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PLoS One. 2018 Jul 11;13(7):e0199701. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199701. eCollection 2018.

Russians are the fastest 100-km ultra-marathoners in the world.

Author information

Medbase St. Gallen Am Vadianplatz, St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Institute of Primary Care, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Nikaia, Greece.



A recent study investigating the top 10 100-km ultra-marathoners by nationality showed that Japanese runners were the fastest worldwide. This selection to top athletes may lead to a selection bias and the aim of this study was to investigate from where the fastest 100-km ultra-marathoners originate by considering all finishers in 100-km ultra-marathons since 1959.


We analysed data from 150,710 athletes who finished a 100-km ultra-marathon between 1959 and 2016. To get precise estimates and stable density plots we selected only those nationalities with 900 and more finishes resulting in 24 nationalities. Histograms and density plots were performed to study the distribution of race time. Crude mean, standard deviation, median, interquartile range (IQR), mode, skewness and excess of time for each nationality were computed. A linear regression analysis adjusted by sex, age and year was performed to study the race time between the nationalities. Histograms, density and scatter plots showed that some races seemed to have a time limit of 14 hours. From the complete dataset the finishes with more than 14 hours were removed (truncated dataset) and the same descriptive plots and analysis as for the complete dataset were performed again. In addition to the linear regression a truncated regression was performed with the truncated dataset to allow conclusion for the whole sample. To study a potential difference between races at home and races abroad, an interaction term race site home/abroad with nationality was included in the model.


Most of the finishes were achieved by runners from Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy and USA with more than 260'000 (85%) finishes. Runners from Russia and Hungary were the fastest and runners from Hong Kong and China were the slowest finishers.


In contrast to existing findings investigating the top 10 by nationality, this analysis showed that ultra-marathoners from Russia, not Japan, were the fastest 100-km ultra-marathoners worldwide when considering all races held since 1959.

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