When choosing a marathon, many runners look for races that are close to their homes or ones in which their friends are running. However, in order to ensure the best time possible, it is also important to pay attention to the altitude of the race course.
A recent study shows just how important altitude is to running times in marathons.
On average, each increase of 1000 meters above sea level augmented marathon race time by 10.8±0.6% in men and 12.3±0.7% in women.
Compared to race times in the Rotterdam marathon (held at 0 meters above sea level), the time taken to complete the marathon was significantly higher in competitions held at an altitude of over 700 meters.
In conclusion, the time taken to complete a marathon strongly depends on the altitude of the city in which the marathon is held. Selecting marathon competitions close to 0 m above sea level is a good strategy to maximize marathon performance.
Most runners realize that it is more difficult to run at altitude, but it is interesting to see specific time data to back this up. By choosing marathons that have an altitude close to sea level, a runner could be shaving ten seconds or more off his or her finish time with no extra effort.
Most marathons have a detailed course map on their websites with altitude figures. Make sure to check these out before making the decision to run a race.