The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon – What happened between 2010 and 2014?

Singh is Kinng
Singh is Kinng – my favourite pacers when I train or race!

Most of those keen to compete against themselves in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM), held each year on the 3rd Sunday of January, will have submitted their registration by now – a few days after registration opened. Some will have registered for the first time, for others this will be a regular feature of their running calendar.

Background
A few months ago I shared, with friends, this graphic depicting the mean and median times of male and female runners in the ‘open category’ of the half marathon of 2014.

SCMM 2014 - Men/Women "open category"
SCMM 2014 – Men/Women “open category”

The mean is simply the average of numbers.  The median is ‘the middle one if you were to order them in order of size’ – ideal for comparing data where there are very large or tiny ‘outliers’ that might skew the average away from a fair representation of the typical candidate. Using the middle number, i.e. the median, as a representation often does a better job than the average.

Curiosity
I was curious, as were others, as to what has happened in the last few years, say between 2010-2014 (5 Mumbai Marathons) for the various categories of non-elite runners.  This short article is a fun words-and-pictures piece to give some colourful answers.

The Categories – Age/Gender Based
For the sake of prize distribution, the SCMM has the following age categories:

SCMM - Age based categories
SCMM – Age based categories

Winsorising – Gets rid of outliers
A half marathon, even if walked at a stroll should be completed within 4.5 hours – the world record, when run, is 58 minutes 23 seconds. So, the first thing I did was remove records where the completion time was more than 4.5 hours. There were a tiny handful of records that were excluded as a result.

SCMM Half Marathon 2014 - Male Runners Age < 45 - Distribution of Completion Times
SCMM Half Marathon 2014 – Male Runners Age < 45 – Distribution of Completion Times

The Number of Runners – Doubled!
There has been a doubling of numbers running the half marathon over the 5 race-year period. Whatever be the reasons, the growth is encouraging even if absolute numbers are a tiny fraction of the city’s or country’s adult population.

SCMM Half Marathon 2010-2014 – a large increase in number of participants

Average Racing Times – Younger isn’t always better!
If someone asked me “which of these categories is fastest on average?” my immediate reaction would be “the younger runners” i.e. male runners aged 18-45 (Men Open) or female runners aged 18-40 (Women Open). However, the data suggests something quite different which is easily explained by a combination of self-selection bias and survivorship bias.  And the conclusions are not the same for 2010 and 2014. Here are the average times in increasing order:

SCMM Half Marathon 2010-2014 - Average Completion Times
SCMM Half Marathon 2010-2014 – Average Completion Times

Median Racing Times – Younger is still not better!
As I explained, the average is often tilted away from a ‘fair representation’ if there are too many very fast or too many very slow runners. So, we can look at the median completion times instead. This means ordering each category in increasing times and then picking the runner in the middle as a representative of the sample. In that case, this is what we see:

SCMM Half Marathon 2010-2014 – Median Completion Times

It’s great to see that completion times have been improving for all categories, on average, or for the ‘middle runner’.

The Top 10%
If we now focus on the top 10% of runners in each category (yes, it doesn’t mean much for specific cases, when the sample sizes are tiny e.g. Women Super Veteran) and look at the slowest runner in that top 10% then we see:

SCMM Half Marathon 2010-2014 - Top 10% of Completion Times
SCMM Half Marathon 2010-2014 – Top 10% of Completion Times

Here’s a pictorial representation of the slowest runner in the top 10% in each category, along with a representation of the number of runners in each category.

SCMM Half Marathon 2010-2014 – Top 10% of Completion Times and Increase in participants

Interestingly, even as the sample size has grown larger, the slowest of the runners in the top 10% of the Women Veteran runners is still a little faster than her younger counterpart in the Women Open category! And, now the top 10% of men whether below age 45 (Men Open) or below 55 (Men Veteran) can finish within the golden “2 hour” time.

The Bottom 10%
What is even more interesting is to notice that, among the slowest 10% of participants, the fastest of these slow participants have become faster:


What might this mean?
One could analyze the data in more detail and test various hypotheses.  For me the most simple observations are satisfying. As someone interested in making the world healthier, seeing such an improvement, albeit in just a tiny pocket of society is encouraging. Not only have the number of participants increased, but the overall level of fitness, when measured along this narrow dimension, has also increased.

Optimism and Hope
If it is true that the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is a catalyst for improving the wellness of the city and beyond, may it continue to thrive.

Puru

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Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.

9 comments

  1. Drifting to healthier lifestyle by whatever means – running or any sport, eating consciously, taking stairs etc is always great. However, the only concern ‘now and in future’ is the commercialisation. What I learnt from Puru The Guru is “if it can be measured…….then it can be managed” as I always see your articles with graphs that measures your lifestyle and then you tell us on how to manage it – in a positive way.
    Simply love your analytical skills. Thanks for sharing the details.

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  2. Wow! Such details amazing!…..only YOU think this way Purnendu! You should send article to the SCMM to post on their website.
    Yes, it is certainly exciting to note the increase in people improving their lifestyle by taking up “Running” as their form of exercise. I can only well imagine the numbers when I run in the up coming SCMM ’15 for the 2nd time…..I hope I don’t get stampeded on:) Thanks for taking the time to share your insights and drawing us a birds eye view of this great event.

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  3. I just love to read your blogs. This time again with the numbers and graphs you made it simple to understand how running as a sport has overall increased not only by no. of participants but also how runners are improving on their timings. This shows how people are becoming more and more cautious about fitness and healthy living. Very true the credit goes to SCMM as they were the poineer and now every city has their own marathon races. Thanks for sharing this Yo Bro 🙂

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  4. Wow! Nice analysis! Seems like our older generation is out there to prove a point! Here’s to continued fitness and a healthy lifestyle!

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  5. […] The number of participants in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon went up again this year. The aggregate performance of those who crossed the finish line improved again for the half marathon. Given that the half marathon is where the bulk of the race population focuses, that’s heartening to see. For the full marathon, the worsening we had seen last year, became further worse this year. It is not unlikely that the increased worsening in finish times is driven by the large number of new entrants, but given that the number of entries has been increasing every single year, to blame the newbies for the recent worsening is unjustifiably unfair without delving into the details. Incidentally, You can also see my earlier report on what happened between 2010-2014. […]

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