Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 159 June 2023 | Page 24

MANN the running mann by STUART MANN


MANN the running mann by STUART MANN

RUN LIKE A GIRL : A Guide to Optimal Comrades Pacing

I like to run , and I like to run the numbers . There is nothing quite like getting a big dataset in one ’ s hands and playing around with the numbers . Once a year , I allow myself this self-indulgence , and night after night , accompanied by glass of red wine after glass of red wine , after everyone else in the household has gone to bed , I sit alone and pound away at my keyboard as I analyse the Comrades Marathon stats , and this year I found something that really surprised me .

The Comrades data is quite predictable , and every year the same patterns emerge . Most people start too fast , and finish much slower . There is the Christmas tree finisher pattern , where more people finish in the last 15 minutes of each medal cut-off than in any of the previous 15-minute segments .

So , every year I come up with a few new ideas to add to the list of graphs and analysis I undertake – and if the findings are interesting enough I work this into conversations , corporate training materials and conference talks whenever I get the opportunity . I ’ ve run a lot of marathons , and I ’ ve run a lot of data . However , this article covers the most surprising statistic I ’ ve found to date .
Double-checking the Results
When I first ran this analysis , I was so surprised by the results that I thought I must have made a calculation error . I am a rank amateur when it comes to statistics , and still suffer an ‘ amygdala hijack ’ whenever I think back to the mental torture I endured whilst scraping through Stats 101 at varsity . However , I tripled-checked my work and the numbers still came out the same way , so I thought I was onto something and called in the expert , Andrew Collier , a data scientist by day and Comrades Green Number 54898 by conversation .
( Sidenote : All Comrades runners will work the fact that they ’ ve run the Ultimate Human Race into conversation at every opportunity . However , Green Number-holders are more restrained . They patiently wait until someone else brings up the topic , which then enables them to casually mention their Green Number .)
Even amongst the most misogynist , popular wisdom has always been that women pace themselves
Images : Courtesy Comrades Marathon Association , Action Photo SA , Stuart Mann , Andrew Collier
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