ISSN 1514-3465


The Large Number of Brazilian’s Runners does not 

Result in Excellent Performance in World Marathons

La gran cantidad de corredores brasileños no determina 

un excelente rendimiento en maratones mundiales

O grande número de corredores brasileiros não resulta 

em excelente desempenho nas maratonas do mundo


Ronaldo Aparecido da Silva


Profissional de Educação Física

Mestre e Doutor em Ciências

Faculdade de Mauá (UNIESP)



Reception: 09/25/2019 - Acceptance: 04/05/2020

1st Review: 03/20/2020 - 2nd Review: 04/01/2020


This work licensed under Creative Commons 

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Suggested reference: Silva, R.A. da (2020). The Large Number of Brazilian’s Runners does not Result in Excellent Performance in World Marathons. Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, 25(264), 126-138. Retrieved from:



    Despite the number of practitioners it seems that there are few athletes in Brazil with expressive results internationally. Objective: Compare the performance of the Brazilian elite runners in the marathons around of the world. Methods: A retrospective study comparing the time and positions of the Brazilian founders with the main athletes in the world in the 12 main marathons of the world, from 2016 to 2018. Results: Data show that the number of street marathon runners increases in Brazil each year, but our elite marathoners have not achieved lower times (p<0.001), positions far from the main African athletes and poor performance in the majors, worldwide and Olympic Games. Conclusion: Despite physical training, the performance of Brazilian marathoners is not enough to compete with Kenyan athletes and Ethiopians due to the genetic superiority, and physiology, and biomechanics features of Africans. This distance seems to occur due to differences in the metabolic and biomechanical mechanisms that make the running economy of these African marathoners more efficient, so they are almost unbeatable in marathons, because the modality requires a lot of resistance and great cardiorespiratory capacity.

    Keywords: Founder. Athletics. Sport. Olympic Games. Performance.



    A pesar de la gran cantidad de practicantes, parece haber pocos atletas en Brasil con resultados significativos a nivel internacional. Objetivo: comparar el rendimiento de los corredores brasileños de élite en maratones de todo el mundo. Métodos: estudio retrospectivo que compara el tiempo y las posiciones de los corredores de élite brasileños con los mejores atletas del mundo en las 12 principales maratones del mundo, de 2016 a 2018. Resultados: los datos muestran que el número de corredores callejeros de maratón aumenta en Brasil con cada año, pero nuestros maratonistas de élite no alcanzaron bajar sus tiempos (p <0.001), y se encuentran en posiciones distantes de los principales atletas africanos y con bajo rendimiento en los principales juegos mundiales y olímpicos. Conclusión: a pesar del entrenamiento físico, el rendimiento de los maratonistas brasileños no es suficiente para competir con los atletas de Kenia y Etiopía debido a las características de superioridad genética, fisiológica y biomecánica de los africanos. Esta distancia parece ocurrir debido a las diferencias en los mecanismos metabólicos y biomecánicos que hacen que la economía de carrera de estos maratonistas africanos sea más eficiente, lo que los hace casi imbatibles en maratones, ya que el deporte requiere mucha resistencia y una gran capacidad cardiorrespiratoria.

    Palabras clave: Corredor. Atletismo. Deporte. Juegos Olímpicos. Rendimiento.



    Apesar do número de praticantes, parece haver poucos atletas no Brasil com resultados expressivos internacionalmente. Objetivo: Comparar o desempenho dos corredores de elite brasileiros nas maratonas do mundo. Métodos: Estudo retrospectivo comparando o tempo e as posições dos fundadores brasileiros com os principais atletas do mundo nas 12 principais maratonas do mundo, de 2016 a 2018. Resultados: Os dados mostram que o número de corredores de maratona de rua aumenta no Brasil a cada ano, mas nossos maratonistas de elite não alcançaram tempos mais baixos (p <0,001), posições distantes dos principais atletas africanos e baixo desempenho nos principais jogos mundiais e olímpicos. Conclusão: Apesar do treinamento físico o desempenho dos maratonistas brasileiros não é suficiente para competir com os atletas quenianos e com etíopes devido as características de superioridade genética, fisiológica e biomecânica dos africanos. Essa distância parece ocorrer devido a diferenças nos mecanismos metabólicos e biomecânicos que tornam a economia de corrida desses maratonistas africanos mais eficiente, tornando-os quase imbatíveis nas maratonas, pois a modalidade exige muita resistência e grande capacidade cardiorrespiratória.

    Unitermos: Runner. Atletismo. Esporte. Jogos Olímpicos. Performance.


Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 25, Núm. 264, May. (2020)




    The street race in Brazil is a popular mode of athletics that is growing year after year as can be observed by data of the Paulista Federation of Athletics (FPA) (2018). The street race can be a half-fund or a bottom with 5, 10, 15, 20, half marathon (21.97), 25, 30 kilometers (km), marathons (42.195 km) and utramarathons 100 km, the marathons are most competitions according to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) (2018a), with more visibility and financial return for the competitors Brazilian Confederation of Athletics (CBAt) (2018).


    The run street has been popularizing for more than a decade (Corpore, 2018, Gratão e Rocha, 2016). The FPA shows that in 1994 there were about 100 racing events, in 2017 an amount of 435 events was recorded only in the state of São Paulo. Unfortunately, at the national level it is difficult to measure the number of street races, since not all state federations and CBAt itself do not present this data publicly; this difficulty is reflected in the lack of information by previous studies. The FPA registered in 2004 about 146,000 and in 2017 the number of 922,870 participants of street races only in the state of São Paulo (FPA, 2018).Despite this large amount of long-term running practitioners So, how many Brazilian high-performance athletes are competing in the most important marathons in the world?




    Show that the massive practice of street racing does not form marathoners with performance and placements compared to the world's elite in the world's most important marathons.




    The retrospective study was conducted using official previous results of Brazilian and international athletes in the most important marathons in the world between 2016 and 2018 similarly as shown by Peres et al. (2018).


Records of the best results of Brazilian athletes


    The main results of the Brazilian marathon runners were searched in the databases of the Brazilian events, in specialized magazines and on the websites of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Brazilian Confederation of Athletics (CBAt) and Brazilian State Confederations. The quantification of the number of races occurring in the Brazilian states was done by consulting the companies' corporate websites: Corpore, Ativo, MinhasInscrições, and Corridasbr. In addition, the databases of CBAt, FPA and other state confederations were consulted.


Surveys of the results of the main national and South American tests


    Similar to the previous item, the main results of the Brazilian marathon runners were searched in the marathon major events since 2016, and in the two main Brazilian races, the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro marathons were found.


Results of the main worldwide tests


    Using the databases of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Brazilian Confederation of Athletics (CBAt), a survey was made of the most important results of Brazilian athletes in the most important competitions in the world called majors in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018: New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Tokyo and Berlin. Also analyzed were the best results of the Rio Olympic Games (2016), and world of athletics of London (2017), and Berlin 2018. The results of the best Brazilian athletes in these marathons were comparing to the results of the main foreign athletes. The survey was made only for male athletes competing in the elite group who reached the 50th place in the races.


Times considered for comparison


    After the results were considered in the majors, IAAF World Championships of Athletics 2017, Olympic Games of Rio 2016 and South American of Marathon the first 10 or better times. Additionally, the present study also used for comparison the best times of the Brazilian marathon runners from 2016 to 2018, times obtained in the majors, IAAF World Championships 2017, Rio 2016 Olympic Games.


Statistical analysis


    Table and graph data are displayed in hours, minutes, and seconds. For statistical comparison the times were converted in seconds, so the data normality analysis was done with the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. The double comparisons were made with the student t test and tests with three or more groups occurred with the analysis of variance (ANOVA). The proportion analysis was done with the Chi-Square test. All statistical tests were done with the software SigmaPlot 11.0 and the graphs were done in the Excel program and significance was set at p<0.05.




    Table I shows the relation of the 12 main marathons performed between 2016 and 2018. In these tests there were no Brazilian athletes among the top 10. Curiously, only 8 Brazilian athletes were among the top 50 placed in the 21 verified events. The test with most national marathoners in the top 50 was the Berlin marathon, which is considered the fastest major of all. The Kenyan athletes were the biggest winners (12 events), followed by Ethiopia (4 events). No South American reached the top 10 in all marathons evaluated.


Table 1. Position and times of the best marathoners in the last 3 years in the main world events.


Marathons / Year

Country / Place

1º, 2º e 3º Positions

Time of 1st place

(h, min, s)

Best position of Brazilian marathoners in 50th place

Best Brazilian time in 50th place

(h, min, s)

Berlin 2018

Kenya, Kenya, Kenya










Berlin 2017

Kenya, Ethiopia, Ethiopia


No athlete


Berlin 2016

Ethiopia, Kenya, Kenya


No athlete


Boston 2018

Japan, Kenya, USA


No athlete


Boston 2017

Kenya, USA, Japan




Boston 2016

Ethiopia, Ethiopia, Ethiopia




Chicago 2018

Great-Bretain, Ethiopia, Japan


No athlete


Chicago 2017

USA, Kenya, Kenya


No athlete


Chicago 2016

Kenya, Kenya, Kenya


No athlete


London 2018

Kenya, Ethiopia, Great-Britain


No athlete


London 2017

Kenya, Ethiopia, Kenya


No athlete


London 2016

Kenya, Kenya, Ethiopia


No athlete


New York 2018

Ethiopia, Kenya, Kenya


No athlete


New York 2017

Kenya, Kenya, Ethiopia


No athlete


New York 2016

Eritreia, Kenya, USA




Tokyo 2018

Kenya, Japan, Kenya


No athlete


Tokyo 2017

Kenya, Kenya, Ethiopia


No athlete


Tokyo 2016

Ethiopia, Kenya, Kenya,


No athlete


IAAF London 2017

Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania


No athlete


Rio 2016

Kenya, Ethiopia, USA




South American 2018

Peru, Paraguai, Peru


No athlete


Legend: The acronyms h, min, s mean hours, minutes and seconds; IAAF = International Association of Athletics Federations; USA = United States of America.


    Unlike official international events, in Brazil it is not possible to know for sure how many marathons happen each year. State federations do not provide this information. Unlike international sports bodies. That is why it is difficult to carry out a study to quantify the number of events and marathon runners in Brazil.


    The Figure 1 shows the performance of marathon runners in Boston, New York and Chicago majors (Charts A, B and C, respectively). Graphs A showed that the performance worsened in 2018 when compared the results of 2018 with 2016 and 2017 (p<0,001). The Chart C showed that the times were reduced by the first 10 placed year after year in the Chicago Marathon (p<0.001). It is important to report that among the analyzed data there are changes in athletes between the years. Chart B shows that there was no significant improvement when comparing the tests from 2016 to 2018 (p>0.05), the data not present as average by year, the times are showed by position year after year. Curiously, no Brazilian marathon runner was placed among the top 10 in the 9 marathons analyzed.


Figure 1. Comparison of the top 10 placed in the majors of Boston, New York and Chicago from 2016 to 2018.

Legend: * represents p<0.05. The acronyms h, min, s mean hours, minutes and seconds. Graphs A show a significant increase in time obtained by the 10 most well placed international athletes in the Boston in the 2018 compared with 2016 and 2017 (p<0,001), while in Chicago marathons occurred an reduction of the time (Chart C; p<0.001). Chart B shows that there was no difference between the 10 best times in the New York marathon from 2016 to 2018 (p>0.05).


    The Figure 2 compares the performance of the international marathon runners in the majors of Berlin, London, Tokyo, Rio 2016 Olympics, IAAF World Cup 2017 (Charts A, B and C, respectively). Statistical analysis shows a significant reduction of time only in the 2018 Tokyo marathon compared to 2016 (Chart C, p<0.030). There was no difference in the other competitions investigated (Graphs A, B and D, p>0.05).


Figure 2. Comparison of the top 10 placed in the majors of Berlin, London, Tokyo, Rio 2016 Olympic Games, IAAF World Championship 2017.

Legend: * represents p<0.05. The acronyms h, min, s mean hours, minutes and seconds. Graphs A, B and D show that there were no differences between the 10 best times in the Berlin, London, Rio Marathon and IAAF World Championships 2016 to 2018 (p>0.05). Graph C shows a significant reduction in times obtained by the 10 most well-placed international athletes in the Tokyo marathon compared between 2016-2018 (p<0.001).




    In Brazil there are thousands of street runners, but this does not result in athletes with high performance in the main marathons in the world. In the most relevant marathons from 2016 to 2018, it was observed that there are not Brazilian athlete between top 10 athletes in the majors, Olympiad, IAAF World Cup and South American, and the times of Brazilian marathoners are much higher than the world elite, mainly if compared with the African marathoners. Finally, the performances of the Brazilian founders do not face the Africans because of the physiology, genetic and biomechanics of these Africans, and further studies must be done to bring new strategies to help improve the results of Brazilian funders.


    Data from FPA (2018) have been showed the increase of street race participants in the largest state in Brazil which is São Paulo. However, it is difficult to know how many marathon practitioners there are, as the state federations and the Brazilian athletics confederation do not provide this information. Despite this, the growth of participants year by year is very large, which has been very important for some aspects: i) increase of practitioners suggests a population group that is following what is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2018), thus maintaining a healthier lifestyle; ii) market that employs and stimulates the economy where events occur (Gibson et al., 2012, Alexandris et al., 2017); iii) produces scientific knowledge, considering the number of articles that study the most diverse characteristics of background corridors (Tawa and Louw, 2018), production of digital technology aimed at performance improvement and monitoring (Janssen et al., 2017); iv) formation of new sports talents and transition from mid-bottom to longer races such as marathons. (Salgado, 2006; AIMS, 2018)


    Brazil already had world-class athletes in the marathon mode as Ronaldo da Costa, world record holder in Berlin (02:06:05, 1998); Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, bronze medalist at the Athens Olympics (02:12:11, 2004); Marilson Gomes da Costa, two-time New York marathon champion (2:09:58 and 2:08:44, 2006 and 2008, respectively) (IAAF, 2018b). In spite of this worldwide prominence and the growth of the practice of street racing, it can be seen that the renewal of high-performance athletes did not occur in the same proportion, since at the world level no Brazilian marathoner has stood out in recent years in the majors, at the Olympic Games and in world athletics. Table I shows that no Brazilian founder reached the top 10 since 2016. In addition, there was a difference (p<0.001) when comparing the best times of Brazilians in the 12 most important marathons of the last 3 years with times of the best the same tests (Table 1).


    Some possible hypotheses should be considered to explain the lack of good results by elite Brazilian funders (Table 1). A possible explanation is the worldwide prevalence of African athletes in marathons, especially Kenyans and Ethiopians as corroborated by other studies (Peres et al., 2018; Knechtle et al., 2016). The results show Kenya and Ethiopia marathoners in the most important events in the world in the last 3 years, together the two countries account for 80% of the wins, with Kenya winning 12 marathons, world record holder and current champion (IAAF, 2018b). Due to the performance of African athletes (Wilber and Pitsiladis, 2012), it is possible to consider that there is no deficiency in preparation or other condition of Brazilian athletes, since no other country faces Kenyans and Ethiopians. (Knechtle et al., 2016)


    Kenyan marathoners are the best in the world because they have physiological mechanisms that make these athletes with a better running economy (Tawa and Louw et al., 2018). Studies have shown that athletes in Kenya have not only more efficient muscle, cardiovascular and ventilatory metabolic mechanisms (Foster et al., 2014), but also biomechanical aspects that make the strides longer and faster because they present longer calcaneal tendons (Tawa and Louw et al., 2018), adding these metabolic and biomechanical conditions (Muniz-Pardos et al., 2018), Kenyans become almost unbeatable for any other athlete who is not of that ethnicity due to a more efficient running economy (Tawa and Louw et al., 2018). These findings are very important, since it is necessary to consider that the problem is not of the Brazilian marathoners as to their form of training, infrastructure problems and / or lack of investment of the country in athletics, but a matter of genetic superiority of Kenyans (Tawa and Louw et al., 2018) and Ethiopian (Scott et al., 2005; Wilber and Pitsiladis, 2012), which makes them a difficult task for any athlete born outside these two African countries, so they have the main positions in the most relevant events (Table 1).


    Similarly, athletes from Ethiopia also perform better than Brazilian athletes. This can be explained by findings that both Kenyans and Ethiopians are genetically predisposed to develop maximal oxygen uptake as a result of extensive walk and run at an early age, plus hemoglobin enzyme, erythrocytes, development of good economy / efficiency based on the biotype, characteristics of lower limbs with a favorable composition of skeletal muscle fibers and more oxidative enzymes, still live and train at altitude from a very young age (Wilber and Pitsiladis, 2012), because these differences are explained by the fact that Brazilian marathoners have and did not reach prominent positions in the most important tests (Figure 1) worldwide in the last years (Figure 2).


    Finally, it is still necessary to point out that Brazilian male founders have not obtained good placements at the national and South American level. The last three editions of the Rio international marathon were won by the second-tier athletes or beginning athletes from Kenya; in the international competition of São Paulo, the first places from 2016 to 2018 were Kenya, Kenya and Brazil (CBat, 2018). In six events of the main Brazilian marathons there was only one victory in the territory itself. In the last South American (2017) there was no Brazilian athlete among the top 10 (IAAF, 2018b) (Table 1). These results show that even in competitions that do not count with the main African athletes, the Brazilian marathoners have not been highlighting. This can occur due to lack of investment in athletics. After the Olympic cycle for the games of Rio 2016, there was a reduction of investments in Olympic sports, reaching all modalities such as athletics (Fender, 2017, Fricke and Pantaleão, 2017, Vechiolli, 2017), due to this reason one can speculate that leading Brazilian funders have reduced participation in competitions for losing support or sponsorship with other athletes (Filipo and Costa, 2017), focusing only on events that could yield more financial resources, not disputing or not focusing on national and South American competitions.




    Despite the large amount of runners, the Brazilian marathoners have time and places far inferior to those of elite athletes that has won the most important events in the world. This difference in performance seems to be explained by for the world domination of African athletes, which has a better performance not only against Brazilians, but against all other athletes of Olympic potentials like USA, Great Britain, Japan and Germany. the advantage of Africans means occur due mainly by phenotypes genetic and physiologic, as well as biomechanics of Kenyans and Ethiopians, it will be difficult for some Brazilian athletes to excel in majors, upcoming IAAF World Championships and at the Olympic Games.




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Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 25, Núm. 264, May. (2020)