When will you run your marathon? - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

When will you run your marathon?

New research from RunRepeat.com shows that people are more likely to run a marathon at a milestone age. How much more likely? Around 12%.

They have interviewed seven experts from different fields to comment on this trend.

Running a marathon as a celebration

Behavioral research shows that people are more likely to make a change or do something new in a contemplative period. Such are the beginnings of a new decade. The marathon finishers data concurs. It also shows that the middles of the decade are impactful too.

The probability to run a marathon is 13.34% higher at the beginning of a decade and 10.15% higher when the age ends in 5.

This could be due to:

  • The desire to celebrate the key times, and transitions to new periods in life, or to show to yourself and others that “you still got it”;
  • Wanting to make life matter with such an achievement, because “not everyone can do it”; and
  • Being prompted to cross something off your bucket list, and a marathon is on many people’s bucket lists.

Those contemplative periods start when we approach the new beginning, so mostly at the ages ending at 4 and at 9. Since running a marathon is a serious achievement and a great physical feat, we suppose the prep starts at the end of the period, but the actual event is marking the new beginning.

Women show bigger spikes in the milestone ages. What about men?

As we know men and women are different in many ways. So, how is their participation in marathons distinct?

From the graph, the distribution of the participants is obviously different. Female participation peaks at 30 and then declines. Especially after 40, it declines very quickly. We can say that the female distribution is left-skewed. For men, the peak is at 40, and the distribution is much closer to normal.

Also, for women, the spikes in participation are more pronounced. Women are 15.1% more likely to run a marathon at the beginning of a decade and 12.3% more likely in the middle of the decade.

For men, the spikes are smaller. Men are 13.5% more likely to run a marathon at the beginning of a decade and 11.3% – in the middle.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Women have their first born earlier than men (in most couples the man is older than the woman). And even today most of the parental burden falls onto women. So their family obligations lead them away from competing.
  • In general, health starts slowly deteriorating after 30. Women, because of pregnancy and other societal pressures are more aware of this and start taking better care of themselves earlier. Men, usually do this, when they get a sign that something is going wrong.
  • At 40 men have dips in testosterone and are starting to store fat at an increased rate. Then it becomes clear that they need to start doing something. Why not the most common physical practice in the world?
  • Women, in general, are less competitive. So, they are less likely to run marathons repeatedly to compete with themselves or someone else. For most women completing one marathon or a couple is quite enough. And they happily cross it off the list of life achievements.
  • Also, women tend to have more spiritual pursuits, especially after they have children. So, at a point, they start diluting their focus from pure physical achievement.

This opinion is backed up by data. Men and women complete races in equal numbers by the age of 27 – 28. Then the numbers of male participants greatly overshadow the numbers of women.




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