WOMEN’S MARATHONING 2021

In my last post, I broke down the top marathon performances by men in 2021, SUB-2:10 MARATHONING 2021, then compared those totals to data taken from the last decade+ (2010-2021). Today, we do the same for women.

For comparison’s sake, note that a 2:10:00 marathon by a man is equal (give or take) to a 2:27:05 for a woman based on the World Athletics scoring table, as both times rate 1162 performance points.

As with the men, women’s marathoning came back strong in 2021 following the Covid-cancellations of 2020, when the number of sub-2:27:05s dropped by over 60% from 2019. In 2021, the total bounced back equal to the 2018 total, though 50 short of 2019.

Once again, I counted all marathon courses in this study, not just those that fall within the 50% start-to-finish rule, or have too much net elevation drop. The difference in number isn’t significant, but I did not want to eliminate results from the Boston Marathon – a point-to-point course with a net elevation drop – as that would be a step too far for this former Beacon Street resident.

Let’s begin.

Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei won the 2021 London Marathon in 2:17:43, fastest time of the year.
  • 2021 – Total 2:27:05 or better – 139
    Ethiopia – 55 (39.5%)
    Kenya – 44 (31.6%)
    Japan – 13 (9.3%)
    USA – 6 (4.3%) – Emma Bates – 2:24:20 – 2nd, Chicago – #54 on world list
    Top time: 2:17:43 – Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) – London
    Top non-East African born time: 2:21:11 – Mao Ichiyama (JPN) – 1st, Nagoya – #16 on world list
  • 2020 Total – 73
    Ethiopia – 36 (49.3%)
    Kenya – 12 (16.4%)
    Japan – 6 (8.2%)
    USA – 6 (8.2%) – Sara Hall – 2:20:32- 1st, The Marathon Project, Chandler, AZ – #15 on WL
    Top time: 2:17:16 – Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) – Valencia, ESP
    Top non-East African born time: 2:19:52 – Helalia Johannes (NAM) – 3rd, Valencia – #7 on WL
  • 2019 Total – 189
    Ethiopia – 90 (47.6%)
    Kenya – 57 (30.1%)
    Japan – 10 (5.2%)
    USA – 3 – Sara Hall – 2:22:16 – 5th, Berlin
    Top time: 2:14:04 (WR) – Brigid Kosgei (KEN) – Chicago
    Top non-East African born time: 2:22:16 – Sara Hall (USA) – #41 on WL
  • 2018 Total – 139
    Ethiopia – 67 (48.2%)
    Kenya – 36 (25.9%)
    Japan – 9 (6.5%)
    USA – 5 (3.5%) – Amy Cragg – 2:21:42 – 3rd, Tokyo
    Top time: 2:18:11 – Gladys Cherono (KEN) – Berlin
    Top non-East African born time: 2:21:42 – Amy Cragg (USA) – #25 on WL
  • 2017 Total – 98
    Ethiopia – 45 (46%)
    Kenya – 34 (34.7%)
    Japan – 6 (6.1%)
    USA – 5 (5.1%) – Jordan Hasay – 2:20:57 – 3rd, Chicago
    Top time: 2:17:01 – Mary Keitany (KEN) – London
    Top non-East African born time: 2:20:57 – Jordan Hasay (USA) – #10 on WL
  • 2016 Total – 85
    Ethiopia – 44 (51.7%)
    Kenya – 22 (25.9%)
    Japan – 8 (9.4%)
    USA – 2 – Shalane Flangagan – 2:25:26 – 6th, Rio Olympic Marathon – #58 on WL
    Top time: 2:19:41 – Tirfi Tsgaye (ETH) – Dubai
    Top non-East African born time: 2:22:17- Kayoko Fukushi (JPN) – 1st, Osaka – #8 on WL
  • 2015 Total – 100
    Ethiopia – 51 (51%)
    Kenya – 24 (24%)
    Japan – 5 (5%)
    USA – 1 – Des Davila – 2:25:39 – 4th, Boston – #65 on WL
    Top time: 2:19:25 – Gladys Cherono (KEN) – Berlin
    Top non-East African born time: 2:22:48 – Sairi Maeda (JPN) – 2nd, Nagoya – #11 on WL
  • 2014 Total – 80
    Ethiopia – 38 (43.75%)
    Kenya – 19 (23.75%)
    Japan – 8 (10%)
    USA – 4 (5%) – Shalane Flanagan – 2:21:14 – 3rd, Berlin
    Top time: 2:19:59 – Bizunesh Deba (ETH) – 1st, Boston
    Top non-East African born time: 2:21:14 – Flanagan (USA) – #9 on WL
  • 2013 Total – 88
    Ethiopia – 38 (43.1%)
    Kenya – 24 (27.3%)
    Japan – 7 (8%)
    USA – 0 – Shalane Flanagan – 2:27:08 – 4th, Boston – #90 on WL
    Top time: 2:19:57 – Rita Jeptoo (KEN) – Chicago
    Top non-East African born time: 2:23:34 – Ryoko Kizaki (JPN) – 1st, Nagoya – #18 on WL
  • 2012 Total – 109
    Ethiopia – 40 (36.7%)
    Kenya – 26 (23.8%)
    Japan – 11 (10%)
    USA – 5 (4.6%) – Shalane Flanagan – 2:25:38 – 1st, Houston – #70 on WL
    Top time: 2:18:37 – Mary Keitany (KEN) – London
    Top non-East African born time: 2:22:41 – Jiali Wang (CHN) – 1st, Chongqin – #22 on WL
  • 2011 Total – 105
    Ethiopia – 39 – (37.1%)
    Kenay – 21 (20%)
    Japan – 12 (11.4%)
    USA – 3 – Des Davila – 2:22:38 – 2nd, Boston
    Top time: 2:19:19 – Mary Keitany (KEN) – London
    Top non-East African born time: 2:22:38 – Davila (USA) – #10 on WL
  • 2010 Total – 61
    Ethiopia – 30 (49.1%)
    Kenya – 9 (14.75%)
    Japan – 4 (6.5%)
    USA – 2 – Magdalena Lewy-Boulet – 2:26:22 – 2nd, Rotterdam – #51 on WL
    Top time: 2:22:04 – Atsede Bayisa (ETH) – Paris
    Top non-East African born time: 2:24:22 – Christelle Daunay (FRA) – 2nd, Paris – #15 on WL

Lots to digest. Right off the top, we see that women produced significantly fewer high-level performances in 2021 than men – 139 2:27:05s and below compared to 243 2:10s and below.

Perhaps this shows girls still have fewer opportunities to choose an athletic path, given that even in America, where Title IX legislation, enacted to give equal opportunities for girls in schools, is less than two generations old (passed in1972). These large social changes take time to distribute on a global scale.

Within the ranks of women alone, it’s interesting to see how Ethiopian women uniformly better their Kenyan neighbors in terms of overall depth year over year, which is the opposite of what we see for men. The closest the Kenyan women have come to matching the Ethiopians in sub-2:27:05 performances over the last dozen years was this past year, when they were only 11 behind (44 vs 55), and in 2017, once again 11 fewer (34 vs 45).

Yet over that same span, Kenyan athletes have taken the top spot on the world list 9 times, while Ethiopians have topped the chart on but three occasions. Recently retired Kenyan star Mary Keitany posted the top time in the world in 2011, 2012, 2017.

Also, the gap between the dominant East African women and the rest of the world is nowhere near as large as it is for men. A non-East African born woman placed in the top 10 performances of the year five times over the last 12 years, with a worst of #41 in 2019, and a best of #7 in 2020.

On the men’s side, only America’s Ryan Hall in 2011 placed in the top 10 on the world list outside of East African born runners, while five times the top non-East-African-born performance failed to crack the top 50 for the year, with a low of 98th position in 2016.

American women, however, continued to more than hold their own. USA women have produced the top non-East African born performance five times since 2010 in the persons of Des Linden (2011); Shalane Flanagan (2014); Jordan Hasay (2017); Amy Cragg (2018); and Sara Hall (2019). Japanese women have held that distinction four times (2013, 2015, 2016, 2021).

It is a lot to wade through and digest, and I thank you for taking the time. I would be interested to read what conclusions you may have as you’ve gone over the numbers yourself.

In any case, the top runners in the world, wherever their origin, continue to crank out compelling competitions on the grand marathon routes of the world. Here’s hoping for many more in 2022 (God and Covid willing).

May the blessings of the season be with you and your family.

END

2 thoughts on “WOMEN’S MARATHONING 2021

  1. Interesting to me that the Japanese women have had such a consistently solid hold on bronze. I knew their men were way out in front but didn’t expect to see their women were similarly deeper.

    1. Kevin,
      I think the Japanese depth in both genders underscores the country’s powerful culture of marathoning. Their corporate-backed team system is so robust, though they still don’t compare head-to-head with the best of the East Africans, they have plenty of internal competitions to test one another against themselves. Thanks for contributing to the conversation. Happy holidays.
      Toni

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