Best Frequent Marathoners

 

I have long admired runners such as Larry Macon and Jim Simpson who run many marathons each year. Maconís record of 105 marathons in one year is truly astonishing, and Simpsonís willingness to sleep in his camper in Wal-Mart parking lots so he can run more marathons is perhaps the pinnacle of dedication to the sport. Usually athletes who run large numbers of marathons each year have relatively slow times, frequently taking more than six hours to complete a marathon. Therefore I was amazed when I heard about Chuck Engle, who averages about one marathon per week (he ran at least 47 in 2009) and with good times, usually well under three hours. In fact he wins many marathons each year.

 

This rare combination of speed and quantity led me to try to identify the best frequent marathoners in any given year. My first task was to identify a proper measurement system. I wanted a calculation which would eliminate world-class runners who ran only 2 or 3 marathons each year. Their efforts are remarkable and quite worthy of admiration but I am not trying to identify the best marathoners, I am trying to identify those runners who best combine frequency of running marathons with quality of running times. A runnerís measurement value should also improve if he runs more marathons or if he runs the marathons faster.

 

One possible calculation was immediately obvious; if a runner does n marathons in a year with average time t hours, then his value could be . This value

 

goes up as n goes up and as t goes down, exactly as desired. And it clearly eliminated those runners who run rarely but very well. For example, if someone runs 20 marathons in a year with average time of 3 hours, then a runner who runs 5 marathons in a year would have to average 45 minutes per marathon to match the value of the first runner, and nobody runs marathons that fast. But a little thought then revealed that this measurement too heavily favors n at the expense of t. For example, if another runner runs 60 marathons at an average time of 9 hours then his ranking also is . I didnít want to recognize marathoners who completed marathons at a normal walking pace so I decided to look for another measurement system. (As another example of the advantage of n over t in this system, suppose one runner has run 20 races at an average of exactly 3:00 while another runner has run 20 races at an average of 3:05. Now suppose this second runner decides to run a 21st marathon. So long as his average for the 21 marathons is under 3:09 he will have a better ranking than the first runner. He can accomplish this with any time under 4:29 in his 21st marathon. That seems too poor a performance to justify placing him ahead of the other runner.)

 

Another possible metric, and the one I decided to use, is calculated as follows; for each marathon in which a runner runs faster than the median time add the difference between his time and the median time. As an example here are the results for John Piggott in 2009. The first column lists the 11 marathons which he ran in 2009, the second column gives his time in each marathon, the third column gives the median time for males in each marathon, and the fourth column gives the difference, in seconds, between the second and third columns.

 

 

John Piggott 2009

Marathon

Runner Time

Median Time

Difference

Godís Country

3:11:48

4:06:49

3301

Deseret

3:08:57

4:09:50

3653

Akron

2:48:56

4:12:53

5037

Baltimore

2:52:58

4:20:39

5261

Columbus

3:05:53

3:55:10

2957

Cape Cod

2:54:27

4:02:53.5

4106.5

City of Oaks

2:53:37

4:12:34

4737

Mississippi Blues

2:50:01

4:31:05

6064

Donna

2:46:32

4:27:26.5

6054.5

Pittsburgh

2:56:29

4:02:42

3973

Green Bay

2:51:15

3:54:36

3801

 

The total is 48,945 seconds, or 13:35:45 in hour-minute-second notation.

 

I used results as stated at Marathonguide.com. The advantage is that their results for marathons list runners by sex so it is easy to calculate the median for male runners (and for female runners, once I get to measuring performances of female frequent marathoners). I used the median since it is easier to compute than the mean (and less susceptible to outlier performances, especially in races with small fields). If a runner runs slower than the median the race is ignored. The use of net (chip) time or gun (clock) time was determined by which time was used to order the results.

 

Some people may think that the results of a race in which the runner runs slower than the median time should be counted, thereby decreasing the rating of the runner. However I decided not to count such races. In particular, suppose two runners enter a marathon and both have bad days, running much slower than normal. Now suppose one runner drops out while another completes the race but slower than median time. The runner who drops out is not punished (I donít know of any access to complete DNF lists) while the runner who perseveres is punished. By not counting negative times (times slower than median) a runner who runs slower than median pace is not punished, except for the lost opportunity of increasing his rating.

 

Here is a listing of the results for some male frequent marathoners during 2009. This listing may very well be incomplete, as I know of no authoritative list of frequent marathoners. Marathonguide.com used to publish a list of Outstanding Marathoners of the Year, last doing so for the 2007 season. I checked the names on these lists, but many (most?) of these were runners who ran a few races but very well. I also checked the membership list of the 50 States Marathon Club. In this table the first column gives the name of the runner, the second column gives his number of marathons (and if it is lower, the number of marathons run faster than median time), and the third column gives the hour:minute:second rating as described above. I listed any runner who had a total time below median of 12 or more hours. (I decided to list the top 10 and anyone else who matched the hour figure of the tenth-ranked runner.)

 


 

 

Runner

Number of Marathons

Total time below median

Chuck Engle

47 (46)

66:21:36

Gary Krugger

34

36:54:31.5

Dane Rauschenberg

20

21:50:57

Christopher Warren

17

16:30:18.5

Michael Wardian

10

15:22:56

John Piggott

11

13:35:45

Frank Livaudais

13

13:15:17.5

Bryan Baroffio

16

13:08:19.5

Stephen Hibbs

12

12:56:42.5

Gregg Walchli

12

12:44:22

Mark Ott

14

12:43:40

Steve Noone

10

12:26:38

Ronnie Wong

18

12:06:37

Justin Gillette

8

12:03:48

 

 

A runner can use this metric to judge his own performance. For example, I ran 8 marathons in 2009 with 7 of my times coming under median. My total time under median was 1:34:31. I donít anticipate joining this list any time soon.

 

Here is a listing of the top women frequent marathoners. I once again listed the top ten and anyone else who matched the hour figure (in this case, 9) of the tenth-ranked runner. As with the men the old Marathoner of the Year lists and the 50 States Marathon Club membership lists provided candidates. I havenít found anyone quite like Chuck Engle or Gray Krugger among the women, at least not yet. Since the minimum listed figure is fairly low, and since many races have high median times for women, it is more likely for an outstanding female runner to make the list based on a limited number of appearances. Thus we see four women make this list while running less than 10 races (including the third-place runner), while only one man made the list with fewer than 10 races, and he just barely made the list.


 

 

Runner

Number of Marathons

Total time below median

 

 

 

Debbie Cropper

10

12:56:51

Lauren Kearney

11

11:59:58

Andrea McGehee

8

11:37:42

Parvaneh Moayedi

19(17)

11:21:23

Valerie Kilcoin

11

10:45:47

Cristy Snellgroves

19(12)

10:36:06

Bekki Manville

12

10:01:42

Monica Huff

8

9:42:57.5

Stephanie Arango

16(15)

9:37:5.5

Marla Rhoden

9

9:08:15

Mary Akor

5

9:04:53

Sheila Lawless-Burke

10

9:03:08

Debbie Hoffmeister

12

9:00:34

 

I would like to maintain these lists in future years. My task in compiling the annual lists will be made easier if I can find a fairly short but complete list of frequent but fast runners. It is rather time-consuming to check the more than 2,000 members of The 50 States Marathon Club, and not every runner listed here belongs to that club. Another issue but of less concern at the moment is finding an authoritative list of marathons. Although marathonguide.com does maintain a very substantial calendar a number of marathons are not listed. One problem which may always be of some difficulty is determining which results belong to runners with the same name. There is the reverse problem of one runner having results listed under two names (e.g., Dave/David or Steve/Steven/Stephen).