Zola Budd (left) and Bruce Fordyce at the Comrades ultra-marathon in 2012. Photo: Michael Hammond
  • Participants in South African ultra-marathons run an average pace of 10:36 minutes per mile (roughly 1.6km) - the fastest pace in the world.
  • This is according to a new international report, using data from more than 5 million race results.
  • Female ultrarunners who compete in South Africa are faster than the men from all other countries rated in the report, apart from South Africa. 
  • For more stories, visit Business Insider South Africa.

On average, South African races feature the fastest ultra-marathon runners in the world. Participants in South African ultra-marathons run an average pace of 10:36 minutes per mile (roughly 1.6km), a new report found. 

The State of Ultra Running 2020, a report released by athletic shoe brand Runpeat in collaboration with International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), used data compiled from more than 5 million race results from over 15,000 races between the years of 1996 and 2018. 

Ultra runners are those competing in races longer than a marathon (42.2 km).  Some of the ultra-marathons in South Africa include the Comrades, Old Mutual Two Oceans, Om Die Dam in Hartbeespoort, the South Coast Ultra and the Bay Ultra.

On average, competitors in South African races were the fastest in the world, followed by Sweden with an average pace of 11.56 minutes per mile, and Germany with 12:09 minutes per mile. 

For male ultrarunners, those who participated in South Africa ran an average of 10:23 minute per mile, followed by Sweden with 11:43 minute per mile and Germany with 11:53 minute per mile

South Africa also saw the fastest female ultra-runners in its races with an average pace of 11:11 minute per mile, followed by Sweden with 12:27 minute per mile and Germany with 12:33 min per mile. 

Female ultrarunners who compete in South Africa are faster than the men from all other countries rated in the report, apart from South Africa. 

The slowest ultra running speeds are in Argentina with an average of 15:20 minute per mile (male and female), Mexico with an average of 15:30 minutes per mile and Malaysia with an average of 15:55 per mile. 

The report found that ultra race participation has increased by 1,676% globally in the last 23 years from 34,401 to 611,098 participants yearly. South Africa saw the largest group of ultra-runners, apart from the US and  France.

Female ultra runners were also found to be faster than male ultra runners at distances over 195 miles (roughly 313 km), while men were 17.9% faster than women in 5 km distances.

Overall, the global female pace has declined from 12:25 to 13:23 minutes per mile, and the male pace from 11:24 to 13:21 minutes per mile.