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The State of the Gold Standard 2017 - IAAF Gold Label Times at Spring Marathons Worldwide

Last weekend's Ottawa Marathon was the final IAAF gold label marathon of the spring season, marking a lull until July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon and August's London World Championships. Gold label events are required to recruit elite athletes of a variety of nationalities under specific time standards, currently 2:10:00 for men and 2:28:00 for women in the marathon, in order to earn that label. Nike's Breaking2 experiment aside, the Tokyo Marathon men's race was the best of the season, led by Wilson Kipsang's year-leading 2:03:58 Japanese all-comers record. Mary Keitany's 2:17:01 women-only world record likewise marked the London Marathon as the top women's race so far this year.

But looking beyond just the fastest winning time, what were the best marathons in the first five months of 2017 by depth of quality? The races with the most gold label performances, the standard that the IAAF has decreed as the top level of the sport? Below are the top ten marathons worldwide this season by number of men under 2:10, number of women under 2:28, and by combined men's and women's numbers under the gold label time standard. Where races have the same number of athletes under a standard they are ranked by the athletes' average finishing time.

Spring 2017 Marathon Season Gold Label Times - Men (sub-2:10:00)
Europe: 41   Asia: 27

1. Tokyo Marathon, Japan: 13
2. Rotterdam Marathon, Netherlands: 9
3. Paris Marathon, France: 9
4. Seoul International Marathon, South Korea: 8
5. Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 6
6. London Marathon, U.K.: 6
7. Rome Marathon, Italy: 5
8. Hamburg Marathon, Germany: 4
9. Seville Marathon, Spain: 4
10. Prague Marathon, Czech Republic: 4

Spring 2017 Marathon Season Gold Label Times - Women (sub-2:28:00)
Europe: 31   Asia: 21   North America: 5

1. London Marathon, U.K.: 11
2. Prague Marathon, Czech Republic: 6
3. Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 6
4. Nagoya Women's Marathon, Japan: 6
5. Paris Marathon, France: 5
6. Tokyo Marathon, Japan: 5
7. Boston Marathon, U.S.A.: 5 (aided course)
8. Vienna Marathon, Austria: 5
9. Rotterdam Marathon, Netherlands: 4
10. Osaka International Women's Marathon, Japan: 4

Spring 2017 Marathon Season Gold Label Times - Combined Men's and Women's
Europe: 62   Asia: 48   North America: 7

1. Tokyo Marathon, Japan: 18
2. London Marathon, U.K.: 17
3. Paris Marathon, France: 14
4. Rotterdam Marathon, Netherlands: 13
5. Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 12
6. Seoul International Marathon, South Korea: 12
7. Prague Marathon, Czech Republic: 10
8. Vienna Marathon, Austria: 8
9. Boston Marathon, U.S.A.: 7 (aided course)
10. Nagoya Women's Marathon, Japan: 6 (women only)

A total of fourteen marathons made the three top ten lists, ten of them rated as IAAF gold label events. Japan's Osaka International Women's Marathon, Spain's Seville Marathon and Italy's Rome Marathon, all silver label races, and Germany's Hamburg Marathon, a non-label race, were the exceptions. Osaka placed 10th among women's races with four women sub-2:28. Rome was 7th among men's races with five men sub-2:10, Hamburg 8th and Seville 9th among four each sub-2:10. Hamburg took both 7th among women's races with three women sub-2:28 and 9th on the combined lists with a total of five gold label performances. Morocco's Rabat Marathon, another non-label race, narrowly missed making the men's top ten with four men under 2:10 but slightly slower on average time than the 10th-place gold label Prague Marathon. Seoul likewise came in at 11th on the women's list and Rome on the combined list.

The Tokyo Marathon was the top men's gold label-producing race of the season, the only spring race to have double-digit numbers of men under 2:10. The London Marathon returned to the top of the women's rankings for the first time since 2011, likewise the only race to produce double-digit numbers of gold label women. Tokyo and London, both World Marathon Majors events, were almost even in total number of gold label athletes, but for the first time ever Tokyo took the top position as the world's #1 gold label-producing event. The Rotterdam Marathon and Paris Marathon were the deepest men's races in Europe this season, 2nd and 3rd worldwide behind Tokyo at nine men each under 2:10, Rotterdam getting the edge with faster times. In the combined lists Paris was 3rd worldwide and Rotterdam 4th thanks to Paris' superior women's field.

Seven of the top ten men's races and five of the top ten marathons on both the women's and combined lists were held in Europe, with three men's races and four women's and combined races held in Asia. North America and elsewhere were represented only by the Boston Marathon on the women's and combined lists. Three of the top five men's races were held in Asia, but while Asian races have dominated in producing gold label performances over the last five years Europe bounced back somewhat this year with three of the top five women's and combined races and greater total numbers of gold label performances in all three categories. This was reflected in the very top end times as well. Of the ten fastest individual men's performances this season, seven came in Asian races. For women, six of the ten fastest came in Europe.

Marathons With Most Gold Label Times 2007-2016
Men: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 13
          Amsterdam Marathon, Netherlands: 13   (autumn race)
Women: Nagoya Women's Marathon, Japan: 9
Combined: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 20

Men: Tokyo Marathon, Japan: 12
Women: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 17
Combined: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 27

Men: Tokyo Marathon, Japan: 14       
Women: Boston Marathon, U.S.A.: 12   (aided course) 
                 Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 10
Combined: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 20

Men: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 14
Women: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 9
Combined: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 23

Men: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 17
Women: London Olympics, U.K.: 20   (summer race) 
                 Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 13
Combined: Dubai Marathon, U.A.E.: 30

Men: Frankfurt Marathon, Germany: 14   (autumn race) 
          Boston Marathon, U.S.A.: 11   (aided course)
          London Marathon, U.K.: 7
Women: London Marathon, U.K.: 16
Combined: London Marathon, U.K.: 23

Men: Paris Marathon, France: 11
Women: London Marathon, U.K.: 8
Combined: Paris Marathon, France: 15

Men: Paris Marathon, France: 12
Women: London Marathon, U.K.: 10
Combined: London Marathon, U.K.: 20

Men: Paris Marathon, France: 12
Women: London Marathon, U.K.: 8
Combined: Paris Marathon, France: 17

Men: Amsterdam Marathon, Netherlands: 11   (autumn race)
           London Marathon, U.K.: 8
Women: London Marathon, U.K.: 6
Combined: London Marathon, U.K.: 14

With very few exceptions the spring marathon season has typically produced the deepest quality races of the year over the last decade. Exceptions include the 2012 London Olympics, which produced the deepest women's race that year at twenty women under 2:28, and the 2007 Amsterdam Marathon and 2011 Frankfurt Marathons on the men's lists, but in every other case the top-ranked races have come in the spring season.

Through 2011 London and Paris were the top gold label time-producing marathons in the world, but beginning in 2012 they were overtaken by the Dubai Marathon, which ranked #1 on combined gold label numbers every year since then until this year. Dubai produced the most men under 2:10 in 2012, 2013 and in 2016, with Tokyo outdoing it for the top men's spot in 2014 and 2015 and again this year. Apart from 2014 when twelve women ran under 2:28 at the Boston Marathon, an aided course as defined by IAAF rules, Dubai was the deepest women's spring marathon every year since 2012 until being outranked by Nagoya last year. This year it dropped considerably in quality, 5th among men's races, 3rd among women's and only 5th on the combined lists. Replacing it as the world's #1 elite marathon for the first time with the fastest men's time of the season, the deepest men's field and the second-fastest women's winning time, the Tokyo Marathon.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


TokyoRacer said…
Impressive amount of research! Very interesting, thanks.

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