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Open Access Research article

Participation and performance trends of East-African runners in Swiss half-marathons and marathons held between 2000 and 2010

Marco Cribari1, Christoph A Rüst1, Thomas Rosemann1, Vincent Onywera2, Romuald Lepers3 and Beat Knechtle14*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of General Practice and for Health Services Research, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

2 Department of Recreation Management and Exercise Science, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya

3 INSERM U1093, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Burgundy, Dijon, France

4 Facharzt FMH für Allgemeinmedizin, Gesundheitszentrum St. Gallen Vadianstrasse 26, St. Gallen 9001, Switzerland

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BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 2013, 5:24  doi:10.1186/2052-1847-5-24

Published: 1 December 2013



This study examined the changes in participation, performance and age of East African runners competing in half-marathons and marathons held in Switzerland between 2000 and 2010.


Race times, sex, age and origin of East African versus Non-African finishers of half-marathon and marathon finishers were analyzed.


Across time, the number of Kenyan and Ethiopian finishers remained stable (P > 0.05) while the number of Non-African finishers increased for both women and men in both half-marathons and marathons (P < 0.05). In half-marathons, the top ten African women (71 ± 1.4 min) and top three (62.3 ± 0.6 min) and top ten (62.8 ± 0.4 min) African men were faster than their Non-African counterparts (P < 0.05). In marathons, however, there was no difference in race times between the top three African men (130.0 ± 0.0 min) and women (151.7 ± 2.5 min) compared to Non-African men (129.0 ± 1.0 min) and women (150.7 ± 1.2 min) (P > 0.05). In half-marathons and marathons was no difference in age between the best Non-African and the best African runners (P > 0.05).


During the last decade in Switzerland, the participation of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners in half- and full- marathons remained stable. In marathons there was no difference in age and performance between the top African and the top Non-African runners. Regarding half-marathons, the top African runners were faster but not younger than the top Non-African runners. Future insight should be gained by comparing the present results with participation, performance and age trends for East African runners competing in marathons held in larger countries.

Running; East African runners; Nationality; Aging; Gender; Marathon