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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,<br>
Mr. Lambchops, in the 10 and 1 thread, asked about the differences between running culture in Germany and in North America. It's pretty neat to race in both places, and to experience all the differences between them. We could make an interesting thread out of this, I hope. Please feel free to contribute your own thoughts/comments.<br>
Also, please do not interpret anything as my own desire to attack either system - they both have their own benefits and drawbacks.<br>
So, here it goes!<br><br>
Most of the people I've met over here who are into endurance sport take things rather seriously. I joke with a few of my friends that I was only allowed to us the casual form of address (similar to the 'tu' in French) after I had run my way to respect via a sub-40 minute 10k. While this is not true on the surface, there is a bit of truth to the statement.<br>
Now, I know that my experience is tempered by my having found a fairly serious group, in what others have told me is a fairly atypical part of Germany. That being said, my experiences in a few other places have confirmed what I think are some fairly widespread habits.<br><br>
Germans (for the most part) do not take part in endurance sports for the sake of completion or participation. There is very little praise for those who take part in competition without trying to race. That's not to say that they don't recognize people trying as hard as they can, they just don't take part in the whole 'huggy-huggy-everyone's-a-winner' attitude that is a bit more prevalent in North America. Very few races have medals, even fewer have the mandatory T-Shirts, and if you place in your age group, you can expect a certificate. No race shorter than a half marathon has an aid-station, and a smaller, stand-alone half marathon will likely have one. These are not races designed to make sure that everyone finished with a big smile! That being said, races cost about $5-6, and a charity race is almost unheard of. After the race, everyone showers and has some coffee and cake (which, by the way, you pay for yourself - there's no free food at the end of the run).<br><br>
Contrast that with a North American race - or at least the ones that I'm familiar with. Most races don't charge less than about $15-20 or so, and that's for a 5k. Half-marathons will set you back more, especially if you don't register 2-years in advance. The 5k I did last spring had an aid-station, and a half-marathon will have aid stations every few kms. There are goody-bags, free food at the end, T-shirts, and medals. Extra medals, plaques, or other goodies await the top 3 finishers in every age group. Now, this may be overstating the case, but I think that most races will have a couple of there elements.<br><br>
What am I trying to say?<br><br>
The main figures in the running public in North America - the guys who seem to inspire and offer training programs for the most people - are people like John Stanton, Jeff Galloway, "The Penguin". Yes, there are other people who cause new runners to take up the sport - Prefontaine, Gebresaillasie (sp?), etc., but I would argue that those three would be among the first mentioned if you were to poll marathon finishers at a major North American marathon - especially if you waited until after the 3:30-3:45 crowd have finished.<br><br>
The big guy in Germany, the one whose name gets all the play on the running forums here, is a guy by the name of Greif - Peter Greif. His plans will either kill you or make you faster than you ever believed. He is the diametrical opposite of the three just mentioned. I think that in the last few weeks of his marathon training plan, he has runners do a 35km training run, with the last 20km at marathon pace. That in addition to two other quality workouts over the course of the week. His plans would make Pfitzinger puke! A training plan by Galloway just wouldn't get any play over here, nor would Stanton, and 'The Penguin' wouldn't have any resonance with the running public at all. Why would they listen to someone whose stated goal going into a race is to run slowly? That's what my friends here would ask. The whole point of running is to get faster.<br><br>
I'm not trying to say that one way is better than the other. I tend to fall most into the German camp myself, but that's my own leanings. I wish that the German way of going about having a hobby was a bit more welcoming to newer runners, and sometimes I wish that North Americans would take the whole thing a bit more seriously.<br><br>
Please, feel free to discuss! Any other experiences, opinions, etc. are more than welcome!<br><br>
Bradley
 

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That's a great analysis. I haven't run in Europe so it is great you are sharing your experience.<br><br>
So it's go big, or go home to races in Europe? How does that play out in the larger participation type marathons such as Berlin or London. There must be a lot of barely trained/praying to survive marathoners in those events.<br><br>
For me, clearly in NA there have been a shift between the two running booms (early 80's and now). In the first boom, although participation increased, people did fewer races--one and rarely two marathons per year, trained more and generally had faster times. Now it is not uncommon to have people running 4-6 marathons per year, and marathon times have slowed. Perhaps we were more European in the early 80's.
 

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Interesting. Races for racers.<br>
I've seen in France a couple of very local races and was surprized by (1) the number of club runners (my guess, over 75%...) and (2) fast median time posted. Do you think clubs are playing a part in what you have noticed ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Canalrunner: I'm sure that London and Berlin are somewhat different, although I would be willing to bet a decent bit of money that a median time posted in Berlin would be faster than one at a mass-participation race in North America. I'll have to look into that - or maybe a stats-guy (Markc7, calling Markc7, Stats, aisle 4) can figure it out.<br><br>
Mr. Lambchops: Yes, clubs certainly have a large role in deciding the racing scene. Most people after being involved in running for a year or so, especially if they race locally, will get picked up by a club. That's what happened to me. Once you're surrounded by a bunch of other wackos, it's easier to get caught up in the whole thing yourself. Also, my club trains on the track, as a group, once a week, does a weekly tempo-run, and a weekly long-run. Under those kinds of conditions, you can't help but get faster. My times while training with my German friends on the track are significantly faster than when I train by myself in Canada.
 

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Not problem. Here are some median times for comparison:<br><br>
Berlin 2007: 4:02<br>
Berlin 2006: 4:13<br><br>
London 2007: 4:37 (as far as I can tell, the results page is a bit tough to navigate)<br>
London 2006: 4:20<br><br>
Ottawa 2007: 3:59<br>
Ottawa 2006: 4:13<br><br>
Toronto 2007: 4:06<br>
Toronto 2006: 4:08<br><br>
Boston 2006: 3:44<br><br>
NYC 2007: 4:24<br>
NYC 2006: 4:22
 

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The club thing is very big in the US also, and inevitably, club runners sweep most of the top places across all age categories. The rest of the standings are filled by us solo recreational runners/joggers.<br><br>
It's interesting, though, to see how the general orientation of races clearly shows a difference of focus, one of mass-participation (North America) vs. a more elitist approach (Germany/France).<br><br>
But even within Europe, I would expect some significant variances. The Swedes, for instance, are very oriented toward getting every single citizen active, which is why physical fitness tests have demonstrated that the average 65-year old Swede (man/woman) has a VO2 max performance equal or better to that of a 20-year old Canadian male. I wonder what the guiding philosophy of races in Sweden is. While widespread athletic programs in the US would undoutably have their 20-year old perform much better, I would expect that the average at 30 would dip far below that of the 65-year old Swede.<br><br>
Mars
 

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Thanks for the stats. While the iconic status of NYC removes it from consideration in terms of statistical significance, it's interesting that comparing Ottawa/Toronto to Berlin does not seem to support the general direction of many posts in this thread.<br><br>
Hmmm...<br><br>
Mars
 

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I remember <a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=PMD35tUh-Ek" target="_blank">that commercial</a>! <img alt="biggrin.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/biggrin.gif">
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks Mark. That's interesting. I should be more careful in making my generalizations. Still, I don't think I'm going to retract too much of what I said. I don't think that it's all about the speed - I think there's a pretty distinct difference in attitude and approach. Still, thanks for the stats!
 

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Actually I think the stats that I used illustrate what you were saying to some degree. The Canadian races were by far the smallest (1500-2000 runners), while the rest were over 25,000. The ones that are the most "mass-participation" oriented (London and New York) have the slowest median times. Boston obviously can't can compared directly to other NA marathons. Ottawa bills itself as a BQ race and has been actively working to make the race more competitive in the last couple of years. So the factors that you talked about earlier seem to be borne out by the data, as long as you look at the characteristics of the individual races rather than just NA versus Europe.<br><br>
What we don't know, at least not from my data set here, is to what extent these results generalize to other races in NA and Europe. Berlin is probably the most "mass-participation" race in all of Europe, right? That doesn't tell us too much about the characteristics of the community as a whole, and who runs all the other, smaller races throughout the year. Also, it would be interesting to know if there is a difference in the distribution of times at these races. The median or mean doesn't tell you much about what the fastest and slowest times are, or how variability there is among times. Maybe I'll see if I can track down some of that data....
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
From what Mark says, NYC is the closest comparison to either Berlin or London. Berlin last year had 32486 participants. Boston is the exception in this comparison. I'll take a look tomorrow for results from smaller races, and see what turns up.
 

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Mars, I've seen a village (5000) race near Le Mans where 75% of the participants (men, women, kids) had singlets & shorts covered with local adds (looking like euro hockey...). We're talking small community here, able to foster a competitive mentality. I bought a magazine there listing ALL the races held in France for 2007 with 2006 top-3 results and median. Fast, very fast. Nothing comparable in the US, believe me... I also wonder about the socio-economic reality of the euro running scene. In north-america, running is not very rural or blue-collar. In europe, I felt a stronger working-class element in the sport. Kind of like cycling. Have a look at some of Britton fell running sites to get the idea. That's maybe why Sarkozy got bad press for wetting his shirt in public while Bush got all the praise for his 10k.<br><br>
I don't think we should compare results at London, Berlin... to big north-american city marathons. They are roughly the same. They attract the same mostly urban crowd. Every year, you have a large group of Paris runners getting here for the Mtl Marathon. Very average joes.<br><br>
The difference, if any, is somewhere else.
 

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The 65 year old Swede vs the young Canajun was a marketing tool, not based on real stats. In reality at the time, years ago, when it came out the truth would probably be a 55 year old Swede. <img alt="smile.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/smile.gif"><br><br>
Perhaps not only comparng horizontally but also longitudinally is interesting. In the late 70's I spent most of a summer in the Boston area and, within the running community there was a commonly held notion that if you took 3 hours or more to complete a marathon then you were essentially not running...sorta waddling...but really walking.<br><br>
Times have changed...even in Boston.<br><br>
...and I don't just mean qualifying times.
 

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I lived in Holland for a couple of years, around '98. Didn't notice a great difference other than they don't do any hill training. <img alt="rolleyes.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/rolleyes.gif"><br><br>
What I really miss is the television coverage (BBC) of athletic events. Way, waaaaay better than over here. Lots of x-country races televised as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yeah, this sounds like a good comparison. I don't think that 3 hrs is still the 'don't even bother' cut off, though. It's probably just the different groups you fall into! The first running boom was a lot faster, wasn't it? (I wasn't born when it boomed, so I can't comment!<img alt="smile.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/smile.gif">)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Okay, I found some stats that I think back up my argument a bit more! These are from marathonguide.com and a German site that keeps track of best times, <a href="http://www.marathon-bestenliste.de" target="_blank">www.marathon-bestenliste.de</a> Keep in mind, marathonguide.com times are for the US, but I doubt that a huge variation would occur.<br><br>
Last year (2007) among men, the average marathon time in the US was 4:29:53, and for women it was 4:59:28. On the German list, the average time for men was 4:02:08, and for women it was 4:25:05.<br><br>
I know, averages aren't the best way of keeping count, but they work!<br><br>
Comparing the average times for each age-group, one also finds a pretty stark gap between the two lists. Three German age groups had an average time of under 4 hours, the M30; M35; and M40. Those same age groups in the US all finished in the 4:20s. The women's results are similar. To bring the question of age back (comparing the Canadian and the Swede, again!), the 2 women who ran marathons in the W75-79 age group (avg. 5:35:34) would have beaten the average time for a North American women in the W55-59 (5:39:03). I can't do any more stats because my math-brain has already fried!
 

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Hmm. Interesting thread.<br><br>
Personally, I'd like to know how the Germans are training for a marathon. In the US, a lot of importance is placed on long runs, it's common to see at least 4 20 milers or even 22 milers during training weeks (generally every second week).<br>
Are they doing the same in Germany? Or do they put more emphasis on speed work?<br><br>
And what about the total number of km during peek week? In North America, I'd say it's around 100km (100 miles is not rare).
 

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I'm guessing (and I haven't researched or read any data) that Europeans don't race marathon distances unless they reach a certain level/speed where as in N.A, people walk marathons and it's not unusual.
 

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..... And of course in Kenya they ..... <img alt="confused.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/confused.gif"><img alt="smile.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/smile.gif"><br><br>
I am thinking that the number of marathons per year is higher in North America--consistent with the Penguin style participation approach to the marathon and likely contributes to the slower average times. Another way to analyze this would be to look at the top 10 to 20% finishers and see what their times are. I am 14 minutes slower now in a marathon than I was 25 years ago(3:07 to 3:21), but still finish in same place in the marathons even though the number of participants has increased and I have slowed down. It would be interesting but my head is hurting from this math talk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Canalrunner - you're right, the absolute numbers are really different. There are way more people running marathons in North America. That being said, the two countries compared above, the US and Germany, also have populations that are orders of magnitude apart. One interesting difference: There were no German men in the top category of marathon times - those running under 2:15 or so. The US had a handful of people running really great times. Interesting. You're right, looking at the top 10-20% would be interesting. Of course, it takes me twenty minutes to figure out the tax on a $10 purchase, so I'm not the guy to be figuring that sort of stuff out. Either way, I probably shouldn't (nor should we, as a whole) get too caught up with times.
 
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