Posted by: Joe English | July 22, 2009

Racing: Are marathons run in a team format?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

A reader named Adam wrote us with the following question:

I was wondering if there were marathons ran in a team format. I am unfamiliar with the rules of such a sport and I need to present an analogy to someone who frequently runs marathons. If such a format exists I would also like to know how performance is “scored”.

There are actually two ways in which marathons are run in a team format: team competitions and marathon relays.

In marathon relays, the marathon course is split up into 4 to 5 segments of varying distances. Each athlete runs a portion of the race course and the winning team is the team that covers the distance in the fastest time. In a marathon relay each of the participants doesn’t actually run a full marathon — they run something closer to 10K, so this isn’t truly a marathon in terms of each individual participant.

In a marathon team competition, a team of runners enter a full marathon and each athlete runs the entire marathon distance. The rules of scoring these competitions vary slightly, but typically the first four or five finishers on each team are included for purposes of calculating the teams’ total time. Any other finishers after those four or five would be not be used in the calculations. The winning team is the team that has the lowest total time of those first four or five runners.

Team competitions are not entirely uncommon and they are often featured on the international level when countries compete against one another in a particular marathon. Kenya and Ethiopia often dominate these team competitions due to the depth of their marathon running talent.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running Advice and News


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