, sub-three hour finishers are still hitting the pavement – clocking up 17 hours over five runs – but it's considerably less than they have been used to.
At the other end of the spectrum, the five-hour plus runners peaked six weeks before with an average of 20 miles per week.
I'm just a spectator, so I'll be fine, right?
Don't be so sure. Marathon organisers have this word on warning on the official site:
Spectating isn’t quite as tough as marathon training but it still needs some thought
Those who are cheering on their loved ones (or someone else's) are encouraged to travel light (as you'll be standing for "hours on end"), wear comfortable clothes that will keep you warm (or, given the weather is hotting up, maybe cold) and dry.
It will be as busy as rush hour – presumably rush hour when there's been a signal failure and a driver hasn't turned up – the organisers add, so prepare for queues and crowds.
"Expect to do lots of walking, including stairs and escalators – you should think carefully before bringing young children; pushchairs can also be troublesome," the advice adds.