read Detailed Analysis of Indian Participation over the last decade in World Marathon Majors

Detailed Analysis of Indian Participation over the last decade in World Marathon Majors

Detailed Analysis of Indian Participation over the last decade in World Marathon Majors

The running season provides a unique opportunity to look into the data from major marathons around the world. This report examines the participation trends of Indian runners in three significant marathons: Tokyo, London, and Boston, from 2010 to 2024. By analyzing these trends, we can draw valuable insights and make informed predictions for the future of marathon running through an Indian perspective.

Overall participation:

We have taken up the data from the year 2015 which gives us nearly a decade’s worth of data to make our assumptions and draw conclusions from. 

What we have noticed is that the participation of Indians at the marathons in question has followed a certain pattern where: 

  • a gradual rise is observed for a year,
  • then a sudden and rapid boom for the next year and the following years as well.

The pandemic years have rather hampered and disturbed the pattern but in a positive sense. We can notice a much higher rate of increase in Indian participation at the WMM. The data for the year 2024 may seem less as the Chicago and New York Marathon are still to take place.

Breaking down the overall participation:

  • Tokyo Marathon: 

  – The Indian participation in the year 2015 was 22 runners. The number of participants grew steadily each year, reaching 63 in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic meant foreign travel was impossible, subduing the surging Indian participation at the Tokyo Marathon. On the other hand, given the delicate conditions, the entire marathon was canceled. 

Post-pandemic, the Indian participation at the Tokyo Marathon saw a significant rebound, with 114 runners in 2023, indicating a strong resurgence among Indian runners.

  • Boston Marathon:

  – The 2010 edition of the Boston Marathon saw 14 runners travel from the Indian subcontinent and race the tricky course. There was a gradual growth in numbers over the years and by 2019, the number of Indian participants had increased to 92. The pandemic caused the event to be canceled in 2020. In the subsequent years, participation began to recover, reaching 49 in 2022 and eventually surpassing pre-pandemic numbers with a strong 112 participants in 2024.

  • London Marathon: 

  – The London Marathon is probably the most difficult race to get into for international runners. The marathon saw just 4 Indian runners in 2010. This number gradually increased, with notable jumps to 97 in 2019 and 161 in 2020. Despite the pandemic, the marathon did go on but with a dip to 55 Indian participants in 2021. However, we saw a strong recovery in the following years, reaching 191 runners in 2022, 274 in 2023, and an impressive 339 in 2024, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

  • New York Marathon

The data from the New York marathon depicts a high number of Indian runners to begin with. This could be attributed to the fact that America is home to quite a few Indians who have moved there for better opportunities. This makes the race accessible to them thus increasing Indian representation in the New York Marathon.

The rise has been quite steady, only dropping off during the health crisis of 2020 before picking up and resuming steady growth year on year.

  • Chicago Marathon

The Indian participation trends at the Chicago Marathon are quite similar to the New York Marathon, starting off with triple digits itself. We crossed the 450 mark just before the pandemic hit where the numbers dropped off but still remained quite impressive when compared to the other WMM’s. Post the pandemic, the numbers began comparatively from scratch but have begun picking up the pace ever since.

  • Berlin Marathon

The Berlin Marathon started off slow with lower numbers as compared to the other marathons held in the USA. There was a steady increase that was observed before reaching nearly on par with the New York Marathon in the year 2022 and 2023.

Fastest Completion Times:

  • Berlin Marathon

Simply put, the fastest Indian finish times at the Berlin Marathon hovered around the 3 hour mark, coming down only after the pandemic years before rising back up once more in last years edition.

  • Chicago Marathon

The completion times of Indians at the Chicago Marathon has shown decent progress over the past decade. The year 2015 had us chasing a sub 3 hour finish before achieving it in 2016. However, the timings over the past decade have stuck around the 2:45-3:10 bracket.

  • New York Marathon

Indian completion times at the New York Marathon were usually between the 2:50 and 3 hour bracket with the unusual surprise of a much quicker finish coming in a couple of times.

  • Tokyo Marathon

The data for the Tokyo marathon indicates that Indian runners have taken their time getting better at this marathon. The first few years had them chasing sub 3 hour finishes before finally achieving one in 2018.

The next year however, there was a relapse and we jumped back to a slower finish time. The year and editions lost to the pandemic worked rather as a boon for us as we achieved consecutive sub 3 hour finishes in 2023 and 2024.

  • London Marathon

The race completion times of the Indian contingent at the London Marathon possibly depicted quite significant progress. We started off with a timing greater than 3 hrs and 30 mins, before getting quite faster during the pandemic years and continuing to deliver sub-3 performances year on year.

  • Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is the oldest World Marathon Major and is also regarded as the most prestigious of the lot. The performance of Indians at this Marathon matches the vibe of the marathon itself as we can observe some of the fastest times here.

All the results observed are sub-3 hour performances with even an elite performance of 2:22:01 coming in the year 2021.

Male and Female Categorisation:

Tokyo Marathon:

  • Male Participation: Male participation has always been stronger across almost every World Marathon Major and Tokyo was no different. The 2015 edition witnessed 21 male runners which increased steadily to 33 by 2018. Post-pandemic, the numbers reached 97 in 2023 before crossing the century mark in 2024.
  • Female Participation: The number of Indian women participating in the Tokyo Marathon has been rather bleak over the past 10 years as compared to the other marathons in question. Although we are noticing an upward trend, the rate of increase has been rather dismal. The two years lost to the pandemic didn’t help the cause either. All we can say is that we are headed in the right direction and just need a little more impetus to see an increase in Indian Women participating in the Tokyo Marathon.

Boston Marathon:

  • Male Participation: Before 2017, the male participation at the Boston Marathon showed a rather similar trend, with numbers hovering around the 20 mark. In 2017 however, numbers began to pick up reaching 70 just before the pandemic. Numbers post the pandemic have shown a steady incline, topping out in 2023 and showing a gradual increase in 2024.
  • Female Participation: Quite similar to the male participation, Female participation in 2010 was at a low 1 and remained within the same bracket until 2019 where it witnessed maximum female participation. The post-pandemic female participation trendline can be read as much more promising than the pre-pandemic era.

London Marathon:

  • Gender Wise distribution: India at the London Marathon has been the most promising out of the three marathons in question and this goes for both the sexes. Participation records from 2010 indicate a low number of male as well as female participants. However, the surge in the male numbers has been phenomenal after 2017.Female participation saw its rapid increase post the pandemic, nearly doubling in a year before ending on a high in 2024.

New York Marathon:

  • As noticed with all the World Marathon Majors, the participation of Indian men is significantly higher than Women and the New York Marathon is no different. The numbers for the NY marathon show a significant disparity between the male and female category. Although, male participation has shown significant growth, female participation has remained stagnant before as well as after the pandemic.

Chicago Marathon:

  • A similar trend was observed for this marathon as well. Given the fact that the Chicago Marathon grossed the highest number of Indian Runners over the past years, the female participation was proportionately higher too. However, when compared to the male counterparts, it still showed the trends as the other WMM.

Berlin Marathon:

  • The Berlin Marathon has had varied numbers for female participation over the past decade. We have observed extreme spikes and descents in female participation in this Marathon. The male participation on the other hand continues to grow.

Age Wise Distribution:

This study has categorised the ages of participants at the WMM into three brackets:

  • 0-39
  • 40-59
  • 60 and above

What we have observed is that the younger participants have always come up second to the middle aged participants throughout the decade across all the majors.

The 60 and above category does show up in all the marathons but there have been the odd occasion where the participation has been nil.

Trends Explanation

  • Overall Participation Growth:

  – Indian participation in the Tokyo, Boston, and London Marathons has shown a consistent upward trend. Notably, participation numbers significantly increased in the years leading up to the pandemic. For instance, the Tokyo Marathon saw participation grow from 22 in 2015 to 63 in 2019, and the London Marathon had an increase from 70 in 2018 to 97 in 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a complete halt in 2020 and 2021, with zero participants. Despite this setback, participation rebounded strongly post-pandemic, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. By 2023, Tokyo had 114 participants, and London saw a dramatic rise to 339 in 2024.

The Boston Marathon on the other hand is quite a challenge to qualify for given that it is the oldest and most prestigious marathon of the majors. Securing a berth given the challenging qualifying times makes it a rather tricky road to gain a spot at the Boston Marathon. 

  • Gender Distribution:

  – Male runners have consistently outnumbered female runners in all three marathons. For example, in the Tokyo Marathon, male participation grew from 21 in 2015 to 97 in 2023, while female participation increased from 1 to 17 in the same period. Similar trends were observed in the Boston and London Marathons. Despite the overall lower numbers, female participation has shown a gradual and steady increase. The post-pandemic years, particularly 2022 and 2023, saw a notable rise in female participants, reflecting broader efforts to promote gender inclusivity in marathon running.

  • Age Group Dynamics:

  – The 40-59 age group has consistently been the largest demographic in all three marathons. For instance, the Tokyo Marathon’s 40-59 age group grew from 18 participants in 2015 to 82 in 2023. The Boston Marathon saw similar trends, with this age group growing from 27 in 2010 to 88 in 2024. The 0-39 age group, while smaller, also saw significant growth, particularly post-pandemic. The London Marathon’s 0-39 group increased from 36 in 2019 to 99 in 2024. The 59+ age group, although the smallest, has shown a steady increase, reflecting growing interest among older runners. For example, the 59+ participation in the London Marathon grew from 3 in 2019 to 13 in 2024.

Reasons for Trends and COVID-19 Impact

Reasons for Trends:

  • Increased Awareness:

  – Over the years, there has been a growing awareness about the benefits of health and fitness among Indians. This has led to a heightened interest in marathon running as a way to stay fit and healthy. The increase in health consciousness can be seen in the steady rise in participation numbers pre-pandemic. For example, participation in the Tokyo Marathon grew from 22 runners in 2015 to 63 in 2019, and the London Marathon saw numbers climb from 70 in 2018 to 97 in 2019.

  • Improved Infrastructure:

  – Enhanced training facilities, the birth of running clubs and the organization of more running events have made marathon running more accessible to a broader audience. This has contributed to the increase in participation. The infrastructure improvements have provided runners with better training environments and more opportunities to engage in the sport.

  • Community Support:

  – The supportive running community and the availability of resources such as training programs, nutrition advice, and motivational support have encouraged more people to participate in marathons. The sense of community and shared goals has been a significant factor in the increasing numbers.

Impact of COVID-19:

  • Event Cancellations:

  – The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of many marathons in 2020 and 2021, resulting in a significant dip in participation numbers. For instance, the Tokyo, Boston, and London Marathons all saw zero participation from Indian runners during these years. The pandemic caused uncertainty and disrupted the running schedules of many athletes.

  • Renewed Interest:

  – Post-pandemic, there has been a resurgence in interest in running as people have sought ways to boost their health and immunity. This renewed interest is reflected in the participation numbers, which have not only recovered but also surpassed pre-pandemic levels. For example, the Tokyo Marathon saw participation rise to 114 in 2023, and the London Marathon experienced a dramatic increase to 339 participants in 2024.

  • Virtual Events:

  – During the pandemic, the rise of virtual marathons helped keep the running community engaged. These virtual events allowed runners to participate from their own locations, maintaining their training and interest in the sport. This engagement ensured that once physical events resumed, there was a strong base of motivated participants ready to return. The transition back to in-person events saw participation numbers spike, with the London Marathon going from 55 participants in 2021 to 191 in 2022.

Future Predictions

  • Increased Participation:

  – The upward trajectory in marathon participation is expected to continue as health and fitness remain priorities for many Indians. The pandemic spurred a renewed focus on personal health, which translated into increased marathon participation post-pandemic. For example, participation in the Tokyo Marathon rebounded from zero in 2020 and 2021 to 114 in 2023. Similarly, the London Marathon saw a dramatic rise from 55 participants in 2021 to 339 in 2024. This trend is likely to persist, with more individuals embracing marathon running as a means to stay healthy and fit.

  • Youth Engagement:

  – The 0-39 age group has shown promising growth, particularly in the post-pandemic era. For instance, participation in the London Marathon in this age group surged from 36 in 2019 to 99 in 2024. As younger generations become more health-conscious, the appeal of marathon running as a fitness activity is expected to grow.

  • Senior Involvement:

  – The 59+ age group, while historically the smallest demographic, is experiencing increased participation. The pandemic highlighted the importance of maintaining health at all ages, encouraging more seniors to take up running. For example, participation in the Tokyo Marathon for this age group grew from 1 in 2018 to 9 in 2023. Programs promoting running among older adults, including senior-friendly training programs and events, are expected to further boost participation in this age group.


The marked increase in participation of Indian runners in major world marathons such as the London, Boston, and Tokyo Marathons points to a significant shift towards a global integration of the Indian athletic community. The future of Indian participation in international marathons looks promising, fueled by a vibrant running culture, supportive communities, and an increasing recognition of the benefits that such global engagements have to offer. As India continues to forge paths on international tracks, it is clear that the nation is running not just towards finish lines, but towards a healthier, more connected world stage.