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I Think We'll Go to Boston - Marathon Performance Prediction

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Varun Pemmaraju, Strava
Dave Hoch, Strava


Predicting performance in response to training is the holy grail of sports science. This question captivated the Cold War era physiologists who developed periodization; was practically applied by a doctor who redefined what was humanly possible1; and was studied by Nike as they pursued Breaking 2 hours in a marathon. It is this endeavor - the marathon - that is especially of interest. Unforgiving and addicting, marathons have attracted 20 million people worldwide to the start line in the last decade. No one has studied this question in a way that takes advantage of this enormous population(not even FiveThirtyEight!). We set out to:

1. Predict marathon performance:
         a. Across a broader population than studied before
         b. Using a volume and variety of data that has not previously existed
2. Determine the most important features and use those to prescribe training personalized to an athlete’s background and goals