Marathon Pacing Research – The Background

marathon seminar

Photo credit: Michael Garnett

How accurately do marathon runners predict their finish times? And are the best predictors any better at how they pace their marathons?

Even after months of training and hard effort, times can be difficult to predict. As a running community, we need to understand this much better. Let’s put our heads together! With your help, sports scientists can take a look at what’s actually happening and help us all to learn from that.

In Collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University

We are delighted to be working on this project in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University’s Sports Science department. Dr Dan Gordon (Principal Lecturer: Exercise Physiology and Course Leader: Sports Science) and his colleagues are analysing and interpreting the data collected.


This study looks at how accurately runners can predict their own marathon performances. This year’s research builds on a solid foundation from 2015, involving the largest-ever survey of marathon runners to compare predictions with actual performance. The initial results were fascinating, and are explored in our article: Marathon Pacing Part 1: New Research Investigates the Challenges of Good Pacing.

In spring 2016 we are repeating the survey to further strengthen the depth of the findings. Over the next few weeks, we’re gathering data from as many spring marathoners as possible, to enable analysis across a large group. All data will be anonymised and treated confidentially, and we are looking at results across the community rather than at any individuals.

How it works:

  • We are asking runners training for a marathon to predict their finish time.
  • We will gather actual finish times, either from chip time results from marathons or by asking runners to send us their finish times.
  • The two times (predicted and actual) will be used in research analysis.
  • We are also asking a few extra questions to see if factors such as experience, age, gender and pace make any difference to prediction accuracy.

We will aim to collect your actual finish time from official results, using chip times. However, we are collecting email addresses in case we need to contact you to confirm your time.

Research Objectives

We are aiming to address the following questions:

  • How well do runners (as a population) predict their finish time?
  • What proportion of runners finish faster than predicted, and what proportion slower?
  • How do these runners pace their races?
  • Do the following factors make any difference to predicted vs actual time, or to pacing profile?
    • Experience (how many marathons run before)
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Pace (faster or slower finishers)
    • How far in advance of race day a prediction is made
    • Event (course and conditions)


  • Your email address will not be shared or used for any other purpose.
  • Your details will be kept entirely confidential, and will be completely anonymous within the research.

Please share

Please share this survey with any friends or club mates training for a spring marathon. The more runners we have involved, the better!


To encourage involvement, we are offering prizes for the ten runners who predict their times most accurately. They will all win a £20 voucher, which can be redeemed against any of the products in The Flying Runner shop including books.

Times can be predicted to the nearest minute within the survey. In the event of a tie for the closest ten predictions, names will be drawn from a hat. Final decisions are at the judges’ discretion.

Join in! Click here for the survey.

Thanks, and good luck with your marathon!

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