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Ironman World Championship 2016: Age Group Results and Analysis

It’s a matter of hours since the Ironman World Championship finished in Kona. Handily midnight their time is closer to midday in the UK, so I can very quickly run through an analysis of the results. Kona is one of the faster Ironman races simply because it selects the majority of its competitors. The course and conditions aren’t particularly suited to fast times, but those competitors are. This year’s race looks to have fallen in line with previous results.

If you want to view a spreadsheet of all the results and splits, it’s linked at the bottom of this article.

Distribution of Finisher Splits at the Ironman World Championship 2016 Compared with 2006-2015

Let’s start by comparing the distribution of finisher splits at this years race with those of the previous 10 years (aggregated into the second row of charts). These graphs exclude the Pro results so we can focus on the shape of the age group race. If you compare with other races I’ve analysed then you’ll notice how heavily skewed the Kona graphs are. This is a strong reflection of the selection process picking the fastest age group athletes.

Percentage of Finishers swimming under the hour at the Ironman World Championship
Year Total Finishers Sub-1:00 Swim Percentage under 1:00
2003 1469 216 14.7
2004 1487 162 10.9
2005 1570 126 8.0
2006 1506 49 3.3
2007 1574 144 9.1
2008 1527 161 10.5
2009 1537 163 10.6
2010 1675 142 8.5
2011 1713 140 8.2
2012 1822 144 7.9
2013 1908 222 11.6
2014 1917 113 5.9
2015 2075 138 6.7
2016 2036 407 20.0

The major difference in this year’s results, as the table above highlights, is the faster swim; roughly 20% of the age group field finished under the hour mark. That’s definitely fast for Kona, none of the years I have data for come close. Alongside this the bike and run distributions don’t vary much and the impact of a faster swim is too small to show up in the overall distribution. So other than the swim this year lines up well with the results from the last decade.

DNS and DNF Rates at Ironman World Championship
Listed Athletes Swim Finish Swim DNS/DNF Bike Finish Bike DNF Run Finish Run DNF Overall DNS/DNF
2003 1713 1625 5.1% 1610 0.9% 1568 2.6% 8.4%
2004 1797 1705 5.1% 1660 2.6% 1575 5.1% 12.2%
2005 1797 1724 4.1% 1724 0% 1686 2.2% 6.1%
2006 1786 1687 5.5% 1669 1.1% 1620 2.9% 9.1%
2007 1835 1777 3.2% 1738 2.2% 1682 3.2% 8.2%
2008 1808 1733 4.1% 1697 2.1% 1633 3.8% 9.5%
2009 1853 1804 2.6% 1732 4% 1649 4.8% 10.8%
2010 1927 1841 4.5% 1814 1.5% 1768 2.5% 8.1%
2011 1918 1851 3.5% 1832 1% 1770 3.4% 7.5%
2012 2039 1983 2.7% 1953 1.5% 1886 3.4% 7.5%
2013 2134 2064 3.3% 2040 1.2% 1970 3.4% 7.4%
2014 2187 2108 3.6% 2057 2.4% 1984 3.5% 9.2%
2015 2308 2295 0.6% 2240 2.4% 2137 4.6% 7.3%
2016 2315 2208 4.6% 2185 1% 2114 3.2% 8.6%

Similarly if we look at the DNF rates coming from the athlete tracker (note that the swim and overall numbers may incorporate some DNS numbers due to the way the athlete tracker lists results) they’re comparable with previous years. There’s certainly nothing exceptional in them so in that respect the race looks typical again. The low swim DNS/DNF rate for 2015 may reflect a slightly different athlete tracker listing method that excluded those who didn’t make it to the island.

Median Splits by Age Group at the Ironman World Championship 2016
Median Splits by Age Group at the Ironman World Championship 2006-2015

Age group median comparisons are quite simple. We see the same pattern as in the distribution – faster swim medians and very similar bike and run splits. There’s a bit more variation at the division level though. We can also see how the pro field pushed the race with a faster set of medians than the 10 year aggregate.

Ironman World Championship 2016 Age Group Winners by Country
Country Percentage of Wins Percentage of Field
Germany 19.2 8.0
United States 11.5 34.0
Australia 11.5 9.8
Norway 7.7 0.4
Denmark 7.7 2.8
Mexico 3.8 0.9
Switzerland 3.8 2.6
United Kingdom 3.8 5.3
Venezuela 3.8 0.3
Belgium 3.8 1.8
New Zealand 3.8 1.3
Italy 3.8 1.3
Netherlands 3.8 0.8

The table above looks at the percentage of age group winners according to their nationalty. Normally I focus this on Kona qualifier percentages, but as Kona only gives slots to age group winners it makes sense to think of it this way. There’s a good spread of winning countries with Germany topping the table.

Top 10 Nationalities at Ironman World Championship
Count Percentage
United States 787 34
Australia 226 9.8
Germany 186 8
Canada 135 5.8
United Kingdom 123 5.3
France 114 4.9
Brazil 91 3.9
Japan 68 2.9
Denmark 65 2.8
Switzerland 60 2.6

The US remains, as it always has, the single biggest country represented at this race. While they’ve always outnumbered the others, as Ironman has expanded over the last 10 years the ratios have changed and the percentage of americans in Kona better matches the percentage racing Ironman as a whole.

Changes in Male Finishing Times by Position at the Ironman World Championship
Changes in Female Finishing Times by Position at the Ironman World Championship

Tracking finishing times for different age group positions over the years gives an indication of any trends in performance over time. For men under 50 there doesn’t appear to be much real change in results in the last decade. However for older men and some of the female age groups there seems to be a degree of improvement in the results over the last 10 years. Certainly the gaps in times between positions appear to be narrowing.

Ironman World Championship 2016 Top 10 Age Group Times
  Winner Average og Top 10 10th Place
M18-24 9:26:57 9:41:39 9:57:56
M25-29 8:58:44 9:12:11 9:22:34
M30-34 8:55:24 9:08:16 9:19:44
M35-39 9:00:35 9:07:12 9:11:47
M40-44 9:03:25 9:14:42 9:24:42
M45-49 9:14:35 9:25:21 9:33:44
M50-54 9:18:51 9:37:43 9:48:49
M55-59 10:06:44 10:31:52 10:47:57
M60-64 10:33:40 11:13:53 11:29:02
M65-69 11:23:16 12:11:12 12:45:02
M70-74 12:59:43 14:08:24 14:53:29
M75-79 13:18:03 15:09:05  
F18-24 10:29:23 10:54:57 11:20:40
F25-29 9:40:48 10:09:34 10:26:00
F30-34 9:52:08 10:14:54 10:31:26
F35-39 10:00:26 10:20:31 10:38:43
F40-44 10:19:46 10:31:28 10:43:02
F45-49 10:20:57 10:50:13 11:03:17
F50-54 10:47:13 11:17:55 11:34:49
F55-59 13:27:36 13:27:36  
F60-64 11:57:19 13:26:02 14:16:01
F65-69 14:15:25 15:40:45 16:31:43
F70-74 14:19:11 14:58:49  

As the age group winners are the only ones awarded Kona slots I decided to look at the time range for the top 10 in each age group in the table above. It gives some indication of what’s needed to be in with a shot of making the podium at the World Champs. Winning times and averages aren’t the fastest you’ll see in the Ironman Calendar, what makes Kona stand out is how densely packed it is with fast finish times.

Top Twenty Male Performances by Age Group at the Ironman World Championship 2016
Top Twenty Female Performances by Age Group at the Ironman World Championship 2016

The 2016 race appears to be about average to faster than average for the top twenty in each age group. It varies a little, with divisions like M40-44, M45-49 and M50-54 standing out this year, but many largely tracking the average times. I don’t think the difference is enough to declare this year’s race fast with any confidence. It does look like it might have been ever so slightly quicker, but it’s by small margins.

You can access a spreadsheet of the full results and splits from the Ironman World Championship 2016 on my Google Drive.

All Ironman Results and Statistics

A growing collection of results and statistics for the whole Ironman race calendar.

Find out what it takes to place in your age group or to qualify for the Ironman Worlds Championships in Kona.

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