Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Cork City Marathon Stats...

Friday, June 08, 2012

Cork City Marathon Stats...

Now that the 2012 Cork City Marathon is over, it's time to do a bit of number crunching and to have a look at some stats.

In the full Marathon this year, there were 1,403 finishers. When you look at the graph above, you can see that the full Marathon numbers have been more or less consistent since the event started back in 2007. The average number for the last six years has been 1360 and it has only varied by about +/-5% over that time. It's hard to say exactly why it has been so steady. Why hasn't it grown by say 20%? The numbers at the shorter races locally have gone way up since 2007, why not the Marathon? It's almost as if for a given population in the catchment area, this is the number that can be expected to run a full Marathon.

As for the Relay numbers, they are far from steady. After showing steady growth for the the first three years, it seemed to flatten out in 2010. In the last two years, it has been declining and this year was the lowest with 570 teams. It's probably no coincidence that the decline in the relay numbers has coincided with the introduction of the Half-Marathon. Still though, the Relay runners are the largest block with somewhere in the region of 2,000 to 2,300 people taking part in it.

In 2011, there was a limit of 1,000 entries for the Half. This restriction was eased this year and 1,508 turned out. Taking the numbers for the full, half and relay together then roughly 5,000 to 5,200 people took part in the 2012 Cork City Marathon as a whole.

Times......As for times, I broke the number of finishers into 10 minute blocks and plotted this graph. (This shows the number of runners finishing in a ten minute period. For example, the 100 mark means that 100 runners finished in 10 minutes...or at a rate of 10 per minute or one every 6 seconds).
As you can see from 2011 and 2012, the peak in the numbers of Marathon runners finishing is around the 3 hour 50 minute mark. For whatever reason, there seems to have been more 4:10-4:30 runners this year compared to 2011. Was it the heat? I didn't think that this year was much warmer than last year so I'm not sure why the difference.

What's also interesting is that if you were to look at the average finishing time for a Marathon in the USA, it's about 4:30. Looking at the graph above, you can see that the average Marathon runner in Cork is over 30 minutes faster than their US counterparts! (*See below)
The graph above shows the average finishing time for the Relay Teams....again based on 10 minute segments. There has been a definite step change this year. Not only have the numbers gone down but the graph suggests that some of the faster relay runners in 2011 may have opted to do the Half-Marathon instead?

What the graph also shows is that the average Marathon runner is faster than a combined team of Relay runners! Looking at the graph above, I'd suggest perhaps that the average person now doing the relay is probably not a club or a regular runner....or at least, they are not doing much mileage on a regular basis. Running 4 to 6 miles might be the limit for a lot of them and they may have trained just for this event.
This graph is for the finishing times for the Half-Marathon broken up into 5 minute segments. It's obvious that the 2012 event attracted more of the 2 hour plus runners when compared to 2011. 

The peak in finishing times is roughly 1:55. Again when compared to the USA, it's well ahead of the 2:11 average finishing time there (* See below).

If we look at the gender balance for the Half and Full Marathon, we get the following picture...

As you can see, the full Marathon is dominated by men with women making up 19.7% of the field. The figure for 2011 was 20.1% which was pretty similar. * Comparing this to the USA, the figure over there is 41% of the Marathon field are women which might well explain why the average finishing time was so much faster in Cork.

The percentage of women taking part in the Cork City Half-Marathon was a lot higher at 44.5%. (Compared to 59% in the US!!). Again, this may the main reason why times here are faster.

Obviously the graphs above are a bit rough but there is a lot of information in them. For example, they can be used to find out where the concentration of runners are out along the course....when are the water stations likely to be at their busiest?....what the effect of changing the Half-Marathon time might be? For example, if the Half was to start just a few minutes late then the peak of runners from each race would merge on the Marina where the road is very narrow.

Future.......So can we use the info to predict anything?

For the Marathon, it seems likely that the number turning up next year will be around 1,400 again. IF the numbers are limited by the available catchment area then an obvious growth path is to encourage more women to take part in the full Marathon race. Compared to the US participation levels, the percentage of women is almost half here so this is an obvious growth path.

For the Half-Marathon, this is the one race where the growth prospects are the best. Looking at other races where there is a full and half option available, the Half-Marathon is often three times bigger. Could the Cork City Half-Marathon attract ~4,000 runners? I have my doubts but it should certainly be able to attract a lot more than the current 1,500. Whether there is enough capacity for the larger numbers is another issue.

As for the Relay event, it seems likely to be mainly of interest to beginners or very occasional  runners in the future. Despite falling from roughly 4,000 entrants in 2010 to roughly 2,000 in 2012, it's still the largest group. It's hard to see how the numbers will ever recover again though.

Conclusion........I think perhaps that when the idea of introducing the Half was first thought of, it might have seemed like it was a good way of attracting more runners to the event overall. I don't know if the organisers expected it to eat into the Relay numbers as much as it did. 

Surely one of the main reasons for any City Marathon is to attract tourists into the region. The Relay event will never do that but a Half and Full Marathon combination might. If the Cork City Marathon is to grow and thrive in the future then the Half-Marathon will have to be expanded.



Larkin said...

Great post as usual. I like a good graph.

With the advent of the Limerick and now Waterford marathons, both of which are trying to compete with very similar events, particularly Waterford, then remaining steady at about 1,400 is actually pretty good. I've seen numerous comments from Waterford / Tipp / Wexford runners saying "was going to do Cork, but now that Waterford has a marathon I'll go for that instead".

I wonder was it more difficult for people to organise relay teams this year with some of the regular relay runners graduating up to half marathon leaving previous teams with the dilemma of some members running 10 miles plus to make up a team.

With so many now being allowed to run the half, I think it's inevitable that a good few will graduate to the full marathon, so there could be small rises, say by 100 a year for the next 2 or 3 years - no other major cities left now to pull away people from Cork.

I think it's safe to say, though, that the future of the marathon event is pretty secure for the foreseeable future.

Anonymous said...

Great work on the stats very interesting reading

Anonymous said...

If the Cork City Marathon is to grow and thrive in the future then the Half-Marathon will have to be expanded.ithink this is true but the start time need to be looked at again. i did this last week and passed out 1000s of runners which were in my track.this race needs to start at 10.30 or it willl lose the faster runners

Kemlyn said...

Did my fifth Cork this year. I think it was the best weather and route combination.

As regards torist attraction and generating income for the city, could the marathon not be on a Sunday of the bank holiday?

Runners are not going to go out in the city the night before and many will be heading home on the Monday.

I have always thought that a Sunday race would have a lot of people going out in the city that night before heading home the next day.

Even for local people a recovery day before going back to work would be much appreciated.


Anonymous said...

excellent use of ststs and graphs and being able to extrapolate accordingly. the relay numbers have dropped also i feel because of cost (120 a team) and also because of a novelty factor. i did it once and moved to full and half marathon,others have done the same. i still the numbers for the full is a bit low- cork should be getting up to 2000 runners but perhaps a moving of the date might help , patricks weekend perhaps. it is pereceived as a hilly course by outsiders so a change of route and more city oriented maybe? the half marathon is working alright. i still feel the general organisation is a small bit shoddy and a little tweaking would help

Paudie said...

I did the 2008 and 2009 marathons and after the 2009 heat I decided not to risk the full again at that time of year. No way to see this but I would love to know how many runners have returned again and again as I know of a good few runners who think the same as me. Love taking part in the event so its the half or relay since 2009.
I also agree with the first comment. Back in 2008 and 2009 I don’t think Dingle, Limerick, Waterford, Dingle, Kildare, Portumna, Galway marathons to name a few existed. Keeping the numbers steady I think is a success.

Anonymous said...

Pictures speak 1,000 words, what a true saying! The graphs are brilliant. It's too early to deduce anything from the half marathon graphs, as it's only in it's 2nd year and there were number restrictions both years. However, I think the half marathon is a growth area, as city "halves" are not too common. The full marathon, Cork or elsewhere, carries an inbuilt fear for runners who have never ran it. However, as marathon runners know, the distance is achievable with structured training. I think the novelty may have lessened regarding the relay, and of course anyone running over 5 miles in the relay is capable of completing the half marathon (in fairness, who wouldn't want to cross the Patrick St finish line??) with appropriate extra training.

rom said...

It would be interesting to compare times with Dublin instead of US. I believe that Dublin would probably closer to the US times being that its a a nicer time of year for the first timer.

Donal said...

Good post as usual John. Didn't take a graph to see the majority of men running. This is definitely an area that should be targeted for growth in future races.

I agree with Kemlyn that a Sunday race would be preferable. It would probably bring more visitors to the city too and see more people out after the race.

In terms of numbers, I've gone from relay twice to half last year and full this year. I'm sure there are many more like me. The cost of the relay shouldn't be so prohibitive as it can only serve as a feeder to longer races as suggested here already.

On a side note, why all the anonymous commenters on this site? The KGB won't hunt you down.

Ian said...

Hi John,

Would you be able to answer Kemlyn's comment about the Monday race day ?

Is there a particular reason why we have them on a Monday ?

I'd love to see it shifted to a Sunday (Its prob the only major issue I see with the CCM).

There is no way I would travel to
another County, never mind a different Country for Monday Marathon. Annual leave is just too precious to use up 2 days travelling and running a Marathon.

Really its worth a try in my opinion, imagine another 500-600 people, the buzz would be GR8.

Thanks for the stats.


Anonymous said...

Why are pacers required for the half marathon? If so, could they use a different colour ballon. I chased down what I thought was the 3.45 pacer and discovered it was the 1.50 pacer for the half marathon. Both had pink ballons

Anonymous said...

Great stats, I am one of the "tourists" that come back to Cork each year to run this wonderful marathon - do you have any stats on the number of non-Cork or non-Irish residents that have run the last couple of years? I also agree with a previous post that Sunday would be better than Monday for the marathon.

John Desmond said...

With respect to having the Marathon on a Sunday...The main problem here is that Sunday is a major day for shopping as well as having people going to mass, GAA matches, etc. The morning of a Bank Holiday Monday is the quietest time in a long weekend.

Holding a Marathon in a City is always going to be a compromise whether it's the day or the course. The reality is that the vast majority of people in the city are not involved with the Marathon and the race has to cause the minimum amount of disruption.

John Quigley said...

It's mainly because of
a) Traffic
b) Less businesses open
c) Availability of Gardai and
d) Less Rugby/GAA/Soccer matches (Imagine organising a marathon on a big day in Pairc Ui Caoimh in Cork!! - end of story/show over = no Marathon!)

Gardai Traffic Div. will not sanction Cork on Sundays for all of the above.

cathal daly running blog said...

I wouldn't be too sure about disruption to the city if held on a sunday- if anything I think it would be a more attractive proposition to runners and spectators and also to retailers. In regard to GAA matches (and I am a GAA fan) I wouldn't that would be a problem as Dublin had a number of massive events last sunday and was well able to deal with it. The half marathon is a big growth idea and I think Cork will succeed if managed correctly but running In June means weather is a always a variable

Dave O Regan said...

I don't accept the traffic issue as a good enough reason for not having the marathon on a Sunday. Limerick hold their run on the Sunday of a bank holiday and it works very well. It also does wonders for the local economy as visitors stay 2 nights and all the pubs clubs restaurants and hotels were packed on the Sunday night. Surely the organisers could talk to the gaa in order to leave cork free of a game that weekend. I think it would boost the numbers and the local economy. It's also a pain waiting all weekend for the race and watching what you eat and drink. It would be nice to be able to go out on the Sunday and celebrate the race

Paudie said...

Now there’s a thought. Cork marathon on the Sunday and a GAA match. (Cork-Tipp hurling match or Cork-Kerry football match on the Monday. Great weekend.

Gerard said...

I would have thought Cork at june bank holiday was ideally timed for runners going on to Dublin and even Dingle in Sept. My instinct is that having half marathon runners and relay runners finishing at the same time as marathon runners is a disincentive to marathon runners. I wonder is it time for Cork to bite the bullet and have a stand alone marathon with the half marathon and relay on the same day ?( Relay to do half course twice) Or at least start the half marathon at same time as marathon and maybe omit relay altogether ?

Gerard said...

Regarding businesses and having a marathon on a Sunday, I suspect most retail businesses in Cork would prefer to see marathon visitors coming in on a Saturday and stay sat night and possibly Sunday night than travelling in on Sunday.If cities like Rome can hold thier marathons ( 16,000 runners)on a Sunday, not sure why it would be such a big deal in Cork ! Both Dingle and Clonakilty make the most of their marathon by holding it on a Saturday. If Dublin can attract 15,000 marathon runners then 1,400 seems way too low for Cork. Maybe Cork City Council and the Tourist board should see the marathon as an opportunity ?

rom said...

2009 marathon drop was due to DNF's in the heat.

Dave O Regan said...

I think Cork chamber of commerce would get behind a Sunday marathon. I know I'm unlikely to participate again because it's on the Monday. Dublin I will do on Monday as it's the biggest and best in the country but not Cork.

Anonymous said...

Great Stats John, thanks for that. Just in relation to the relay, a few running buddies of mine and I always did the relay in pairs doing half and half until a proper half was introduced. As a previous poster said, its nice to have the Patrick street finish to the half. Also, I agree that there are not too many half races around . The distance does seem more achievable than doing the full to most people.

John Desmond said...

Just out of interest...I have a poll up now on the right hand side of the page. Would you prefer the Cork City Marathon to be on a Sunday or on the Bank Holiday Monday or does it make no difference to you?

Anonymous said...

Love the graphs. It looks like some of the 3.15 to 3.30 marathon runners from 2011 converted to the half in 2012. I ran just sub 3.45 in both years but was 50 places higher in 2012. Sunday would be great. Re earlier "why so many anonymous comments", how do you actually attach your name to a comment. Tried a few options and it didnt work.

Mike Neglia said...

Interesting graphs and stats!
I've done the half marathon both years, but in 2013 I'll be doing the full, so Larkin's comment (no 1) is on target. Hopefully there are 99 other half marathoners who are graduating into the full!

I work for a church, so Sunday's are definitely busy for me, so I vote that it stays on the bank holiday Monday.